Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Going Green: Tips to Make Your Home More Eco-Friendly



Living in an eco-friendly, energy efficient home is not only good for the environment, but also for our pocketbook. "Green" homes can save us money in the long-run, as well as saving natural resources for our planet. While the best way to have a green home is to buy one that was built that way, there are lots of things you can do to make your existing home more eco-friendly – and save you some green at the same time!

What constitutes a green home? In general, it’s a home that uses less energy, less natural resources and fewer toxic chemicals. It may have been constructed with environmentally sensitive and sustainable building materials, include eco-friendly furnishings, promote healthy indoor-air quality, and feature water and energy efficiency. So if you want to "regreen" your existing home, where do you begin? Here are some things you can do right now:

- Start with an "energy audit." Homeowners should start with an energy audit done by their local utility company or some independent energy consultants. You can also visit Home Energy Saver, a web-based energy audit site, at http://hes.lbl.gov. Audits can help pinpoint problem areas and measure energy savings after you improve your home’s efficiency.
- Become a draft dodger. One of the easiest ways to save money around the house is to seal off drafts. The U.S. Department of Energy estimates that this alone can reduce energy usage 5-30 percent. Keep doors and windows airtight by weather-stripping or caulking the cracks. And don’t forget to insulate the attic, basement and crawl space. About 20 percent of energy costs come from heat loss in those areas.
- Install a programmable thermostat. A programmable thermostat costs less than $50, is easy to install, and will pay for itself in one year through energy savings. By maintaining more constant heating and cooling levels, and automatically turning down the heat at night, the average family will save $150 a year, according to the EPA.
- Paint a masterpiece with healthier paints. Conventional paints contain solvents, toxic metals and volatile organic compounds (VOC) that can cause smog, ozone pollution and indoor air quality problems with negative health effects. These unhealthy ingredients are released into the air while you’re painting, while the paint dries and even after the paints are completely dry. Opt instead for zero- or low-VOC paint, made by most major paint manufacturers today.
- Install low-flow showerheads and toilets. Older toilets waste large amounts of water. This is like flushing money down the drain, no pun intended! More than 30 percent of indoor residential water comes from toilets. New, low-flow models now use less than a gallon of water per flush vs. five gallons on older models. You can also save water and money, and still have ample water pressure, with a low-flow showerhead, which can slash bathing-water consumption 50 to 70 percent.
- Let there be (energy-efficient) light. Compact Fluorescent Light bulbs (CFLs) use 66% less energy than a standard incandescent bulb and last up to 10 times longer. Replacing a 100-watt incandescent bulb with a 32-watt CFL can save $30 in energy costs over the life of the bulb.
- Buy Energy Star Appliances. When buying appliances – anything from dishwashers to refrigerators to ovens – look for the blue-and-white Energy Star label. It assures you that the appliance is at least 10 to 50 percent more efficient than standard models, depending on the type of product. That means lower energy bills and less pollution. A home fully equipped with Energy Star products will use about 30 percent less energy than a typical house, saving $600 a year. Go to www.energystar.gov to see qualified products and learn more.
- Don’t forget your yard. You may be surprised, but planting trees can make a difference in our energy usage. Evergreen trees on the north and west sides of your house can block winter winds, and leafy trees on the south and west side provide shade from the summer sun. And while we’re on the outside of the house, remember to use light paint for your home’s exterior. Lighter colors reflect heat better than darker ones.

7 comments:

  1. Good tips. Just turning lights and tvs and other small appliances off or unplugged makes a huge difference, too.

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  2. Thanks for the tips! We really need to look into some of these in our house!

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  3. Great post! New to you! Found you on SITS and so thrilled! Have an awesome day!

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  4. Stopping by from SITS. We are going to be replacing our windows soon. Good information. btw, I posted about Lost today (though I have never watched).

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  5. SITS visiting & blog following. Great tips. It's so important for us to live a greener lifestyle. Thanks. :)

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  6. great tips! :)

    stopping by via SITS!

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