It’s St. Patrick’s Day and everyone seems to be going green. But you can do more than just drink it or wear it. This St. Patty’s Day, spread the green to your home and wallet with these energy-saving tips!
11 Ways to Green Your Home
1. Energy-Efficient Appliances
Look for the ENERGY STAR label when replacing your appliances, electronics, office equipment, windows, doors, water heaters, and HVAC systems. It’s a simple way to ensure you’re getting cutting edge technology and energy efficiency.
If you do end up replacing any of these items, you could be eligible for federal tax credits. Ask your home service company for assistance.
2. Programmable Thermostat
Automatically set and forget your thermostat. There are even models that allow you to adjust the temperature remotely from your phone or computer. Keep in mind that a programmable thermostat is only as energy efficient as the way it is used.
According to the U.S. Department of Energy, “You can save as much as 10% a year on heating and cooling by simply turning your thermostat back 7°-10°F for 8 hours a day from its normal setting.”
We recommend setting the thermostat to 68°F in the winter when you are home and turning it back 7°-10°F when away. In the summer, set the thermostat to 78°F and turn it up 7°-10°F when away. Your thermostat won’t work if it doesn’t have working batteries. Learn how to change your thermostat batteries.
3. Upgrade Windows and Doors
If you have thin windows and doors that leak a lot of air in and out, consider upgrading them for improved energy performance. Replacing ineffective windows and doors may be expensive, but you can expect an average savings of around $200 per year for as long as your windows and doors last.
By lowering your household energy bill, you’ll be helping to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and minimize your carbon footprint. Look for the ENERGY STAR label for your climate zone.
4. Seal and Insulate Basement Rim Joists
By sealing and insulating the rim joints in the basement, you can save hundreds of dollars every year. You can seal most cavities with:
- silicone or acrylic latex caulk (and caulk gun)
- expandable foam spray
- rigid foam insulation
- fiberglass batts
Use caulk for any gaps and cracks less than ¼ inch and expandable foam spray for any openings larger than that. Don’t forget to seal around the rim joists near bay windows and other sections that hang off the foundation. Check around pipes, wiring, and other areas around utilities as well (learn how to insulate your electrical outlets).
Be careful when insulating around the furnace flue. You will need high-temperature caulk. If you have any questions, don’t hesitate to speak with your local HVAC contractor.
5. Pipe and Water Heater Insulation
Insulation sleeves for your pipes and water heater will not only help maintain water temperatures, but can also help prevent frozen pipes in the winter.
Lower the water heater temperature from the standard 140°F to 120°F for even more energy savings.
You may also want to consider replacing your traditional water heater with a more energy-efficient tankless water heater. Speak with your local plumber about new fixture installations, such as water heaters, water filters, and water softeners.
6. High-Efficiency HVAC
If your heating or cooling system is over 15 years old, you could benefit a great deal from a high-efficiency replacement. Speak with your HVAC technician about the benefits of upgrading your equipment to better SEER (seasonal energy efficiency ratio) and AFUE (annual fuel utilization efficiency). Average savings for upgrading HVAC equipment is around $130 a year.
Read our blog to learn if it’s time to replace your furnace. If you want to keep your existing system efficient and effective for many years to come, learn how to extend the lifespan of your HVAC system.
7. Energy-Efficient Lighting
Did you know that around 60% of all light sockets in the United States still use inefficient incandescent light bulbs? With the average home having 70 light sockets, the energy-saving potential is huge. According to ENERGY STAR, if every U.S. home replaced just one light bulb with ENERGY STAR LED bulb, “we would save enough energy to light 2.6 million homes for a year and more than $566 million in annual energy costs.”
Go around your home and switch your traditional incandescent bulbs with CFLs (compact fluorescent lights) and LEDs (light emitting diodes). While the light quality and brightness will be similar, they will use around 70-90% less energy to do so and will last around 10-25 times as long.
If you have any questions about light bulb compatibility with your existing fixtures, call your local electrician. They’ll also be able to offer suggestions for proper lighting for your home. You want a good mix of ambient and task lighting for improved comfort, aesthetics, and efficiency.
8. Dryer Vent Cap
Install a dryer vent cap to prevent air from entering the ventilation system when the dryer is not in use. If you don’t want to take the risk of installing one yourself, schedule service with your local home service contractor.
9. Water Run-Off and Drainage
Homeowners can reduce the pollution from their water run-off by keeping their driveways and landscaping free of oil, pesticides, and other toxins that can enter the water supply.
Other green site strategies include landscaping design to recharge the groundwater and using native plants and rainwater collection (i.e. xeriscaping). In addition to cutting water and maintenance requirements, you’ll also reduce your environmental impact on the water supply.
If you are having a hard time limiting soil erosion and run-off, call your local home service company for recommendations.
10. Reuse and Recycle
We should all be recycling to reduce transportation and production costs, support the local economy, and reduce waste and pollution. You can also earn a bit of extra cash by taking your recyclables to the local recycling center. The trick is to have clearly marked containers, which you can purchase at your local home improvement store.
11. Indoor Air Quality
If you are concerned with pollution levels outdoors, you may be surprised to find out that indoor air pollution is often 2-5 times as bad as the air outdoors (U.S. EPA).
To improve the comfort, health, and well-being of your household, it’s important to keep indoor air quality in check.
Be careful which household cleaners and products you use, since they could contain unhealthy levels of formaldehyde, lead, arsenic, mercury, and other toxins. Look for low-VOC (volatile organic compound) paint, sealant, adhesives, cleaners, and other products. Learn more home cleaning tips here.
Supplement this with bi-annual service appointments from your local HVAC company. Your technician will inspect your entire home for any ventilation or other indoor air quality problems. They may also recommend cleaning and sealing your air ducts if you have not done so in the past 5-10 years.
Cleaning and sealing your air ducts is especially important in homes with people who suffer from respiratory problems, such as asthma and allergies.
For more spring energy-saving tips, refer to this infographic from the U.S. Department of Energy:
Infographic by Sarah Gerrity, Energy Department
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