Making a home more energy-efficient and eco-friendly is a wonderful way to minimize utility costs while benefiting the environment at the same time. As the push for greener homes has gathered steam, it’s now easier than ever before to make the switch. Below are a few of the simplest, most cost-effective methods of “going green” in any household.
Because the average household spends roughly half of their electric bill on heating and cooling, the thermostat is the first place to start when making a home more energy-efficient. The recommended settings are 68 degrees during cooler months, and 78 degrees during the summer. Keeping the temperature within these ranges significantly reduces costs and ensures that energy isn’t wasted. For an even easier time, invest in a programmable thermostat that will automatically handle any adjustments for you.
Compact fluorescent lamps, or CFLs, are one the cheapest and easiest ways to increase energy savings at home. While CFLs do cost more than a traditional light bulb at first, they create less heat, use up to 66% energy, and last ten times longer. In fact, switching to CFLs can save as much as $30 over the life of the bulb compared to a normal light bulb, which means that they quickly recoup the initial investment. For those concerned about the slightly harsher lighting of CFLs, LED bulbs are another excellent, more recent alternative.
Using less water is an excellent way to cut utility costs and help the environment. The simplest and most cost-effective way to do this is simply to alter usage behaviors: turning off the water while brushing your teeth, taking shorter showers, and watering the lawn less often can all translate into big savings. For those willing to invest in long-term approaches, consider faucet aerators and low-flow toilets, which can reduce annual water consumption by up to 50%.
Proper insulation is quite possibly the most important consideration when making a home more energy-efficient. Because heat rises, poor insulation means that heat can more easily escape through the roof and windows of a home, especially if there is in an attic. Insulation makes it much harder for heat to escape in the winter and to enter the home in the summer, and you can make it even more effective by adding weather stripping. Keep in mind that professional insulation is almost always cheaper when the home is first being built rather than after construction has been completed.
Swapping out old appliances can save hundreds of dollars each year, especially if those appliances are more than 10 years old. The Environmental Protection Agency recommends appliances with the Energy Star logo, which are rated to use anywhere from 10 to 50% less energy than other models. Not only are Energy Star appliances more efficient and environment-friendly, but the logo is only awarded if the appliance is either priced similarly to other models or if it will recoup additional costs within a reasonable period of time.
Both the production and disposal of plastic bags results in significant greenhouse gas emission. Re-using plastic bags when possible, as well as recycling them instead of sending them to a landfill, contributes greatly to environmental protection. When it comes to paper, look for post-consumer recycled products that haven’t been bleached. This reduces the build-up of toxic chemicals in the environment, and keeps waste out of landfills. Also, consider bringing reusable cloth or canvas bags to the grocery store instead.
Many household cleaners contain chemicals that are toxic to both you and the environment. The good news is that organic cleaning supplies have become much more popular and accessible in recent years. Not only that, but it is easy and inexpensive to make your own out of household products such as baking soda, hydrogen peroxide, vinegar, and lemon juice. Organic cleaners have been proven to clean and disinfect just as well as harsh chemicals, making them a healthy, eco-friendly alternative.
While not all of these alternatives may be an option for everyone, making even a few of these changes can translate into massive savings and the peace of mind that comes from knowing you have done your part to help the environment by living a more sustainable, eco-friendly lifestyle.
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