As the world celebrated Earth Day last week, there has been renewed conversation as to how each of us can live in more environmentally friendly ways at home. We all know to reduce, reuse and recycle, but are there other things a homeowner can do to make a bigger impact? How much will those adjustments and changes cost? How much money will the average household save in the long run?
Before we dig into the (simple!) steps you can take to be more earth-friendly at home, there are a few things to remember:
Increasing the energy efficiency of your home is one of the best ways to be more eco-friendly.
It also helps you cut utility costs, saving you money in the long run.
Being energy efficient doesn’t require breaking the bank.
Despite popular belief, not every step requires a significant investment. Not only are there a lot of minor (and affordable) adjustments you can make today that will help you immediately improve efficiencies in your home, but thanks to significant advances in technology and increasing tax incentives from federal and state governments, the costs of implementing major changes to make your home more environmentally-friendly are decreasing.
How easy is it to make my home energy efficient?
To have a true net zero energy home takes proper planning and design from the very beginning of building. Luckily, there are ways to incorporate smaller changes to your existing home and lifestyle that absolutely add up over time. You don’t have to start from scratch or change a lot in your home to increase its energy efficiency.
6 Simple Steps to Take to Be More Energy Efficient
Kill the vampires!
Energy vampires are a real thing. Your appliances and electronics continue to use energy when plugged in, regardless of whether or not they are being used. This waste is called the vampire load. Simply unplugging electronics or other small appliances when not in use stops the drain and prevents excessive energy consumption. If unplugging everything when not in use seems like a hassle, use an advanced power strip so that you can turn off multiple devices with just one switch. Not only does this make it way easier to stop the energy vampires but using an advanced power strip can save you up to $100 a year in electricity costs!
Reconsider your lighting.
As much natural lighting as possible is (obviously) greenest, but for all those spaces where you need to use artificial lighting, consider replacing your incandescent bulbs (as well as your halogen and even your CFLs) with energy-efficient LED light bulbs. The LEDs are more expensive than their traditional counterparts, but the energy savings are immediate. Plus, they last about 50 times longer than an incandescent, adding to the cost savings over time.
Additionally, using lighting controls (like timers) to manage outdoor light (i.e. turn the lights on after dusk and turn them off well before sunrise) helps to reduce energy waste (and unnecessary costs).
Seal air leaks.
This is probably the most impactful and immediate, yet simple, step you can take to make yours a more environmentally friendly house. Use caulk or weather stripping to seal air leaks around your windows and doors. Take it one step further and replace door bottoms and thresholds with pliable sealing gaskets.
Not sure how to identify leaks? Have an energy audit done at your home. Reach out to your energy provider to schedule an assessment. These low (and often no cost) audits will not only help you identify air leaks but also other areas where efficiency can be improved.
Don’t rely strictly on your thermostat to heat and cool your house.
Utilizing tools like programmable thermostats and ceiling fans to support your home’s heating and cooling system are a great way to increase energy savings.
Set a programmable thermostat to automatically adjust the temperature according to your work schedule. You’ll start measurably reducing your energy usage by dropping the temperature as few as 5 degrees during the workday. Really want to see the savings? Lowering your thermostat by 10 to 15 degrees during the workday will save you 5% to 15% every year.
Add to this the use of a ceiling fan during warm AND cold months (set your fans to spin counterclockwise when it’s cooler to help push rising warm air back to floor level and trap heat inside) and you’ll easily be able to maintain better temperatures in your house without cranking up the heating or the AC.
Finally, help to ensure your system is running at it’s best by regularly changing out the air filters regularly. Set yourself a recurring reminder on your personal calendar to change the filter every 90 days (or as prescribed by your technician) to keep your system running at its most efficient.
Install low-flow fixtures to increase water waste reduction.
Gone are the days when a low-flow fixture meant poor water pressure and ineffective flow. Technology is constantly improving these tools such that cost and user experience are more and more comparable to their traditional counterparts.
Incorporating a dual-flush, vacuum-assist or low-flow toilet, in conjunction with low-flow showerheads and low-flow faucets, can help you halve your annual water usage. All in, that’s an estimated savings of $140 per year for doing nothing more than changing a few fixtures.
Not ready to replace them all? Consider installing restrictor valves instead. They are easy enough for any homeowner to install themselves and cost just a few dollars each.
Use Energy Star appliances when you can.
Energy Star certified products use 10-15% less energy than their counterparts. They are comparable in price to their non-certified counterparts and start reducing your energy usage immediately.
Looking for the most energy savings bang for your buck? Replace your clothes dryer and washing machine with and Energy Star appliance first.
Ready for a bigger change?
Does all this talk of green living at home have you ready to dive in and make a more serious change? Consider solar panels, especially as a resident of Northeast Ohio. The most common renewable energy source for your home is from solar panels and, again, advances in technology are improving performance and reducing costs year after year. Plus, federal and state incentive programs help make solar even more appealing for Ohio residents. For example, Ohio offers a net metering program which allows you to ‘bank’ extra energy produced during peak hours so that you can use it during times your panels aren’t producing, like overnight. Essentially, when your solar panels produce more energy than you need (a common occurrence) you can sell back this excess to the grid in exchange for credits on your utility bill. Then, you use those credits at times when you need more than the panels produce (i.e. overnight) when your panels aren’t producing as much. Find out more about Ohio’s net metering program here.
In summary, there are many ways a homeowner can make a house more earth-friendly without overhauling their entire living space or putting themselves in financial ruin. Implementing any one of these steps will move you along a greener path (both for the planet and your wallet).