With Earth Day taking place on Tuesday and today being Arbor Day, it seems there’s no better time to discuss how you can make you home a little more eco-friendly.
Image via Ram Reddy [Flickr]
Do An Energy Audit
A DIY energy audit can help you understand where you can improve the energy use of your home. This audit checklist can walk you through insulation, air leaks, heating and cooling, lighting, appliances and electronics.
Switch Out Your Old Light Bulbs
LED and Compact Florescent Lights (CFL) both use way less electricity, produce less heat, and are more long-lasting than old incandescent. Switching just one old bulb for a CFL prevents 400 pounds of greenhouse gases over the course of the bulb’s life. Even more impressive, six LED lights still use less energy than just one incandescent. The bulbs are all cooler as well, meaning you won’t need to crank up that air conditioning as much over the summer.
If you don’t like the cold look of CFLs, LEDs have a more traditional, warmer feel. But if you have migraines or some other condition that limits your use of these eco-friendly alternatives, you can at least switch them out in hallways, closets or other areas where you don’t use the light frequently.
Image Via Seth [Flickr]
Open Your Blinds.
The cheapest source of light also happens to be the most eco-friendly. It’s also a great way to add a little heat to your home during the winter. Of course, during the summer, installing some thermal drapes and keeping them closed when the sun is at its hottest is also a good way to keep your home cooler.
Image Via Glasseyes View [Flickr]
Install A Ceiling Fan
When the weather is just a touch too warm, a ceiling fan can work wonders and it will use only 10% of the energy of an air conditioner to make your room feel 10 degrees cooler. As a bonus, in the winter you can set your fan on the reverse direction to help circulate warm air to the floor so you can stay toastier.
Image Via Rob [Flickr]
Install A Programmable Thermostat
There’s no point in having your air conditioner or heater run when no one is home. A programmable 5-2 thermostat can make sure the house is comfortable by the time you get home from work while leaving the air conditioner or heater off while you’re away. It can also turn down during those hours you’re in bed, under the covers. There are even models that can be programmed differently for each day of the week.
A programmable thermostat can also be set for temperatures, so it will only kick on the heater when the temp gets below 68 degrees or the AC when the heat gets above 78 degrees -this way your home can stay comfortable without costing you a fortune.
If you don’t have a central cooling system, the Aros is a smart alternative to a traditional box air conditioner and offer many of the same benefits of other programmable thermostats.
Image Via _Vikram [Flickr]
Improve Your Insulation
Proper insulation is critical to keeping your home a comfortable temperature throughout the year. Check that you have proper insulation in your attic, which can be a major source of lost heat in the winter. A radiant foil in the attic can help keep your whole home much cooler in the summer. Insulate your hot water heater to save a little money on keeping the tank warm. Also, look for drafts around your doorways and windows –if you find any air leaks, seal them with caulk, draft guards or other options.
Image Via Knauf Insulation [Flickr]
Look For Energy Star Appliances
If you’re planning to purchase a new appliance or even new windows, keep an eye out for Energy Star items. The government-operated program identifies eco-friendly options that will either cost you the same as comparable products or save you enough money in utility bills to make up the difference within a reasonable amount of time.
Some Energy Star products can save you enough energy or water that they can even be worth buying when your old appliance works just fine because the savings will make up for the extra cost in no time. Also, remember that just because an appliance was labeled with the Energy Star logo at one point does not mean it is efficient by today’s standards as improving technology has ensured their qualifications become stricter as time goes on.
If you’re planning on switching your flooring, that is. Bamboo is the most ecologically-friendly version of hardwood flooring available because it is so renewable. Even if you don’t like the look of traditional bamboo flooring, woven bamboo can be stained and it often looks more like traditional wood floors.
Image Via Evan Watson [Flickr]
Electric stripping, that is. By using electric strips for your cell phone, laptop, tablet and other chargers, you can easily turn off the plug when the devices aren’t charging this means energy savings since all those charges pull electricity even when they aren’t in use. Similarly, you can use power strips on your computer, stereo and television as these devices all continue to draw power even when they aren’t in use.
Image Via Prettydaisies [Flickr]
Switch to Rechargeable Batteries
Rechargeable batteries are not only cheaper in the long run, they also reduce waste –including packaging waste. Whatever batteries you use, be sure to recycle them properly when they die out.
Opt Out of Mailing Lists
Keep That Freezer Full
A cramped freezer takes a lot less energy to keep cool and it means you have a better selection of frozen food available when you need it.
Image Via Mcav0y [Flickr]
Give Your Fridge Some Space
Whereas crowding frozen foods together keeps them cooler in a freezer, putting too many cool items together in a fridge reduces air circulation making your appliance work harder to keep things at the right temperature.
Also, keep your fridge a few inches away from the wall to allow air circulation behind the appliance so it doesn’t have to work as hard.
Get A Dishwasher
If you’re still washing your dishes by hand, then head to your local appliance store and grab an energy efficient dishwasher. Not only will it save you time and effort, but modern dishwashers use half the energy, a sixth of the water and less soap than hand washing your dishes.
Image Via Sir Bali [Flickr]
Keep Your Laundry Cool
Modern washing machines and detergents are efficient enough that you don’t need to rely on warm water to get your clothes clean. What that means is that you can cut out 90% of the energy your washing machine is currently using by eliminating the need for hot water.
Line Dry Your Clothes
There is an amazing clothes dryer in every home and it has absolutely no energy costs. I mean the sun, of course, and a simple line between two fences or trees can help you dry your clothes for free.
But, if you absolutely won’t or can’t dry your clothes on the line, then pull out clothes that are already dry as the cycle runs. This will let the heavier items dry faster as they have more space and more heat to themselves and, as a result, save up to 40% of your dryer’s energy when you can stop the process sooner.
Image Via Teresa Alexandra-Arab [Flickr]
Plant Some Trees
A little landscaping outside will not only make your home look nicer, it can also help your home stay cooler in the summer. The EPA suggests planting trees that go dormant in the winter so you can block the sun’s rays during those hot summer months and still take advantage of the extra heat during the winter. Try to plant native trees if you can to support your local flora and fauna and to make the landscaping maintenance easier on yourself. This guide can help you identify native plants in your area.
Image Via Jacki-Dee [Flickr]
Grow A Vegtable Garden
Not only do home-grown foods taste better, they are also a great way to go organic and bypass all the transportation pollution involved with commercially-grown veggies, herbs and fruits. Additionally, growing a garden can help reduce soil erosion and air pollution.
You can even start a compost pile to fertilize your garden and take advantage of the biodegradable waste you'd produce either way.
Image Via Ruth Hartnup [Flickr]
Water Your Plants Wisely
Try watering your plants in the morning or evening so the sun won’t immediately evaporate all the water. Also, consider redirecting your gray water so you can use the water from your washing machine, dishwasher, sinks and/or shower to water your plants.
Buy Green Electricity
You can support renewable energy by buying it directly from your electric company or installing solar power. This guide from the US Department of Energy can recommend reliable sources of green energy based on where you live.
Have a great Arbor Day everyone and remember to think green!