From Energy Guzzler to Energy Efficient – 5 Essentials for Creating an Energy-saving Home

March 31, 2014

Are you considering giving your house a makeover? Well, if so, then why not go beyond the new paint job and focus on something a little more important—like saving the planet?

Commercial and residential buildings account for approximately 11% of the dangerous greenhouse gases produced in the United States. However, with just a few changes, you can help do your part to turn your house into a beacon of eco-friendliness. So make the decision today to live in a “green” home, no matter what color of paint you may have on the outside. Here are five things you can do to get started, many of which can also help you save money.

1. Switch to home automation

If you really want to turn your house green, home automation may be the best way to go. Through the use of automated lighting that can turn itself off when you leave a room, smart thermostats that learn your habits and adjust their settings to provide maximum energy efficiency, and power strips that eliminate the constant power drain that results from leaving your appliances plugged into the wall, you can dramatically reduce your energy consumption. In essence, when it comes to cutting down on wasted energy, home automation is the future. Home automation may require a small initial investment, but users have reported saving up to $200 a year.

2. Recycle and Upcycle

This one should really go without saying. However, the sad truth is that many Americans have only one can that they place out on the curb, and located in that can among the banana peels and dirty diapers are things like newspaper, bottles, and cardboard boxes that could easily be recycled. If your area has a curbside recycling program, then do your part and sign up. If it doesn’t, then go the extra mile and find out where the recycling centers are in your area. Also, recycle within the home by reusing or repurposing items that you might otherwise throw out. The easiest way to save money and go green is to upcycle. If you’ve got an old couch you’re going to throw away, consider refinishing it to look rustic. Pinterest is your best friend when you’re looking to repurpose anything from home.

3. Replace your incandescent light bulbs

The incandescent bulb has been around for over two centuries, and in that time it’s changed very little. It still uses electricity to heat an inner filament to the point of glowing, resulting in bright, sustainable light. The problem is that these bulbs aren’t very efficient. With incandescent lights, only about 20% of the energy used produces visible light; the rest is bled off as unwanted heat. And, in addition to wasting substantial amounts of electricity, conventional bulbs don’t last very long, resulting in increased waste. Kill two birds with one stone, and switch over to LED bulbs. LEDs are several times more efficient and can last approximately 100 times longer than incandescent bulbs.

4. Go solar

While we’re on the subject of saving electricity, it might be a good time to point out that electricity production, such as through the use of power plants, accounts for 33% of all greenhouse emissions. That means that when you use electricity in your home, you’re using a decidedly unclean power source. Supplement your power with alternate energy in the form of solar paneling or wind turbines. Despite initial installation costs and some ongoing maintenance expenses, alternate energy sources can actually save you big money on your electric bill, paying for themselves in only a matter of years. Or, for those who would rather not have to worry about investment capital at all, there are certain companies such as Solarcity and Vivint who offer solar “leasing” programs. What does that entail? It’s simple: The customer has the company provide the solar panels, as well as cover installation and maintenance costs, and only has to pay for the resultant electricity that is generated—at a significantly reduced cost, of course. Solar sales boomed last year, and they are expected to increase this year and moving forward.

5. Replace your plumbing fixtures

Conventional toilets can end up wasting up to 3.5 gallons of water every time they’re flushed. A ten minute shower can waste as much as 45 gallons. Washing machines, sprinkler systems, dishwashers—each of these plays a part when it comes to the amount of water your home uses every day. As such, one of the best things you can do for the environment is replace your old, inefficient plumbing fixtures with new low-flow models. Low-flow toilets are able to achieve the same level of flushing power with just a fraction of the water, and low flow shower heads are so advanced that you won’t even be able to tell the difference (except when you look at your water bill).

So, turn your house green for all to see. If you’re buying a home, then make energy efficiency a priority, and if you’re looking to remodel, then consider a few of these improvements. You’ll be doing the planet a huge favor, and as an added bonus, you’ll be helping your wallet out as well. Isn’t it great when doing the right thing ends up saving you money?

David Glenn is technology and green enthusiast. He’s been featured on sites like Dwell.com and MotherEarthNews.com. Connect with him on Twitter @davidglenn97.

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