It’s Not Easy Being Green (Or Is It?)

Making your home more energy-efficient can sound like a difficult endeavor. Visions dance in your head of painstakingly installing solar panels on your home and only eating food you grow in your own specially-designed geodesic dome. But it doesn’t have to be that way. It can be as simple as a few best-practices or upgrading your refrigerator. It can, in fact, be easy being green, and we’re here to show you how.

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However, if you can afford the geodesic dome, definitely give it a good think.

 

First, you can increase your home’s energy efficiency with a few little home hacks.

– Use shades, blinds, and drapes to help with heating and cooling. Open or close them as needed to take advantage of the sun’s natural heating, opening them when you want a little free warmth and closing them during the dog days of summer. This will supplement, not replace, your current heating and air conditioning systems.

– Seal off cracks and gaps around windows and doors with caulk and weather stripping. It helps keep the warm or cool air in your house.

– Use fans in summer, even if you have an air conditioner, because it will circulate the air, meaning your entire home will cool off faster. That means your air condition simply won’t need to work as hard.

– Turn off your lights when no one needs them. This seems like a no-brainer, but lots of people routinely leave lights on where they aren’t being used. Additionally, you can look into getting a dimmer switch installed, which gives you increased control over lighting levels and means you can use less electricity by finding an acceptable lighting level that uses less energy.

– Use power strips! Lots of home appliances and gizmos use electricity even whey aren’t turned on. Sometimes called “energy vampires,” these are products that have some sort of standby mode that means they continue to drain energy from the outlet, and can cost you upwards of $100 a year.  You can use power strips as a central “off point,” letting you cut these vampires off from their food. While we’re at it, phone chargers also tend to be energy vampires. Unplug them when you aren’t charging your phone.

You can start using more energy-efficient appliances.

– These may require an upfront investment, but they will save you money in the long run, and are much better for the planet than more wasteful appliances.

– Switch to natural gas appliances if you can. It’s usually less expensive than electricity, and is much more energy efficient, only losing 10% of its energy to heat burnoff, meaning that 90% of the energy is put to use. In contrast, your car has only 35% efficiency.

– Consider installing a tankless water heater. Since heating water accounts for up to 30% of a home’s energy budget, any reduction is a welcome one, and tankless gas-fired water heaters can reduce your energy costs by 50% over regular storage heaters. Upfront costs may be high, but significant energy savings over time can be expected. And as they are far more efficient than traditional units, they’re environmental value can’t be overstated.

 – If you have an older refrigerator, look into replacing it with a more recent unit. Energy efficiency improves all the time, and has made significant strides in the last few years. That means a new unit could be considerably more efficient — and cheaper to run — than one even a few years old, and units coming up on twenty years old can be replaced by Energy Star units that cost a third as much to run. You can check out the Energy Star Refrigerator Calculator to find out how much you could save. There’s no reason not to check.

– Replace your air conditioner with a more energy-efficient model; look for SEER (Season Energy Efficiency Rating) of 14 or more. If you don’t have central air and are currently using a series of window units, look into a mini-split system; less intensive in installation than central air, it provides the sort of comprehensive control  and versatility you get from single-window units with greater efficiency provided by the single central AC unit. That’s unparalleled flexibility and efficiency at  minimal cost, without requiring wasteful and inefficient ductwork.

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