Want to get into the spirit of going green but don’t know where to start? You would be surprised at the number of projects you can do yourself that will make a difference in your use of energy. Here are ten inexpensive ways to go green in your home and backyard.
Build a clothesline
If you’re from the baby boomer generation, you remember that clotheslines were once the norm. When given the opportunity, when the weather was good our moms and grandmothers preferred to hang clothes out to dry and they always came back in smelling fresh and sweet. When you consider your clothes dryer is probably the biggest energy-guzzling appliance in your house, an old-fashioned clothesline is a simple and easy way to save energy.
Have you ever stood around running the hot water, waiting for it to heat up in your bathtub or sink? As you watch the water go down the drain, you’re also seeing the energy it took to heat it going down the drain with it. What if you could press a button and have hot water in an instant? You could if you had an on-demand recirculating pump. Installed under the sink, the pump captures the not-yet-hot water before it exits the tap and shoots it back to the water heater.
Insulate Hot-Water Pipes
Just like putting coffee in a thermos, you want to keep your hot water hot as long as possible. Insulate pipes wherever you can reach them by encasing them in rubber or polyethylene foam tubes. The tubes come with an adhesive-coated slit down the middle, so you just ease them over the pipe and press the ends closed. Seal the seams with good old reliable duct tape.
Install a programmable thermostat
Here’s an upgrade that quickly pays for itself. With a programmable thermostat, you can automatically adjust your heating and air-conditioning systems to match your family’s schedule throughout the day and night. For every degree you lower your thermostat over an 8-hour period, you cut energy use by about one percent. Set it back 10 degrees overnight, and that’s a 10 percent savings. You’ll pay around $50 for the thermostat, but you’ll reap an estimated annual savings of $100.
Install a smart ceiling fan
Ceiling fans are a popular home addition no matter what season of the year, but if used improperly, they may not be doing much good in the energy department. Make sure any fan you buy is Energy Star rated. Lighted ones use fluorescent bulbs instead of hot-burning incandescents or halogens and are up to 50 percent more efficient than standard models.
Install an occupancy sensor switch that shuts the fan off if no one’s in the room.
Replace Recessed lights
From an energy efficiency perspective, recessed or “canned” lights are not good because they usually aren’t sealed. Since they can’t have insulation above them, they allow heated air to escape into the attic. You can replace them with newer, airtight models, but an easier fix is to buy a retrofit kit that screws into the existing fixture. Many of these enable you to seal around the rim and behind the bulb, converting the old fixture to one that is airtight and insulation-rated.
One of the reasons you may be losing heat or air conditioning could be because the seals around your windows and doors have worn out. A quick inspection can tell you whether they need replacing. Redo the caulking to seal even tighter. Most experts agree that caulking and weatherstripping will pay for themselves in energy savings within one year.
Pay attention to the contents of your cleaning products and avoid using those containing toxic properties. Good old-fashioned soap, baking soda, and vinegar or lemon juice can take care of most household cleaning needs.
Plant Deciduous Trees
You can go green—literally—in your backyard by planting deciduous trees (trees that lose all their leaves in the fall) on the south, east, and west sides of your house. The right tree in the right place provides wind protection, shade, and cool air, while adding beauty, privacy, and wildlife habitat to the landscape. In five years, they may provide enough shade to let you run your air conditioner less frequently. And when the trees mature, they could save you as much as 40 percent on your cooling costs.
Create a Rain Garden
Another outside way to go green is to create a rain garden. Instead of diverting your gutter water into a storm drain, channel it into a low spot on your property planted with bushes, grasses, or trees that would love that extra drink. Rain gardens help provide the natural flood-control and water conservation.