With the advent of products and technology, it's become easier and less expensive to run a more energy-efficient home. Make just a few simple changes and you can help your wallet and the environment at the same time, saving up to $500 a year on utility bills and cutting carbon pollution.
Being choosy about which systems and appliances you have in your home can greatly affect your energy costs. Do you really need a second refrigerator in your garage if it's only filled with leftover beverages or condiments? Do you have fans that you leave running in rooms no one is in? Do you need an air conditioning unit when you live by the beach and have a cool sea breeze? For each appliance you can eliminate from daily use, you'll be rewarded on your energy bill.
For the appliances you do need in your home, upgrading to those with smarter energy use is smart for your pocketbook. Energy Star, a program run by the Environmental Protection Agency, has helped Americans "save energy without sacrificing features of functionality" and "avoid $30 billion in energy costs" with its line of products. You may not be able to replace all of your older appliances with Energy Star-rated ones, and neither should you, if the ones you have function well. But major appliances like your water heater, washer and dryer use the largest percentage of energy, so when one of them bites the dust, have energy efficiency be a top consideration as you shop around.
How you use your appliances and electronics also makes a difference in energy waste. Though smaller appliances, such as toasters, printers, and televisions, make up a smaller percentage of energy use, unplugging them still has an impact on your energy bill. Chargers continue to use electricity even when they're not charging a device, so unplug them when not in use as well. It may take some practice at first, but eventually, it will become second nature.
Replacing incandescent light bulbs with compact fluorescent lamps, or CFLs, is one of the top tips experts give for reducing energy consumption, for they use almost 70% less energy. At about $3 compared with 50 cents, the CFL bulb may seem to cost more than an incandescent light bulb, but you'll need about 10 incandescent bulbs to equal the lifetime of just one CFL bulb. The biggest return on investment comes in the results that you'll see over time on your energy bill. According to Green Home Guide, you can expect to shell out an estimated $80 annually with CFL bulbs and $350 annually with incandescent bulbs, a big difference.
Water-conscious home practices protect one of our most precious resources and your budget. Luckily, some efficiency changes are relatively effortless and inexpensive. Replace your showerheads with low-flow ones, which come in a variety of flows to suit your comfort. Some come with a pause button so you can temporarily stop the flow as you lather up or shave. You can also opt for low-flow toilets. Or take it one step further and install a dual-flush toilet, which offers two flushes with different amounts of water to handle liquid waste and solid waste. Both save you from wasting unneeded water with every flush.
Home improvement can take many forms, but not many upgrades improve quality and durability while actually benefitting your finances. Whether you're able to sweep the whole house for more energy efficiency or start with one small change at a time, every choice counts, and going more green is a win-win.