6 Quick and Easy Green Home Upgrades
Looking for ways to be more energy efficient? Hoping to save some money on your utility bills? Here are six ideas for easy eco-friendly upgrades to your home:
- Change light bulbs.
- Caulk around windows and doors.
- Unplug devices not in use.
- Switch to a smart thermostat.
- Use eco-friendly paints.
- Upgrade appliances.
1. Change Light Bulbs
Replace incandescent light bulbs with light-emitting diode (LED) light bulbs. Energy.gov says Energy Star-certified LEDs use only 20 to 25 percent of the energy and last up to 25 times longer compared with the traditional incandescent light bulbs they replace. Plus, you can choose from different types of LEDs to fit your home: According to BobVila.com, bulbs come in varying types of white light, plus dimmable and Wi-Fi-enabled options.
Another plus is that LEDs are much cooler than incandescent lights, reducing the risk of combustion or burnt fingers, Energy.gov says.
2. Caulk Around Windows and Doors
You may be paying more on utility bills if air is escaping through gaps and cracks around window and door frames, especially if you are running the heat or air conditioning, according to Energy.gov. You can use caulk to help seal air leaks from small cracks, gaps or joints. You may also want to weatherstrip around windows and doors, Energy.gov adds. For the cost of a couple tubes of caulk, a caulking gun and some weatherstripping, the agency reports you can save as much as 10 to 20 percent off your energy bills.
3. Unplug Devices Not in Use
Most devices with an external power supply, continuous display, remote control or battery charger are consistently using power, even if the machine is off, according to the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory (LBL). Also known as “vampire loads,” the LBL notes 5 to 10 percent of residential electricity accounts for this type of unused power.
“You want to eliminate vampire loads from those appliances and devices, such as cellphones, computers and televisions, that go into standby mode and continue to use power,” says Chad Ruhoff, vice president of home improvements for Neil Kelly, a home remodeling firm.
To fight off vampire loads, try unplugging devices you use infrequently, or use a power strip to completely switch off multiple electronics at once, the LBL suggests. You can also purchase a wattmeter to help measure how much electricity your appliances are using, according to LBL.
4. Switch to a Smart Thermostat
EnergyStar.gov explains that programmable thermostats are “smart” devices that are Wi-Fi enabled and can automatically adjust the temperature, which will help save energy. You can set a schedule, denoting the temperature you want at different times during the day, such as when you wake up, leave for work or go to sleep. Setting the schedule to use less heating or cooling when you’re not home may add up in savings and help lessen the impact on the environment, according to EnergyStar.gov.
On top of that, most smart thermostats are accessible via a smartphone app, so you can adjust the temperature before you get home, Ruhoff adds.
According to Energy.gov, you can save as much as 10 percent a year on heating and cooling by turning back your thermostat — whether it’s a smart one or not — 7 to 10 degrees from its usual setting for eight hours a day.
5. Use Eco-Friendly Paints
Whether you’re getting ready to sell or just want to refresh a room, try to avoid paints containing volatile organic compounds, or VOCs. According to the Environmental Protection Agency
(EPA), VOCs, which may be emitted by some household products, may have adverse health effects ranging from eye, nose and throat irritation to headaches and liver and central nervous system damage over time.
“Paint manufacturers make low- or no-VOC paints now and they come in a wide variety of colors,” says Michael Menn, principal and architect at the home architecture and construction firm Michael Menn Ltd. Many home improvement stores now carry these types of paints, he adds.
6. Upgrade Appliances
If you haven’t replaced your appliances in the past decade, it may be a good time to look at new Energy Star-rated appliances. According to Energy.gov, Energy Star-certified refrigerator models with top-mounted freezers use 10 to 25 percent less energy than side-by-side or bottom-mount units.
Energy Star dishwashers can save an average of 3,870 gallons of water over their lifetime, the site says. If your dishwasher was purchased before 1994, it’s probably using more than 10 gallons of water per cycle. An Energy Star dishwasher uses 5.8 gallons or less of water, according to the site.
And Energy Star laundry machines use 20 percent less energy than standard models, Energy.gov reports.
It’s a good time to go green. These eco-friendly tips may help keep you more comfortable in your home, help lessen your impact on the environment and even help you save money on your energy bills.
Originally published on August 26, 2014.