Cheap Greens: 50 Quick-fixes to Your Home to Save Energy (and Money!)

From on August 05, 2009 in Green Remodeling

It’s not easy being green. But at least now you possess the mother of all checklists. Make these quick upgrades to your home to save the planet AND your wallet. It’s win-win.

  1. OK, maybe some lights warrant mentioning. Replacing outdoor bulbs with motion sensor lights can help you make it to the door in the dark without wasting much energy at all. Mom and dad aren’t waiting up, why should your light fixtures?
  2. Nearly every home has multiple computers. When it’s time to buy a new one, consider switching to a laptop - they use only one-sixth the amount of power.
  3. laptop-computer.jpgPhoto Credit: Arbron
  4. Install low-flow showerheads - all it takes is a screwdriver.
  5. Use power strips. Plug in multiple devices, and then turn off the entire strip when you’re done. This can save you energy by the boatload.
  6. Install a programmable thermostat and let it do the thinking for you. It’ll automatically increase & decrease temperatures during peak and off-peak hours.
  7. A/C is the single most expensive energy drain, even though you only use it for a few months. This summer, run the A/C as little as possible and turn on some ceiling and standalone fans. (Hint: even one fan in every room in the house won’t use as much power as the A/C).
  8. Don’t pop when you read this, but using bubble wrap to cover the glass in your windows in the winter can reduce your heat loss by up to 50 percent.
  9. Another source of heat loss is your attic. When the space is semi-empty because holiday decorations are out, install another layer of insulation in the attic (this can be done at any time of year, depending on how lazy you were about taking down the holiday lights last year).
  10. After you’re done hugging your trees, plant some around the house - the shade they provide can help you cut your summer energy bills by up to 40 percent.
  11. tree-planting.jpgPhoto Credit: alexindigo
  12. Using space heaters in the winter is actually cheaper than using the HVAC (of course, if you‘re willing, cuddling is free!).
  13. Green and give your home facelift at the same time - choose new hues for your rooms and paint them with low or no VOC paints. Your family’s health will thank you for it.
  14. Install storm doors and windows to keep more of your bought & paid-for air inside with you.
  15. Green carpet tiles are easy to install and made largely from recycled materials - plus, you can make one wall-to-wall sea of solid color or mix & match in any style that tickles your fancy - and your toes.
  16. Install an energy monitor. It’ll show you how much power and money you’re using to run any electric device or appliance, pointing out your liabilities in measurable quantities.
  17. Switch your household cleaners and detergents to natural, eco-friendly solutions. One of my faves is a bottle of diluted vinegar - great for any surface.
  18. Use blackout curtains to retain more of your heating and cooling inside the house, as well as to block out light when it’s unwanted.
  19. Install “Solatubes” in your roof - they capture, diffuse, and reflect light through tubes down into your home. They provide consistent light and allow you to “customize your daylighting experience.” HOT technology.
  20. Cover utility equipment with blankets (just like the hot water heater) to help them work more efficiently.
  21. You see that protective coating on your furniture and shelves? You know, the stuff the rest of us know as dust? Well, it may be protecting your furniture, but it’s not doing much for your indoor air quality - change your air filter and do some housekeeping. You’ll breathe easier, trust me.
  22. Boycott the clothes dryer: hang a laundry line outside in a sunny spot, or even indoors in a room that gets full sunlight for a few hours or longer.
  23. clothes-line.jpgPhoto Credit: mysza831
  24. Get a solar pool cover! Yes, these really exist. Cut back on pool heating costs by draping the solar blanket right over your pool surface.
  25. Replace your pool’s chemical/chlorine-based filtration system with a salt system. It’s cheaper and healthier.
  26. Believe it or not, you can easily build your own small-room solar panel out of soda cans and basic materials (and after you drink all that caffeine, you’ll have the energy to do it!)
  27. Install a rainwater collection barrel and use the free H2O for garden beds, car washing, etc.
  28. Or recycle your “graywater” - you can reuse water from your showers, sinks, dishwasher, and washing machine by diverting it to outdoor irrigation and landscaping.
  29. I know - no one likes math problems, but a 100-watt lightbulb uses less energy than two 60-watt bulbs, but produces nearly as much light. Buy energy-saving bulbs and cut the watt usage down to a fraction.
  30. Clean your refrigerator coils, and the appliance will run more efficiently.
  31. Install a water filtration system for the house (or a smaller one for the kitchen faucet) to help your family drink healthier, tastier water, and prevent the need to purchase bottled water in those dreaded plastic containers - talk about a waste!
  32. Most water heaters are hotter than they need to be. Why, I ask, why do we allow ourselves to be burned by the shower again and again? Turn down your hot water heater’s temperature by a few degrees. You’ll see the difference on your next utility bill.
  33. If you’re cooking for just one or two, install a convection oven - they use much less energy than a conventional oven and cook better than a microwave (can you say rubber chicken?).
  34. Speaking of cooking, herbs can be very expensive, but they make a real difference in your meals. Grow an herb garden, indoors or out, to save money, beautify & green your home, and improve indoor air quality as well.
  35. Recycle, recycle, recycle. While you’re separating your plastic from your glass and aluminum at home, keep a recycle container for used paper, cardboard and useful things that you don’t want anymore - other people will take them off your hands. The landfill, however, will just hold them and stink up our atmosphere.
  36. recycle-bins.jpgPhoto Credit: AGeekMom
  37. Ditch the paper plates and disposable eating utensils; it’s much more eco-friendly to wash and reuse dishes, so invest in a set that will last for years.
  38. Cook with cast-iron instead of nonstick coated pans - it’s healthier for you and they last a lot longer.
  39. For cold drafts sneaking in through your windows or doors, you can run to the nearest hardware store and purchase self-adhesive weather stripping and cover any gaps you find.
  40. Place a one-quart bottle filled with water in your toilet tank for an easy low-flow fix. You’ll save a quart of water with every flush, and at least a few gallons everyday.
  41. If you live in a warm area, paint your house with lighter, cooler colors to absorb less of the sun’s heat. Conversely, if you live in a cool climate, paint the house a darker color to absorb more heat.
  42. By installing a skylight or two, you can give your home more natural light and heat.
  43. If you’re thinking about flooring, hardwood floors are among the best - they’re easy on the feet/knees, they count as responsible harvesting (natural instead of manmade materials), and they’re relatively painless to maintain (no electric vacuuming, scrubbing, or bleaching grout).
  44. hardwood-floors-puppies.jpgPhoto Credit: Timothey Joel Wright
  45. If you have formaldehyde in your cabinets or other VOCs in your wooden furniture, you can apply a couple coats of varnish (with no VOCs, of course) on top to keep them from further outgassing into your air.
  46. Replace your mattresses with organic mattresses made from sustainable materials - this makes for a healthier, more restful sleep.
  47. Have your water tested and install a filtration system designed to neutralize any problems found therein.
  48. Got a green thumb? Stick it on your roof! Planting roof gardens can help shield your house from summer heat and winter chills.
  49. Are you feeling lucky, punk? Whip out your caulk gun and reseal around windows, doors, bath tubs and moldings. Just a tube full of silicone helps the good air stay in!
  50. Replace old pieces of energy-sucking equipment with one multi-tasking machine. For example, ditch the copier, printer, fax and answering machine with one piece of device that will do it all - and save you on energy, office supplies and repairs.
  51. Wanna know what time it is? Look at your watch, but turn off all of the kitchen appliances that use electricity around the clock. You don’t need to see the time from eight different angles.
  52. Invest in a good charcoal grill and cook outside more often during warm weather. You’ll help keep your house cooler and the A/C won’t have to work as hard.
  53. charcoal-grill.jpgPhoto Credit: The Ken Cook
  54. Into every sink, a little water must flow - so do just that, flow a LITTLE water by installing a low-flow aerator on your faucet. All it takes is a little screw!
  55. Powerwash your home’s exterior. Getting all of the dirt, bugs and debris off the house will keep it in much better shape, reduce rotting & wear, and beautify the outside appearance.
  56. We may never be a paperless society, but you can reduce the amount you use by replacing your paper towels & napkins with kitchen towels and cloth-kins (bandanas make cool dinner napkins for everyday use). Buy toilet paper made from recycled paper, and reuse printer paper by using the blank sides for phone messages, shopping lists, or scrap paper for the kids.