With more people staying in their homes longer, energy efficient and money saving improvements are becoming a necessity. Being “green” has become much more than a fad, it has become the new way of life. There are so many ways that you can make your home more energy efficient, which in turn makes it friendlier to our environment and your wallet. While some of these improvements might come with an initial investment, all of them will save you big bucks in the long run.
One of the first places to begin improving your home’s efficiency is with the insulation. A major energy killer is old windows. If the windows in your home haven’t been replaced for 20 years, it could be time for an upgrade. According to EnergyStar, replacing your windows could save you up to 24 percent off your heating and electric bill.
Pay attention to proper insulation elsewhere in your home as well. Make sure your walls and any attic space you have is well insulated. Good insulation helps control heat flow in and out of the house all year round. A home that is well insulated takes less heat or air to regulate the temperature.
If you live in an older home, chances are that your heating system is a bit outdated. A furnace that was built before 1992 most likely wastes an incredible amount of energy. By investing in a new system, your home will be heated and cooled so much more efficiently and save you a ton of money on your bill.
Another major system to improve in your home is your hot water heater. Hot water heaters on the market today are so much more efficient. You don’t have to replace your hot water heater to make it more efficient however. You can turn the temperature on your system to 120. This is still plenty warm but doesn’t take as much energy to get it to that temperature. Also, insulate your water lines so they don’t cool down as quickly when the hot water tank is not in use.
Another way to green up your home has been all over the news since the term “green” came into use and that is CFL’s. Compact Fluorescent Lamps are definitely the light bulbs of the future and can save you a surprising amount on your electric bill. The initial investment on a CFL light bulb is more, but has long term benefits. One CFL bulb will last about 10,000 hours and uses about a third of the watts to create light as an incandescent bulb. The average household has about 30 lamps and each CFL bulb can save an average of $22 a year. This could add up to a $3300 dollar savings over a 5 year span!
Water is an area of everyone’s home where they don’t do the earth any favors. People use a huge amount of water on a daily basis but there are some easy ways to cut down on usage. First, install low usage fixtures like toilets and shower heads. Also, turn off the water as you brush your teeth – you could save almost 5 gallons each time you brush!
Another great way to recycle and conserve water is to put a rain barrel in your yard. During a normal year, a rain barrel could save you up to 1300 gallons of water. This is an enormous amount of water that you can use to water your lawn and garden and the best thing about it – it’s free!
You can also be environmentally friendly when updating your home’s interior. If you want to install new wood floors, go with bamboo. Bamboo grows so much quicker than trees. It takes a hardwood tree anywhere from 50 to 100 years to fully mature while it takes bamboo only four to six years.
Another way to go environmentally friendly is to opt for healthier paint. Traditional paints contain VOCs that cause indoor air problems and can lead to health problems. Most paint companies offer either low VOC or zero VOC paints. Your body will thank you in the long run.
Finally, use energy efficient outlets and plugs. Using surge protectors can really cut your energy usage and your bill. When you aren’t using your appliances – your TV, computer, toaster or coffee maker – unplug it! Even when the appliance is turned off, it still pulls a certain amount of energy. By consciously unplugging all of your electronics, you will see a surprising drop in your monthly electric bill.
Keith Smallwood is the president of Creative Energy Exteriors, a leading Richmond home improvement company offering products and services such as Richmond Andersen windows and Richmond decks. Creative Energy Exteriors can be found online at: CreativeEnergyExteriors.com.