You might think that in order to jump aboard the eco-friendly bandwagon that you need to go all out and cover your roof with solar panels. In truth, this is a fantastic way to make your energy usage more sustainable, reduce pollution and waste, and lower you utility bill, provided you live in a region that enjoys abundant sunshine. But you don’t necessarily have to start your journey towards a more environmentally responsible existence by dropping tens of thousands of dollars on equipment. You can start smaller by finding ways to conserve energy around your home and save some money in the process. Some steps will come with an upfront cost while others will be free. But all will save you in the long run, virtually covering your costs over time. Here are a few to try.
1. Address electronics issues. The average home is stuffed to the gills with a bevy of electronics devices, from TVs and computers to handheld gadgetry. And there are a number of issues with these products that can cause your energy bill to increase. You can start your battle against energy draw by purchasing electronics that require less electricity to operate, such as LED TVs and computer monitors. From there, you need to make sure that you set your devices to power down when not in use. Computers should go into sleep mode after just a couple minutes of inactivity.
From there you should stop phantom drain (the small amount of power electronics draw even when turned off) by plugging devices into power strips that have an on/off switch that is easy to flip off as you leave the house. And finally, keep an eye on charging phones, tablets, e-readers, and such. When they’re fully charged, unplug them. As a bonus, you’ll extend their battery life.
2. Upgrade to Energy Star appliances. If you still rely on an outdated refrigerator, stove, dishwasher, washer and dryer, or AC unit, just for example, your conveniences could be coming at a pretty steep price. When you switch to appliances that have been approved by Energy Star, your costs for the same amount of usage will decrease significantly.
3. Alternative lighting options. Incandescent bulbs may be the traditional form of home illumination, but there are so many other options these days that can save you a ton of money. CFLs, for example, require about a third of the energy draw to produce the same wattage, and the products themselves could last up to ten times as long. Plus, they fit into standard fixtures. LEDs are even more efficient (although they often require new fixtures).
4. Install (and use) a programmable thermostat. Having a programmable thermostat installed as part of your energy-efficient HVAC system is a great way to optimize usage and save money on heating and/or cooling your home. But you have to use it appropriately. According to the Department of Energy, this means settings no higher than 68 degrees in the winter and no lower than 78 degrees in the summer. Plus, you should program your thermostat to automatically adjust 10-15 degrees during the eight hours a day your family is at work and school. And with a wireless enabled unit, you could even control it remotely using your smartphone or tablet.
5. Conduct a home energy audit. The inspection and testing provided by a professional home energy auditor can help you to find areas where energy is being wasted in the home. This can give you the information you need to seal leaks, upgrade insulation, and make your home more airtight and energy efficient. Of course, if you’re interested in improving indoor air and reducing allergens even as you save energy dollars, don’t forget to upgrade ventilation any time you increase airtightness.