You can go green, save money, and live comfortably all at the same time. There are many new products and old tricks that can help you save the environment and your pocketbook.
Use the Sun
More and more, people are turning to the sun to light up their life. Solar powered lights get better and brighter every year. There are many versions you can use around your house. Use them to light your pathways. I have even seen lights that you can mount to your house that are completely solar powered. Solar powered string lights can light up your deck, and make it more romantic at the same time.
Install solar tubes or skylights for natural light during the day. If you are handy, you can do it yourself for just the cost of the unit. Skylights aren’t as expensive as you think. The cost is all dependent on the size and shape of the window you want. I have seen a 12x12 acrylic framed skylight for as little as $49.
In the winter months, use the sun to warm your rooms. Open the shades during the day and close them at night. Using the sun is virtually free and a great way to save on lighting and heating bills.
Install motion detecting lights in rooms and closets. They turn on when they sense movement and off after a few minutes with no motion. These are especially useful when you have children in the home that never remember to turn the lights off.
You know all those little lights that stay on even after you power off your computer, the DVD player, and all the other devices you have? Well, they're costing you money. Even that little glowing LED light that says your phone is charging when your phone isn’t even connected is drawing power. Most modern homes have around six items that are using electricity even after they're turned off. Take a walk around your house when all the lights are off and check out how many devices you have on that don’t need to be.
A simple solution is to get a surge protector plug-in strip that has an on/off toggle. When your device isn’t on charge, just flip the switch. It will turn off the power and can save you up to $250 per year depending on how many devices you have.
It doesn't cost a thing to recycle those old electronics. TVs, computers, phones, and stereos are recyclable and keep ground water clean and free of heavy metals. Check out MyGreenElectronics for places to rid yourself of old electronics. You can go to HylaMobile and in most cases, get money for your old phones. Some of your old electronics can be someone else’s “new” electronics because a lot of these places refurbish and resell them.
Repurpose old furniture. An old TV stand can be turned into a kitchen playset for a child. An old dresser can be used as a bookcase by taking out the drawers and painting it. Check out Pinterest for tons of ideas on repurposing old furniture.
Save Energy and Water
If you are in the market for a new appliance, make sure to look for the Energy Star label. You will use about 30% less energy with an Energy Star labeled product. That could mean about $550 per year in savings in the average home if all appliances are Energy Star products.
Replace all your toilets. All newly manufactured toilets have a federal mandated flushing capacity of 1.6 gallons. Older toilets use about 7 gallons in just one flush. Why flush all that good water away? There are even toilets available with a dual flush. One handle is for liquid waste and one is for solid waste. This can save you even more water and money, since the average toilet in a two-person home gets flushed 8-12 times a day. That’s a savings of 43.2 to 64.8 gallons of water per day. This should save you a bundle on your water bill.
While you're at it, install a low flow shower head and save even more money. You could save 3,000 gallons of water a year, or even more if you have a bigger family.
Change a Bulb
Years ago, I wrote about changing all your incandescent bulbs out for CFL bulbs. CFLs do save you money, and use about 75% less electricity than incandescents. But now there is even a better bulb out there: LED bulbs. These can save you even more money than CFL bulbs. When they first came out, LEDs were quite expensive but they have come down in price tremendously in the last few years. LEDs are cool to the touch and last about 35 times longer than an incandescent and about 4 times longer than a CFL. Think of all the money you will save on buying bulbs alone!
CFLs and LEDs need to be recycled properly. CFLs contain mercury, which is detrimental to humans and the environment. LEDs do not have mercury, but do contain other heavy metals. The good thing about LEDs is that even after they burn out, they are 95% recyclable if taken to the proper recycling place. The best part is, they both last so long, that you will rarely need to recycle them.
Keeping your attic insulated will help tremendously on lowering your heating bill. You should inspect your attic at least once per year to make sure your insulation hasn’t settled. The thinner the layer gets, the less it will insulate. You should also insulate the basement eaves. It’s very easy to cut the batting into pieces slightly bigger than the eave and push it into place. No need for tape—the insulation should stay in place on its own.