March 19, 2011

13 Steps to a Greener Home

A green home is a healthy home. Greening up your living space will benefit your health as well as the environment. Some steps are quite simple, while others will take a bit more effort. Never let going green overwhelm you though. Remember: Even the journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step.

  1. Replace your incandescent light bulbs with energy-efficient compact fluorescent light bulbs (CFLs). They use 66% percent less energy and last up to 10 times longer.
  1. Save an easy 10% on heating and cooling costs by programming your thermostat settings back when you're not home or sleeping. When it’s hot out, it helps to shade your east- and west-facing windows and wait until evening to do things that generate heat, like running the dishwasher. Also, whenever possible choose ceiling fans over air conditioners.
  1. Keep your furnace filter clean. This means changing it every month during heavy usage. This will keep your air clean and save you money since your furnace will run more efficiently. You may even want to consider buying a new furnace (depending on the age of your current furnace). Furnaces today are significantly more efficient than they were 20 or 30 years ago, especially those with Energy Star certification.
  1. Keeping your HVAC system well maintained with a tune up every couple years will keep your system running efficiently and save you 5% to 10% on heating and cooling costs.
  1. Keep your home well insulated with weather-stripping and caulking to avoid drafts and the energy they waste. Check around windows, doors, electrical outlets, and any spots where pipes come in. Also, check your attic floor for any spots with inadequate insulation.
  1. Use less water. Install low-flow showerheads and faucet aerators to save resources without sacrificing water pressure. An efficient showerhead will save a family of four up to $285 per year. They can cost less than $15, and installing them couldn't be easier: they just screw on. Put an aerator on all household faucets and cut your annual water consumption by 50%. Install a low-flow toilet. They use only 1.6 gallons per flush, compared to 3.5 gallons per flush for pre-1994 models. If you have an older model, adjust your float valve to admit less water into the toilet's tank. Of course, you don't need products to save water — behavioral changes also add up quickly: using a broom instead of the garden hose to clean your driveway can save 80 gallons of water and turning the water off when you brush your teeth will save 4.5 gallons each time. Landscape your yard to use less water. Go with more flowerbeds, walkways and drought-tolerant plants. Replace fixtures with low-flow Water Sense® rated models. If your toilets are the older water-guzzlers, consider replacing with new low water use models.
  1. For about $20 and 5 minutes of your time you can make your hot water heater more efficient. Just put an insulating jacket around your water heater and secure (with tape, wire, or a clamp) foam pipe sleeves around the hot water pipes and three feet of the cold water inlet pipe. Also consider turning the temperature on the water heater down to 120 degrees to save money and prevent scalding.
  1. When replacing your appliances, seek our Energy Star-certified products. They are 20% to 50% more energy efficient than standard models, so they’ll save you money and reduce greenhouse emissions/air pollutants/water usage.
  1. Select low or no-VOC paints and finishes. Conventional paints contain solvents, toxic metals and volatile organic compounds (VOCs) that are harmful to your health and the environment.
  1. Trade in those expensive, smelly, chemical-laden cleaning products for cheap, non-toxic, earth-friendly solutions you can make right at home. With a few simple products, like vinegar, baking soda, and peroxide, you can get your house just as clean as with traditional cleaning products. You’ll save money on cleaning supplies, keep the plastic bottles they come in out of our landfills, and avoid harsh chemicals that harm the environment and your health.
  1. Fill your home with air-cleaning plants. NASA spent two years testing 19 different house plants for their ability to remove common pollutants from the air. The most effective plants were proven to be philodendron (heartleaf, selloum, and elephant ear varieties), cornstalk dracaena, English ivy, spider plant, dracaena (Janet Craig, Warneck, and red-edged varieties), weeping fig, golden pothos, peace lily, Chinese evergreen, bamboo or reed palm, and snake plant.
  1. Cut down on plastics. Americans throw out about 100 billion polyethylene plastic bags every year. According to the EPA, the processing and burning of petroleum (from which plastics are derived) is one of the main contributors to global warming. Keep a stash of reusable shopping bags handy so you always have some when you shop. As your plastic food containers wear out, recycle them and seek out replacements made of glass, ceramic, Pyrex, porcelain, bamboo, or high grade stainless steel.
  1. Opt for green home renovations. When you’re ready to get rid of dust-catching carpet or your vinyl floors wear out opt for environmentally-friendly options like bamboo or recycled linoleum or laminate. When it’s time to re-shingle, look for products made from recycled materials. If your siding needs replacing, consider fiber-cement products made from concrete and recycled fibers.

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