Month: January 2014

Economical Green Upgrades For Your Home

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Updating your house to make it more energy-efficient and environmentally friendly can be costly. Installing a solar electrical system or replacing your hot water tank with an on-demand system can set you back thousands or even tens of thousands of dollars. You may not save enough money on these types of upgrades to cover your investment for decades. However, there are several quick and inexpensive green upgrades you can make to your house that will start paying off quickly.

• Install Faucet Aerators – $10
An aerator is a device that fits on or into the end of a faucet. It forces water through tiny holes, restricting water flow but making the flow feel stronger. It can be used on either kitchen or bathroom sinks and can be found in water saving showerheads. An aerator can cost as little as $10 and can lower water use by up to 50%.

• Replace an Old Dishwasher – $300
According to Energy Star, if you replace a dishwasher built before 1994 with a new Energy Star model, you will save 10 gallons of water per cycle. At one cycle a day, that’s 3,650 gallons of water per year. New energy-efficient dishwashers start at around $300.

• Install Ceiling Fans – $50
They can make both your air conditioner and heat unit operate more efficiently. Ceiling fans circulate the air in the house, drawing the cool air from the air conditioner and distributing it around the house. They also push warm air from the heat pump down from the ceiling back into the living space to reduce the amount of time the furnace has to run. Most ceiling fans have a switch that reverses the direction the fan turns for the winter setting.

• Swap out Older Toilets – $150
Older toilets can use up to 3.5 gallons of water for every flush, which can add up to over 7,100 gallons per year- per person. New efficient toilets use as little as one gallon per flush or just over 1,900 gallons per year.

• Buy Compact Florescent Light Bulbs – $3 Each
Changing your light bulbs from incandescent to compact florescent is the easiest green switch of all. Compact Florescent Light bulbs (CFLs) cost $2 to $3 each but can save up to $40 over the course of their lifetime. They last 10 times longer than incandescent and use much less electricity.

The Bottom Line
Going green isn’t an all-or-nothing proposition. There are many inexpensive and cost-effective changes that make a noticeable difference. Once the savings from these changes start accumulating, they can be used to start investing in larger upgrades.

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How To Make Your Home More Energy-Efficient

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1. Replace your refrigerator
This is one of the biggest energy-guzzling appliances in the house and there have been big changes in the efficiency of this appliance over the last five years. Replacing older dishwashers and dryers can make a big difference too.

2. Install a programmable thermostat and a timer for the water heater
Just as you would flip off the lights before heading out to work, you should turn the heating or cooling off or down while you’re away. Program the thermostat for a higher temperature when you’re gone in warmer months, or lower in cooler months. These thermostats can be had for $150 at big-box hardware stores.
Likewise, don’t heat your water when you’re not there to use it.

3. Put a solar film or solar shades on the outside of windows to cut the heat
If you’re moving into a house with single-paned windows, or living in a climate with extreme heat, you should consider putting something on the outside to reflect the light.

4. Don’t let the heat escape
Also, caulk window and door frames to make sure they are airtight. And if possible, use honeycomb-type shades on the inside to trap the heat before it is absorbed into the room.

5. Use compact fluorescent bulbs
This is kind of a no-brainer, experts say, because it’s so cheap to do and saves so much on your electricity bill.

6. Change the filter on your air conditioner regularly
This monthly maintenance helps it run more efficiently and minimizes wear and tear on your unit. Arranging furniture so it doesn’t block air vents also is important to maximize the flow of cooling from your system.

7. Put in shady landscaping
Planting a tree or some vegetation outside a big window can shade your house from the strongest rays of the sun and stifle freezing winds. Planting low-water native plants can also cut your water bill; lowering the total cost you pay for you home each month.

8. Invest in an attic fan
These inexpensive fans can make a difference in the temperature of the whole house and keep your air conditioning from working so hard.