As homeowners, we all want to do our part to reduce energy consumption. And we all want to save money in the process. But in a world bombarded by “green” tips and technologies, it’s hard to know where to begin to really start making a difference. Fortunately, there are a number of products and technologies readily available to create a more energy and cost-efficient home. Here’s a look at 5 low and high-tech ways to make your home leaner and greener.
- Go “low flow”: Water. When we need it it’s there, right at our fingertips. But with water so readily available it’s easy to overuse it. And the more water we use, the more we pay. Installing drought resistant landscaping, along with watering lawns and plants more efficiently and less often is a great way to start saving water. Inside the house there are all kinds of ways to conserve, such as taking shorter showers, turning off a running tap while brushing teeth and rinsing dishes less thoroughly before placing them in the dishwasher. As far as water conservation devices go, there are many inexpensive gadgets that can save both water and money. For example, at a cost of around $10-$20.00 each, low flow fixtures can lower your water bill by 25-60%. Aerators on faucets, which give you more pressure with less water can mean even more savings. And let’s not forget about the porcelain water waster in the bathroom. Replacing your old toilet with a low flow model can reduce the daily water use of an average household by up to 25 gallons.
- Go tankless: Knowing that you’re using less water makes you feel good. Unfortunately, much of the water you’re using needs to be heated, a process that can waste a lot of energy. This is especially true if your home has the classic, tank-style water heater. For $10-$20, you’ll save 4-9% in heating costs by wrapping that tank in a water heater blanket. And with the addition of a water heater timer you could knock 30% off your heating bill. But for real savings you should consider losing the tank altogether. If your household uses around 40 gallons of heated water or less per day, a tank less water heater could save you anywhere from 24-34% over your conventional water heater. For larger households that use twice that amount, a tank less water heater could still mean a monthly savings of 8-14%. And you’ll save substantially more by installing tank less heating units throughout your home.
- Automate home lighting: When it comes to lighting our homes it’s easy to overdo it. All we have to do is flip that switch and we’re good to go. But all too often those switches get left in the “on” position longer than they should, which wastes energy and costs money. A very effective way to make home lighting more efficient is through home automation. One leading provider of state-of-the-art technologies in home automation you’ll want to look into is Vivint, headquartered in Provo, Utah. Starting with fluorescent bulbs which last up to 10 times longer than conventional bulbs and can cut monthly home lighting costs by 75%, Vivint’s wireless Lighting and Small Appliance Control enables homeowners to control and monitor light and small appliances—not just while in the house but from anywhere—via smart phones, web-enabled tablet computers or internet browsers. Gone are the days of leaving lights on day and night while away on vacation. Through home automation, lights can be set to turn on and off at more natural intervals.
- Get a smart thermostat: For most homes, controlling climate through heating and air conditioning is a less-energy efficient and more costly process than it needs to be. Beefing up insulation, installing energy efficient furnaces and swapping out old windows for double paned, film treated versions are important first steps in conserving energy. But you’ll save even more by adding an automated thermostat. Relying on the same technology used for automated lighting, Vivint’s Smart Thermostat offers homeowners total climate control, enabling them to raise or lower temperature settings as needed, both at home and while away. And better temperature control means more efficient energy usage and lower heating bills.
- Buy Energy Star appliances: Thanks to advances in technology, homeowners have a whole new generation of energy saving appliances to choose from. The key is to look for those with the “Energy Star” logo. While guaranteed to be more energy efficient, Energy Star appliances often come with extra perks, such as money-saving rebates or tax breaks. Priced somewhat higher than their older energy munching cousins, Energy Star appliances offer a substantial ROI over time. From refrigerators to dishwashers, to washers and dryers, Energy Star appliances can cut energy usage by 15%-50%. How lean and green can you get?
Jerry Hancock is a freelance writer who specializes in home automation.