We all know about the little things we can do to save energy at home, like turning off the lights in rooms we’re not using, washing full loads of laundry, and unplugging chargers when they’re not in use, but many of us want to do even more to reduce our impact and make our home more energy efficient. Here are 15 simple projects you can do that will not only make your home greener, but will also reduce your bills and save you money.
Change/Clean your air filters.
Dirty filters ruin your AC’s efficiency, so either clean them (if you have the washable type) or change them every month during the cooling season. Your furnace filters also need to be changed so that it run at peak efficiency, though that only needs to happen every three months. In addition, you can close vents so that you’re not paying to cool or heat rooms you’re not using. Need help? A Thumbtack pro can do it for you.
Turn down the water heater.
Heating water can account for up to 25 percent of the energy consumed in your home. Most water heaters come preset at 140 degrees, but it really only needs to be at the warm setting, which is 120 degrees. For every 10 degrees you turn it down, you’ll save three to five percent on your bill.
Install a programmable thermostat.
Assuming you work outside of the home, there’s no reason to run the air conditioning or heat on full blast all day and night. Get a thermostat that can be programmed to adjust the temperature according to your lifestyle and can save you $100 a year. A Thumtack pro can set you up in no time.
Install ceiling fans.
In the summer, ceiling fans can help cool a room. In the winter, the blades can be reversed so that they keep the heated air in the room from rising. A Thumbtack pro can install one for you.
Consider covering floors with throw rugs or carpeting.
Bare floors can suck all of the heat out of a room. If you live in a colder climate, put down carpets or rugs, both of which act as natural insulators and will absorb and radiate heat.
Replace your light bulbs with compact fluorescent lamps (CFLs).
CFLs use about 70 percent less energy than incandescent bulbs and they last ten times as long. According to the Energy Star website, changing just one bulb can save you between $30 an $80 in electricity costs over the lifetime of the bulb. Considering the average household has more than 50 light bulbs, those savings can add up fast.
Put up a clothesline or drying rack.
If you have a place you can hang a clothesline or put a portable drying rack, consider air-drying your clothing instead of using the clothes dryer. Not only will it save energy, it will make your clothes last longer.
Upgrade or replace your windows.
Okay, so this is a little more complicated, but if your windows are old or leaky, replacing them with energy-efficient models will instantly save energy (and money on your bills). Here’s how to get started and some tips for success.
Replace old appliances.
If you can, replace your appliances beyond their life span, like your refrigerator, washer, dryer, and dishwasher, with Energy Star certified appliances. However, if your old appliances are still working just fine, there’s no need to rush out and buy a new one.
Add solar panels.
This certainly isn’t the simplest project on this list, but is probably a lot easier than you think and can ultimately reduce or even totally eliminate your electricity bill. Read everything you need to know about installing solar panels here.
Switch to a water-saving showerhead.
Almost 20 percent of all of the water used indoors goes to showering. Replacing your current showerhead with a water-saving version is not only easy, it will save you money in the long run.
Build a rainwater collection system.
Use the trapped rainwater to irrigate your lawn and plants. Keep in mind though that while some states, like California, may give people discounts on rain barrels for participating in a rainwater harvesting program, in other states there may be laws about how many containers are allowed and where the containers can be placed.
Replace toilets with low or dual-flush models.
Toilets account for almost 30 percent of the water used in home, but while older models use anywhere from three to five gallons per flush, a low-flush model only uses 1.28 gallons, which will save water and money. Not sure where to start? Get a handyman to install it for you.
Reduce the size of your lawn.
Though a big lawn full of green grass can certainly be aesthetically appealing, a big lawn also needs to be mowed, edged, fertilized, and watered, all of which takes time, money, and energy. Consider replacing grass with a patio, flower beds, plant ground covers, or a xeriscape.
Plant trees in strategic places around your home.
Planting the right trees in the right places around your house can save energy by providing shade in the summer and windbreaks in the winter. Consult a landscaper to find out which kind of trees you should plant and where.
Want more tips? A home energy auditor can give you a complete assessment of where you’ll get the most savings.