1. Switch Your Lighting to LED
Lights account for about 9% of a typical home’s energy use in a year's time. A cheap and simple way to reduce your energy bill and your environmental footprint is to replace all your light bulbs with LED’s. On average, LED bulbs consume 80% less energy when compared to incandescent light bulbs. These newer bulbs also last about 20 times longer than regular bulbs, meaning fewer of them end up in the landfill. Another benefit of LED bulbs is the amount of heat they emit. Standard bulbs emit a lot of heat, which means your air conditioner has to run harder in the summer to compensate. LED lights emit less heat, which directly and indirectly can save even more energy. LED bulbs have also evolved over the years to fit all types of needs, from recessed lighting to dimming switches.
2. Seal gaps around doors and windows
If your home is a bit on the older side, it may have some gaps around the doors and windows, which let in outside air or let heat escape in the wintertime. If your home has gaps, your energy bill and carbon footprint will increase. To resolve, place weather strips around the doors and windows that have gaps. You’ll save money on utility bills and make your home more energy-efficient. Weatherstrips can be found at any local hardware store and can easily be installed DIY.
3. Fix leaky toilets and faucets
You know that subtle drip coming from the downstairs faucet that’s ever so slow, but still noticeable? It may not seem like a big deal, but these drips can waste a lot of water in a years time. According to EPA.gov, over 10% of homes have leaves that yield up to 90 gallons or more of water per day. To make your home more sustainable, repair these leaky faucets asap! Pay attention to those drips you hear around your home, and pay close attention to your water bill. If you notice an unexplainable spike in your monthly water bill, it may be a sign of a leaky faucet.
4. Create a compost station
Cities like Portland and Seattle have started picking up compostable foot material and yard waste, and many cities are following behind. Composting sounds intimidating, but it’s actually quite simple. All you need is to make sure you have designated bin(s) in your home for your food scraps. When we throw our food waste in the trash, it serves no purpose, and actually fuels global warming. That food waste is much better spent to make fertilizer and to be used in your garden. You can purchase an outdoor composter for somewhere between $100 - $600, depending on the size. Or you can use a plastic bin and throw coffee grounds, egg shells, fruit peels, and other food scraps in the bin throughout the week and simply empty the content out into your yard when full. Make those scraps go to work!
5. Collect rainwater to water your plants
Did you know that just one night of rain can yield over 300 gallons of water on your roof? The runoff of all this water ends up in your city’s stormwater collection system, which dumps into public waterways! At the same time, many homeowners use a built-in sprinkler system to water their lawn during dry periods, which is a complete waste of the water that could have been collected naturally. To resolve, consider purchasing a rainwater collection system. You could even hire a professional to clip your gutters and require them to dump water into your barrel. Then, simply use a watering can or attach a hose to harvest the water and use for your plants and garden.
6. Insulate your attic
Since heat rises and our roofs are known for absorbing the sun’s heat, your attic tends to be much warmer than the rest of your home during the summer months. If your attic is properly insulated, it will act as a tight seal for the air in your house, keeping conditioned air from escaping so your HVAC systems don’t have to work extra hard. The level of insulation that you need depends on where you live. You’ll need to hire a contractor to insulate your attic properly using a variety of materials.
7. Invest in solar panels
Now we are getting into the fun stuff! Solar panels can be a big investment at first (costing anywhere from $11,000 - $15,000 for purchase and installation). Over time, however, the panels will pay for themselves as they will significantly reduce your carbon footprint and completely wipe out your electricity bill! Solar panels are an excellent way to conserve energy by producing your own, and can pay for themselves within 10 to 20 years.
8. Install low-flow shower heads
Did you know that showering accounts for nearly 17% of residential indoor water use for the average family? If you have older shower heads, chances are they aren’t helping this matter, as they release approximately five gallons of water per minute. If you have older shower heads and lots of people showering, you may want to look into low-flow shower heads such as those with WaterSense label. Options like these use less than two gallons of water per minute, conserving more water and cutting down on your water bill. Also, because you’ll be using less water for the shower, you’ll save on your energy bill through less water running through the water heaters.
9. Purchase energy and water-efficient appliances
Looking to replace an appliance soon? It’s best to choose an energy efficient version if your goal is sustainability. For dishwashers, washing machines, dryers, ovens, and refrigerators, look for Energy Star labels. This specific labeling shows consumers that they have been third-party tested and have been shown to use low water and low energy. Yes, they will cost a bit more than a regular appliance, but the price is offset by lower water and energy bills.
10. Maintain or replace your water heater
Last and certainly not least, consider changing your water heater. Older versions of water heaters will use gas to heat up to 50 - 70 gallons of water at all times. If you turn down the temperature just a few degrees, say from 110 to 105 (and put an insulating wrap around it), you’ll save tons of energy. An even better option would be to install what’s called a tankless water heater. These tankless water heaters only heat water that you need in the moment, using electricity only when it’s engaged. And with it being electric, it’ll work perfect with solar panels!
Sustainable living can be achieved by making any or all of the changes listed above. Any action you take to make your home more green will certainly help reduce your environmental impact!