If the thought of making your home more eco-friendly and energy efficient is overwhelming, start small. Replace all the light bulbs in your house with compact fluorescent bulbs (CFLs). Sure, they are more expensive, but CFLs only use one third of the energy needed by standard bulbs -- plus, they last five years. To save a little cash, check with your local power company to see if it offers rebates on CFLs.
You need make sure that your home is well-insulated. The thicker the insulation, the more energy efficient your home can be. When adding insulation to your home, look for products that are formaldehyde-free and/or created from recycled content. Traditional batt insulation is typically made from fiberglass. However, you can find batts made from old blue jeans. The natural cotton fibers might be blue, but they are also green! Other types of eco-friendly insulation include recycled newspaper and spray foam made from soy.
To save energy and money, install a programmable thermostat and set it two degrees higher or lower than you normally would. Also, program the thermostat so that the heat is off in the winter when no one is home during the day. You can set it to turn on about 30 minutes before you arrive home to warm up the house. You can also program it to be cooler when everyone is sleeping at night (just use more blankets). In the summertime, set the thermostat so that the air conditioning isn't running throughout the day when your family isn't there. Even when you are home, you don't need to run the heater or air conditioning all the time. When the weather is good, open up all your windows and take advantage of the fresh air and natural light.
Many utility companies offer residential customers the option of purchasing green power. This electricity is generated by rapidly renewable resources -- solar power, geothermal systems, biomass and wind turbines. Though this option may add a couple dollars to your utility bill each month, you should consider asking your power company about green power. To save even more energy in your home, unplug all appliances when they aren't being used -- computers, video game systems, TVs, DVD players, cable boxes and all other electronics.
Even a tiny gap around a window can allow as much heat to escape from your home as a wide open window. Caulk all your windows, add weather stripping to exterior doors, and seal outlets. The DIY Network offers step-by-step tutorials on stopping these heating and cooling leaks around your home. Also, put up heat-reflecting window coverings that are created from bamboo, hemp and other natural green fibers. When installing new windows, purchase Low-E (low emissivity) windows, which can improve the value of your home and save big on your utility bills.
A tankless or solar water heater, low-flow toilets and energy-efficient appliances (dishwasher, washer/dryer, refrigerator and more) may cost more than conventional models, however the long-term energy and cost savings are significant. Your power company may offer huge rebates for installing Energy Star-rated appliances and electronics -- so ask. Recycle or repurpose any used appliances that are removed from your home.
Believe it or not, you don't need a cabinet full of toxic chemicals to clean your house. With steam, vinegar, baking soda, lemon and other natural components, your house can be clean and green. Check out these tips to make your own eco-friendly products and kitchen cleaning supplies. You should also stop using paper towels and replace them with washable, microfiber cleaning cloths instead.
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