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Easy home updates that improve energy efficiency

Elaina is a Phoenix-based freelance writer, blogger and co-founder of the Kidlee baby book app. Check out her blog, Fun Finds For Mom, for product reviews, recipes and fun activities for moms and kids.

You go (green) girl

Think you lack the DIY skills to improve your home's energy efficiency? Think again. You might be surprised at how easy it can be. Here are step-by-step instructions for two simple projects that can cut your home's energy usage today.

man caulking window sills

Project #1: Window caulking

One of the easiest ways to improve home energy efficiency and save money is to stop the flow of air into and out of your home. According to the U.S. Department of Energy's website Energy.gov, sealing up your air leaks with caulk will take 1-2 hours and cost somewhere between $3 to $30. When you're finished, you can expect a 5 – 10% decrease in home energy consumption.

What you'll need:

  • Latex or silicone-based caulk
  • Caulk gun
  • Putty knife
  • A rag

What to do:

  1. Clean the area to be caulked.
  2. Cut off the tip of the caulk cartridge at an angle and place the caulk tube into the gun.
  3. Test caulk on newspaper to adjust flow.
  4. Pull the gun trigger as you move the tip of the caulk tube along the edge.
  5. Wet your finger or a rag and glide it along the line or “bead” of caulk to push it into the crack.
  6. Use damp rag to clean up any extra bits of caulk, and let dry according to package directions.

If you have double-hunt or sash windows, follow the U.S. Department of Energy's instructions on sealing air leaks with weatherstripping.

Project #2: Install low flow aerators and shower heads

low flow showerhead

The U.S. Department of Energy says water heating accounts for nearly 25% of total home energy use. So how can you make your home more water efficient without suffering through short, cold showers? Easy. Install low flow fixtures!

What you'll need:

  • Faucet aerators
  • New shower heads with a flow rate of less than 2.5 gpm
  • Plumbers tape

What to do:

  1. Determine if your faucets need aerators by taking a peek at the side of your faucet spigot, where the water comes out. If you have an aerator, you will see its flow rating stamped on the side with a number of 2.75 gpm (gallons per minute) or lower.
  2. If there's no aerator present, feel for the threading inside and screw in an aerator sized for your faucet, with a flow rating of 1.5 gpm or less.
  3. To install a low flow shower head, start by unscrewing the old shower head with an adjustable wrench. Wrap the threads with plumbers tape and install your new low flow shower head. For a visual tutorial, check out this video on how to install a low flow shower head from the Sierra Club.

More easy ways to green your home:

Quick TIP

Use a power strip to easily shut off multiple electronics with the flip of a switch. Check out the modern design of this Pivot Power Strip, available at the online MOMA store.

More DIY tips and advice

DIY vs. hired help: Choosing the right path
Renovation tools: When to rent and when to buy
Deciding which home projects to tackle first

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