How to Create an Eco-Friendly Home Without Breaking the Bank
Creating an eco-friendly home doesn’t have to be expensive. There are many simple and affordable ways to make your home greener and reduce your environmental impact. Here are some tips for going green without spending a lot of green.
Use Energy Efficient Lightbulbs
Replacing old incandescent lightbulbs with LED bulbs is one of the easiest ways to start. LEDs use at least 75% less energy and last 25 times longer than traditional bulbs. I switched all the bulbs in my home to LEDs over time as the old bulbs burned out. It didn’t cost much upfront and is saving me money on my electricity bill.
I recommend choosing Energy Star certified LED bulbs that are made to higher efficiency standards. The upfront cost is a little more, but they have better light quality and much longer lifespans, so they end up saving money in the long run.
Seal Air Leaks
Lots of energy escapes from homes through small cracks and gaps. Sealing these air leaks can help insulate your home better with minimal effort and cost.
I went around my house and sealed any cracks or openings with caulk and weather stripping. This included around windows, doors, electrical outlets, attic hatches, and any gaps along the baseboards or corners. The materials only cost around $20 total.
Sealing air leaks has made a noticeable difference in making my home feel more comfortable and draft-free. It also helps reduce energy costs from heating and cooling loss.
Install Programmable Thermostats
Replacing your old thermostat with a programmable smart thermostat lets you better control the temperature throughout your home and reduce energy waste.
I programmed my thermostat to automatically adjust the temperature when I’m asleep or away at work. Keeping the house cooler when it’s unoccupied has trimmed my energy bill. Smart thermostats like the Nest learn your schedule and preferences to optimize heating and cooling.
Programmable thermostats start around $50, and smart models are $200-$250. The energy savings often pay for themselves within a couple years through lower utility bills.
Use Cold Water for Laundry
Heating water comprises about 90% of the energy your washing machine uses. Simply using cold water instead of hot can cut a load’s energy use in half.
Modern laundry detergents are formulated to work well in cold water. I’ve switched all my clothes loads to cold. It hasn’t affected the cleaning performance at all and has reduced the power my washer needs quite a bit.
If you prefer warm water, consider using cold for most cycles and warm for only very dirty loads. This simple change can make a big difference.
Upgrade Old Appliances
As older appliances like refrigerators and dishwashers fail, replace them with Energy Star rated models. Newer appliances are significantly more energy efficient.
I upgraded my old washer and dryer to Energy Star models last year. The increase in purchase price was fairly small, and the long-term savings are adding up quick. The new dishwasher also uses half the water of my old one.
Aim for appliances in the top 20-30% of energy efficiency ratings. The small extra cost compared to standard models will pay back over time through energy savings.
Install Low-Flow Fixtures
Reducing your home’s water usage helps the environment and your wallet. Installing low-flow showerheads and faucet aerators is a simple way to use less water without sacrifice.
Most homes have older showerheads that use 5 gallons per minute (GPM) or more. Low-flow models provide equal water pressure at around 2 GPM. I installed a 2.5 GPM showerhead for about $20, and I can’t even tell the difference in flow.
Low-flow faucet aerators help reduce consumption at sinks. They screw onto the faucet head and precisely mix air into the water stream, so it still feels full despite using less water.
Use Smart Power Strips
Plugging many electronics into outlets constantly draws phantom power even when devices are “off.” Smart power strips eliminate this energy waste by completely shutting off power to inactive devices.
I put my TV, cable box, game consoles, phone chargers, and other entertainment center devices into a smart power strip. It senses when the main device (the TV) goes off, then cuts power to the secondary devices, preventing standby energy loss.
Smart strips are inexpensive ($20 or less) and an easy way to reduce home energy costs by unplugging inactive electronics. Just be sure to get the right size based on the number of outlets you need.
Adjust Your Water Heater Temperature
Turning down your water heater temperature saves energy by reducing heat loss from the tank. Hot water will still be available – just not dangerously scalding.
Most heaters are initially set to 140°F. Lowering the temperature to 120°F provides hot water for most uses while reducing energy consumption and the risk of accidental burns. I set my gas heater thermostat to 120° using instructions from my home utility company.
For electric water heaters without thermostats, install an inexpensive hot water tempering valve to automatically blend in cold water. This allows reducing tank temperature while keeping tap output safe.
Install Ceiling Fans for Cooling
Using ceiling fans to circulate air can allow raising thermostat setpoints in warm weather. The breeze from a fan makes rooms feel 3-4°F cooler.
I added ceiling fans to a couple rooms that got hot in summer. Now I’m able to keep my home warmer without discomfort – saving energy from air conditioning. Make sure to run fans counterclockwise to push air down and create a cooling effect.
Fans cost less than $100 typically. Look for Energy Star rated models that use less electricity. Install them properly so they wobble minimally when operating at high speed.
Get an Energy Audit
Many utility companies offer free or low-cost energy audits to identify efficiency opportunities in your specific home. An expert will assess insulation, leaks, HVAC systems, appliances and more.
After the audit, I received a detailed report with recommendations tailored to my house. Upgrading insulation in my attic and sealing ductwork were highlighted as cost-effective ways to reduce energy loss.
Audits also inform you about utility rebates and incentives available to help fund bigger upgrades like HVAC replacements. Take advantage of this service to plan impactful efficiency improvements.
Going green doesn’t require overhauling your lifestyle or spending big bucks. Start with these affordable tips to reduce your environmental footprint one step at a time. Consistent small changes do add up over time and can make a meaningful difference. What eco-friendly changes have you made in your home? Let me know in the comments!