A Greener Home
?You don’t have to undergo a major renovation to make your home more environmentally friendly. There are many clever, effective, and simple ways to transform your home environment into a greener and healthier place to live. Although they may seem small, your contributions to conservation will help preserve the global environment for your children and future generations. Here are ten tips to get you started.
1. Get a doormat.
The first step in cleaning and greening your home is to reduce the dirt indoors. Purchase a doormat or two or three, so your family and guests can wipe off their shoes, several times. This can reduce up to 40 percent of the waste that’s tracked into your home, according to Margie McNally, coordinator for LEED, the Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design accreditation program at the Conservation Services Group in Westborough, Massachusetts. Better yet, become a shoe-free home. Go Japanese and have members of your household and visitors remove their shoes to leave in the entrance hall or mudroom. Create cubbyholes or storage shelves to house all the shoes and boots so they don’t create clutter. You can even provide house slippers for visitors and keep these in a small basket at the front door.
2. Have your home heating and cooling systems serviced annually.
Your oil dealer or your heating, ventilating and air conditioning (HVAC) provider should perform an annual tune-up with efficiency testing. According to Rich Horan, Jr. of James Devaney Fuel Company, preventive maintenance is just as important as changing the oil in your car. You will ultimately save fuel by keeping your system’s efficiency at its peak, your home will be cleaner and more comfortable, and you can help prevent costly breakdowns and interruptions in service. Not only will your indoor and outdoor environment be greener, but you will enjoy significant savings on your monthly energy bills.
3. Recycling is a must.
Most of us have been pretty well trained by now, but the importance of recycling cannot be overstated. Make certain you have an easy-to-use system in the kitchen or pantry that helps everyone separate recyclables into bins that can be effortlessly transferred for pick up by a recycling service or a personal trip to the town recycling center.
4. Turn off your gadgets and computers.
A quick trip around the house at the end of the day to turn off your computers, television sets, stereos, DVD players, and even the clocks in the guest room can save up to 20 percent of your power use each year, according to www.easybeinggreen.com. The website also dispels the myth that computers need to be left on in order to operate properly. Computers have “off” switches for a reason, so be sure to use them when computers are not in use, especially at bedtime.
5. Get programmable thermostats.
These thermostats sense the room temperature and automatically adjust your heat and air conditioning according to a schedule that you establish based on your lifestyle. They allow you to keep your temperature set at its energy saving set-points for long periods of time (at least eight hours) when maximum comfort is unnecessary, such as during the day when no one is home, or in the evening when everyone is sleeping. According to the USGBC (US Green Building Council), programmable thermostats help reduce your fossil fuel consumption and can lower your energy bill by $100 per year or more.
6. Replace energy hogs.
If your appliances are more than eight to ten years old, take a long hard look at replacing these items with Energy Star rated units. Energy Star is a government program that analyzes appliances and home heating systems for their energy efficiency. Have you ever seen the big yellow Energy Guide labels on appliances? They detail energy use in kilowatt hours and give an estimated annual cost of running that appliance. They also provide energy consumption comparisons with similar models. If the appliance meets the Energy Star standard mandated by federal government guidelines, the label will display the Energy Star logo. Your refrigerator is the second-largest consumer of energy in the home. Replacing an older unit with an Energy Star model will reduce your electric bill immediately.
7. Water down.
Water consumption can be reduced by replacing outdated showerheads with new fixtures or water-saving devices. These fixtures can be swapped with your existing ones for little money or effort. According to information listed at www.wateruseitwisely.com, if your shower can fill a one-gallon bucket in less than 20 seconds, it’s time to replace the showerhead. Also, if you keep your showers under five minutes in length, you can save up to 1000 gallons of water per month. The useful information at this website lists 100 ways to save water, so be sure to check it out if you would like to learn more.
8. Clean your way to green.
Select cleaning products that are free from chemicals to protect the health of your family as well as the environment. Chemical-free cleaners, marketed by all the big brands such as 3M and JohnsonWax, as well as some boutique manufacturers like SimpleGreen and Method, keep toxic chemicals away from your body and out of the water system when they are rinsed away. A certified list of products is available at www.greenseal.org.
9. Purify your air.
According to the Environmental Protection Agency, Americans spend about 90 percent of their days indoors, indicating that our exposure to indoor air pollutants can be two- to five-times higher than outdoor levels. The poor quality of indoor air can produce health effects ranging from headaches and dry eyes to nausea, dizziness and fatigue. An air purifier, like the table-top model from Ecoquest (www.ecoquest.com), or a whole house unit from IQ Air (www.iqair.us), will filter your air and is a cost-effective way to deal with dust, chemicals, and mold.
10. Change a light bulb.
Replacing one incandescent bulb with one compact fluorescent light or CFL will immediately reduce your electric bill and save energy resources. As recently reported on National Public Radio, if every citizen in Massachusetts replaced just one bulb in their home, we would save over $20 million dollars annually in energy costs. Try them out in a mudroom, the basement, the attic, or in closets if you are unsure of their light quality for more frequently used lights (although quality is improving every day). These bulbs typically last eight to fifteen times longer than their incandescent counterparts, so they are also great choices for hard-to-reach fixtures.