By Arielle Nagel
Earth Day is just around the corner (April 22), and there’s no better time to start greening your home. Fortunately you don’t have to upgrade to energy-efficient appliances or install solar panels on your roof to make your home a little greener. A few simple changes could not only reduce your carbon footprint but even result in savings each month on your energy bill. Here are five easy tips to help you get started.
- Switch to green cleaning. While you’re taking care of your spring cleaning this year, keep in mind that there are eco-friendly ways to go about it. Most household cleaners are full of toxic chemicals that can be harmful to your health and your home’s air quality. Switching to green cleaners can improve your quality of life and minimize your carbon footprint. You can purchase a variety of eco-friendly products at any supermarket, but they are often expensive. To get the biggest bang for your buck, it’s best to make your own cleaning products. Household items, such as baking soda, lemons and vinegar, make excellent cleaning agents that are not only all natural, but effective as well. For example, a 5% vinegar solution can kill 99.9% of bacteria and 90% of mold.
- Change out your light bulbs. Incandescent light bulbs are extremely wasteful. Only 10 percent of the energy they consume is actually used to create light. The rest is spent heating the bulb, which can make your home hotter and add to your energy bill. Energy-saving bulbs are a better option as they are more efficient and need to be replaced less often. An LED bulb, for example, uses 75 percent less energy and lasts 25 times longer than an incandescent bulb. Although these efficient options are more expensive, they are becoming more and more affordable and can even pay for themselves in energy savings.
- Fill air leaks. More likely than not, your home has a few air leaks that are wasting energy and increasing your energy bill. According to the U.S. Department of Energy, sealing these leaks could result in 5 to 10 percent energy savings for your home. And it’s very easy to do. You can buy a tube of caulk and a caulking gun at almost any hardware store for under $10. Then you simply fill any air leaks, which are commonly found around windows, doors, plumbing vents, furnace flues, recessed lighting and in the basement.
- Install low-flow fixtures. If you’re looking for a quick home improvement project, try installing some low-flow fixtures in your bathroom. This quick upgrade can be as simple as replacing an old shower head or as expensive as putting in an efficient toilet. Low-flow shower heads use significantly less water, typically less than 2.5 gallons per minute. This might make a big difference in your water and energy bills, especially if you live in an older home. Some fixtures before 1992 had a flow rate of more than 5.5 gallons per minute.
- Exercise your green thumb. Adding trees and plants to your yard is not only a good way to add curb appeal, it can decrease your energy consumption. Trees planted near your home can provide shade, decreasing your cooling costs. Hardy native plants in your yard require little water to survive and decrease the amount of space you need to mow. You could also start your own garden, growing pesticide-free fruits and vegetables for an all-around eco-friendly meal.