Update Your Home
Outdated household appliances don't just hike up your utility bills. (The government estimates decade-old refrigerators alone cost consumers $4.4 billion a year!) By working extra hard to do their jobs, they also take a toll on Mother Earth. But there are alternatives that can reduce your electric bill and your carbon footprint, and they don't require spendy home renovations. Here are some simple eco-friendly products and gadgets that will cut your costs without costing a lot.
(For even more ways to save money, check out The U.S. Department of Energy’s guide to state-by-state energy rebates, including incentive programs that kick in once you install big-ticket items like new, central air conditioning.)
Install low-flow showerheads
Jumping into the shower? You can waste up to five gallons of water for each minute you’re in the tub according to the U.S Department of the Interior. By swapping out your old showerhead for a new low-flow nozzle, you’ll reduce this water consumption by half. And did we mention that this is one easy home-improvement job?
Try: Moen Envi Eco-Performance showerhead (starting at $123). It uses just 2.0 gallons per minute (gpm) without complaints of weak water pressure.
Sit on a low-flow toilet
You use 3.5 gallons per minute with each flush of a standard toilet, making those household bathroom breaks the number one charge on your water bill. But new low-flow johns cut your water waste to just 1.6 gpms per flush, a savings of about $100 a year for less money down the toilet.
Try: American Standard Flo-Wise One-Piece Toilet (starting at $389). Think of this throne as royalty: it uses 20 percent less water than the average john (which means, eventually, it should pay for itself in water bill savings.)
Look for a high-efficiency refrigerator
Your fridge hogs the most energy at home at 14 percent (the clothes dryer comes in second at six percent). But since you can’t unplug your fridge at night to cut down your bills, it may be time to upgrade to a high-efficiency ice box instead. They’re not as expensive as you may think.
Try: Maytag Top-Freezer M1TXEGMYS ($1099). This 21-cubic-feet appliance is ENERGY STAR-qualified. That means it's been independently certified to meet strict guidelines set by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), saving you as much as 10 to 20 percent more on your electric bill than un-rated products.
Buy a water filtration system
Before you take a sip, consider this. There are more than 300 pollutants in tap water in the U.S. But landfills are piled high with empty plastic bottles once containing commercially purchased purified H20. The greenest and cheapest alternative in the long run? Owning a water filtration system to remove impurities. The hardest part is deciding what kind of system suits your household best.
Try: Clear2O Water Filtration Pitcher ($24) to filter 53 contaminants in 34 seconds. It’s one of the best for those seeking a tabletop carafe. For the faucet-mounted minded, consider the Culligan FM-25 ($20). Simply pull a valve to pour fresh drinking water from the sink.
Your Laundry Room
Add a front-load washing machine
Doing a few loads of laundry a week can really do a number on your bills, especially if you’re still using an old-school top-loading machine with agitators that eat up water and electricity. But don’t think washing all your clothes in cold water is the only way to save money on laundry. With one of the new top-loaders with an Energy Star rating, the EPA says Americans could save $2.6 billion a year. For you personally, the EPA estimates you can save an average of $70 a year on your utility bills by buying an Energy Star-qualified model.
Try: GE Energy Star 4.1 DOE cu. Ft. Capacity Frontload Washer ($999). Big enough to clean large items like a comforter or blanket, but with an eco-conscious eWash option to turn any load into a cold water cycle.
Your Living Area
Embrace the programmable thermostat
The EPA recommends setting the thermostat to increase 5 to 8 degrees in the spring or summer (or decrease, in the winter) when you're out of the house for more than a few hours. Keep the thermostat down for the full eight hours you’re snoozing and your savings can amount to one percent for each degree you dial back. Won’t it be easier to remember these rules with a digital, programmable thermostat that does all the monitoring for you?
Try: Nest ($250). Pleasing to the eye as well as your wallet, this device tailors a program to your personal living habits after just one week in your home. You can also adjust it from your smartphone or the Web when you’re away. Oh, and did we mention it is easy enough for a DIY installation?
Put out efficient space heaters
When it’s cold outside and you only need a spot of extra warmth on your feet, it is less expensive, and greener, to turn on a small space heater. Skip involving the boiler and upping the temperature throughout the house to see some real savings on your winter energy bills.
Try: DeLonghi Ceramic Heater DCH5090ER ($40) It has remote-controlled motorized oscillation capabilities and an intelligently designed eco-energy function that can cut energy costs by 40 percent.
Consider an energy monitor
Once you get the hang of this energy-efficient attitude, you may want to introduce an energy monitor. This device evaluates your day-to-day power consumption and actually gives you an estimate of your monthly bill at your current rate of usage. This instant feedback enables you to cut back right away, as much as 20 percent on each bill, according to the experts.
Try: The Energy Detective (TED) ($199). Calculating your carbon footprints at home probably can’t get easier than this. The system can be connected to your computer for instant updates.
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