Tips and ideas to make your home more efficient, comfortable and livable.
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Switch your shower head
If yours is old it likely rates at 5.5 gallons per minute(gpm) or more. Newer ones can be as low as 1.5 gpm. Look for a model that's at least lower than 2.5 gpm. That's approximately 45 gallons of water saved per 15 minute shower. Think about all the hot water you're not having to heat.
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Check your faucet aerators
Installing low-flow faucet aerators is the single most effective water conservation savings you can do for your home. Plus, they are cheap and easy to switch.
3 of 16photo courtesy of Watts Premier
Speed up hot water
If you wait for more than 30 seconds for hot water at any faucet in your home, install a recirculation pump to stop wasting water. Some pumps can be installed by a savvy do-it-yourselfer, but if in doubt hire a licensed electrician. Consider this: 3 minute wait for hot water equals 7.5 gallons wasted times 2-times a day equals 15 gallons down the drain a day or over 5,000 gallons of wasted per year. You're paying for that! Check out three of our favorite pumps at www.grundfos.com, www.autocirc.com and www.wattspremier.com.
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Swap the toilet
Some newer toilets don't just use less water, they have dual flushing systems to use less water for liquid waste and more for solid. Check out the Aquia™ Dual Flush Toilet at www.totousa.com for one of our favorites.
Photo courtesy of TOTO, USA.
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Pack the Dishwasher
You'll wash more dishes with less water in the dishwasher over hand washing. To be even more sensitive to the environment, consider using a reduced phosphate, or phosphate-free dishwasher detergent.
6 of 16photo courtesy of www.gardeners.com.
An in ground cistern plumbed directly to your irrigation system would be a dream, but also very expensive. Try augmenting your outdoor water supply by installing a rain barrel or two fitted to your downspouts. A favorite of ours is at www.gardeners.com.
7 of 16photo courtesy of www.target.com
Swap your bulbs
You've likely heard about compact fluorescent bulbs (CFLs) by now. We say don't switch just because, do it as your other bulbs burn out. And don't feel like you have to put them everywhere. You might still like an incandescent by the bed or a reading chair. Look to put CFLs in lights that stay on for longer periods of time. Studies have shown that flipping CFLs on and off shorten their life.
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Clean filters and screens
Dirty air filters reduce the efficiency of your furnace, just as a dirty lint screen reduces the efficiency of your clothes dryer. Check furnace filters at least monthly, and clean your lint screen every time you use your dryer.
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Add Ceiling Fans
They may not be able to cool or heat a room, but they do mix air keeping you from having to adjust the thermostat.
Don't heat and cool unnecessarily. Many homes lose a great deal of their conditioned air to leaky and inefficient duct work before it reaches the intended destination. Have a licensed HVAC contractor check and fix any bad ducts.
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Program Your Home
Switching to a digital thermostat will ensure a more accurate indoor temperature. A programmable thermostat that adjusts throughout the day will be more efficient. However, if you stay or work at home, opt for a simple non-programmable digital model. A few of our favorites can be found www.carrier.com and www.lennox.com. Check with your local HVAC contractor to find the best one for you.
Get balanced. Don't over condition one room to make another comfortable. Have a licensed HVAC contractor balance your system so that every room remains a relatively constant temperature. This may cost a bit, but you'll be paid back in not just energy saved, but comfort.
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Just Good Ideas
Install a small recycling center in the kitchen, mud room, or garage to handle items that can be recycled. Don't take a bag when you only buy a couple of items at the grocery, and try to buy just what you need.
12 of 16photo courtesy of hes.lbl.gov
Have an energy audit
Not as painful as another type of audit. Visit hes.lbl.gov to conduct a self-directed energy audit. You'll get immediate and realistic information about what you can do to make your home more efficient. For more through, in person energy audit, check out www.hometuneup.com to see if there's an inspector near you. They can come in and check for air leaks, see what areas of your home may be under insulated, and recommend some quick fixes to lower your energy bills.
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Planting trees and shrubs in a few choice locations on the south and west sides of your home can reduce your energy bill. Plus, studies have shown that a nice landscape helps raise property values.
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You probably have antiques of some sort in your home. They are the ultimate example of reuse and recycle, but if you are building or renovating, try using reclaimed or rapidly renewing materials for your flooring, siding, and roofing.
15 of 16photo courtesy of www.mysigg.com
Ban the bottle
Stop drinking water from a bottle. Get a favorite cup or bottle and add a water cooler or filter to your house. Our favorite bottle is from www.mysigg.com. For a water cooler, check out www.island sky.com for a new water machine that makes fresh, potable water from the humidity in the air. Not bad for the long, humid Southern summers.
16 of 16photo courtesy of www.mysigg.com
Try reusable bags
The petroleum used to make 14 traditional plastic grocery bags is enough to drive a car a mile. The 380 billion plastic bags that Americans throw away each year are made from millions of barrels of petroleum, contributing to global warming, depleting oil supplies, and driving up costs of petroleum-based products like gasoline and energy for our homes.
Switch to reusable bags and reduce this waste. Also, reusable bags are generally larger than traditional plastic shopping bags making the grocery store trip just a little easier.