For many people, tough economic times are motivating a closer look at the efficiency of their homes. While some homes are better than others, most houses have some money literally floating up to the chimney and out the windows. Here are some easy-to-accomplish actions that can save you money and reduce your carbon footprint.
A lot of attention is being paid lately to high-tech energy solutions such as solar panels and wind turbines. While these solutions certainly have their place, it’s more useful for millions of people who are looking to reduce both their bills and their carbon footprint to understand these dull, pedestrian, and very effective basics: insulation and conservation.
The problem with heat is that it wants to leave your house. Given the slightest opportunity, it will squeeze out and head for the skies. Every time this happens, you waste money and increase your carbon footprint. Techniques for avoiding this can range from cheap and simple fix-ups to total home retrofits.
Leaky windows can be covered with plastic in the winter. You can do this by using any roll of plastic and some heavy-duty packing tape, or for a neater look that you can see through, you can buy commercial shrink wrap that is made for this purpose. This plastic is applied to the window frames with two-sided tape, then shrunk until it is taut by running a blow dryer on it. If done properly, this type of plastic treatment is nearly invisible and keeps in a fair amount of heat.
Windows can also be covered with heavy curtains. Opaque curtains are useful at night in the winter, and also during hot summer days for windows that the sun shines into. Keeping the curtains closed when the window is in direct sunlight keeps out an amazing amount of heat.
A lot of heat is lost through outlets. Foam gaskets for outlets can be purchased at most home renovation stores, and easily installed behind the outlet and switch plates. Leaky attics can have 10 or more inches of blown-in cellulose insulation added. Since heat always goes up, attics are a major source of leakage, and large amounts of blown in insulation on top of the ceiling joists can make a huge difference.
Rigid foam can be applied in between the floor joists in your basement, where a lot of heat escapes. Rigid foam will be even more effective if the gaps between it, the joists, and the bottom of the floor are sealed with expanding foam.
As much energy can be saved by, not doing, as by doing. Large amounts of energy are used every year on things that don’t actually need to be done. Consider these ideas that will save you money and give you more free time.
Turn off your dryer permanently. Clothes dryers are massive energy hogs. Although the newer models use substantially less electricity, they still use a lot more than a piece of rope, and a piece of rope is all you need to hold your clothes up in the air and let nature do its thing.
Give some thought to just how much happier you will be with that new 42-inch plasma television. Not only is it expensive to buy, but it will also use more power than your refrigerator when it’s on. Put all of your electronics into a power bar (an extension cord with multiple outlets and a switch), and turn it off when you’re not using them. This eliminates the standby loads of all of your gadgets, which can be substantial when added up.
Begin replacing your lawn with shrubs and sustainable ground cover. The cost, both financial and environmental, of gas-powered lawn mowers and leaf blowers is tremendous. Shrubs and sustainable ground cover are maintenance free, beautiful, and require less watering. Find a person in your neighbourhood with an all-garden yard and ask them about it. Most people who have put the effort into getting rid of their lawn are proud of their work, and eager to share not only knowledge but plants and cuttings as well, thus saving you more money in the process.
If you live in a hot climate, put awnings over your windows to keep out the sun during the hottest part of the day. This should allow you to turn down your air-conditioning, or ideally to turn it off altogether.
As the public begins to realize that green living and money saving go hand-in-hand, opportunities such as the ones listed here will become more and more common. Begin these changes today, and both your bank account and the Earth will thank you.