1. Non-Toxic Paints – Many types of paint release toxic emissions into the air for years after they go up on your walls. These emissions are caused by volatile organic compounds (VOCs) in the paint. Thankfully, new types of paint have been developed with low- or zero-VOC levels that are just as durable as normal household paints.
2. Caulking – Just adding some caulk to the cracks and gaps around your windows and doors can save a lot of energy. A good way to check for air leaks is to hold a lit match near a window or door – if it flickers, there is air leaking out. The cost of the materials will easily be worth the money you save on your energy bill.
3. Ceiling Fans – Using ceiling fans will easily take the strain off of your air conditioner. You can set your thermostat a little higher because the air flow on your skin will keep you cooler. In the winter, you can set the fans on a low speed to circulate the warm air that rises to the ceiling. Energy Star-certified fans are the most efficient type because they can move more air with less power.
4. Lighting – Buying energy-efficient light bulbs is one of the easiest ways to use less energy. You can even go a step further by replacing your light fixtures with energy-efficient ones that are specifically designed for compact fluorescent lights.
5. Flooring – There are several options for eco-friendly flooring. Natural linoleum (not vinyl) is made of green or recycled materials, including sawdust and pine resin. Cork is another popular choice because it grows much more quickly than wood. Even some wood floors are produced under methods of sustainable forest management to ensure that the wood remains a renewable resource. If you prefer carpeting, you can now purchase carpet containing fewer VOCs. Some companies even produce recycled carpet made from old carpet materials.
6. Spray Insulation – Loose-fill installation can easily be sprayed into existing spaces such as walls or attics to reduce energy loss in your home. A soybean-based spray is best, since it contains no formaldehyde and won’t emit toxic chemicals into the air. Since about 50% of the energy bill for an average family home goes towards heating and cooling, efficient insulation can significantly reduce utility costs.
7. Water Heater Timer – Standard water heaters will keep gallons of water heated all the time – even when you don’t need it. With a water heater timer, you can set specific times for the water heater to turn on and off, such as for a morning shower or the evening dishwasher load.
8. Windows and Skylights – Energy Star Low Emissive (Low-E) windows reduce the amount of heat that gets transferred through the windowpanes without reducing visibility and they can last up to 30 years. You may also want to consider installing skylights to reduce the need for electric lighting during the day – after all, there isn’t a greener light source than the sun itself!
9. Low-Flow Aerators – By installing low-flow aerators on your faucets and showerheads, you may use up to 50% less water per year. While a standard faucet will produce a steady stream of water, an aerator spreads this stream into tiny droplets. In addition to saving water, you will certainly save money on your utility bill.
10. Plant Trees – A few shady trees planted in strategic spots can protect your house from the sun’s heat in the summer. Deciduous trees are best because they lose their leaves in the winter and allow the sun to heat the house. So by planting some trees, you can save on your energy bill year-round.
Chuck Lorrell is a construction management enthusiast who writes about various topics including everything related to construction and is the owner of the site Construction Management Degree.