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Living A Greener Life On A Shoestring Budget

Jan 8, 2008
It doesn't take a big investment to reduce your impact on the Earth - just a little bit of forethought and attention to the choices that you make. Here are fifteen simple things that can make a major difference in how much energy your family uses around the house.

1. Find and repair leaks.A single leaky faucet or drip from your pipes can waste 2,700 gallons of water a year. To make sure you've got no leaks, check your water meter before and after a two hour period when there is no water use in the house. If it's not the exact same, you've got a leak somewhere. Fixing it may be as simple as replacing a worn washer - and can save you hundreds of gallons and a lot of money every year.

2. Replace light bulbs with compact fluorescent lamps. Replace the incandescent bulbs in lights that are used more than three hours a day with compact fluorescent lamps. The initial cost may seem high when you compare the cost - one CFL can cost up to $7 - but they last ten times as long and reduce the energy used in those lights by 25%. I can tell you from experience that you WILL see a reduction in your electric bill the very first month.

3. Use weather stripping. Up north when the winters get cold, homeowners invest in weather stripping to keep the cold drafts out and the warm air in. Air transfer happens down here in sunny Florida, too. Cut down on your cooling costs (and energy use) by making sure that you've got no chinks and gaps that can let the cool air escape. Check for gaps around and under window frames and door frames.

4. Unplug it. It may be handy to have your cell phone charger plugged in, but that charger is drawing energy even when it's not in use. If you must have the convenience, get a power strip and plug all chargers into it. That way, you can just turn the whole strip off when none of them are in use.

5. Keep your lint filter clean. Cutting down the amount of energy your clothes dryer uses is as easy as making sure that the lint filter is always kept clean and the exhaust is free to open and close as needed. Better yet, take advantage of beautiful days to hang clothes outside to dry.

6. Use awnings and shades. If you have awnings installed on your house, use them to shade windows on sunny days. Drawing shades or closing blinds will also help cut down the greenhouse effect. Even lightweight sheers at your windows will cut down on the work your cooling system has to do to keep your house comfortable.

7. Speaking of cooling (and heating) systems...
Keep the temperatures on your thermostats set no lower than 78 in the summer and no higher than 68 in the winter and you'll make a major dent in your energy expenses and use up far less energy - up to 20% off your energy bill.

8. Supplement your air conditioning with fans. They use a lot less energy than air conditioners since they're moving air, not cooling it. Ceiling fans and other fans can often be the only cooling you need on many days.

9. Only heat the water that you need. A kettle of water may seem like an awfully small amount to be worried about, but you'll be surprised at the difference it makes when you only fill it with the amount of water that you'll use. Besides the savings in water, you'll also use less energy to bring it to a boil. Those things add up over time.

10. And while we're on the subject of heating water... Wrap your boiler. Insulating your hot water heater will prevent heat loss, especially if you have an older heater. Again, the savings compound. Because your water stays hotter, you're using less fuel to heat it, wasting less water as you run it while waiting for it to heat up, and spending less time waiting for the water to come to the temperature you want.

11. And one more thing about water heaters... Turn the temperature down a few degrees. 120 degrees doesn't feel appreciably cooler than 125, but those five degrees use up a lot of energy and fuel.

12. But we're not done with water yet... Swap out your current shower head with a low-flow water head that will save water. That means you'll be using less hot water, and that means less energy used to heat it, so you save twice.

13. Install aerators on all of your home's faucets. The typical faucet spews three to seven gallons per minute. Aerators can cut the flow down to two, one and a half or even one gallon per minute - a hefty savings on water. It gets even better - an aerator will cost you less than $3 and can save you more than that every month on your water bill. Best of all, despite the fact that you're using less water, most of the time you'll have better water flow and more water pressure.

14. Cool down. Use cold water for washing whenever possible. If you're not doing food prep or handling meat, washing your hands with cool water will get them just as clean and germ free.

15. Do you know where that tomato has been? Locally grown produce is your best bargain. Shop the local farmers' market or vegetable stand where you'll get fresh produce - often picked just that morning. You'll be spending dollars in your own community, which is good for the community. Even better, it reduces the amount of gasoline and other resources that were used to transport your food from wherever it was grown.

There are dozens of other tips and hints on ways to save energy, water and money. Some of them are ingenious, some are frugal and some, honestly, seem downright silly.
About the Author
Calum MacKenzie, owner of Real Living Southern Homes a residential brokerage serving New Tampa and Wesley Chapel markets.
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