Green: Easy Does It

February 1, 2008

Think of a house as a consumer — and a greedy one at that. About 21 percent of U.S. greenhouse gas emissions are generated from household energy use, according to the U.S. Energy Information Administration.

A house that consumes less energy reduces greenhouse gases because less fossil fuel is required to operate it. Energy and water savings mean financial savings, too.

Here are some simple greening options, along with more advanced approaches, that you can pass along to your clients and customers.

Improve Energy Efficiency

Easy: Replace incandescent bulbs with compact fluorescent bulbs. Compact fluorescent bulbs produce the same amount of light as incandescent bulbs yet require 75 percent less energy, produce 75 percent less heat, and last up to 10 times longer. Switching out just the five most frequently used lights in your house can save as much as 0.3 kilowatts of energy a day, which translates into a savings of at least $30 per bulb over the lifetime of the CFLs.

Advanced: Switch to solar power. This clean energy source generates no air pollution and no noise. Panels installed today will produce energy for about 20 years with minimal maintenance. The federal government offers a tax credit of 30 percent of the installation cost, to a maximum of $2,000, for certain solar power features, and many states and municipalities offer additional incentives.

Reduce Drafts

Easy: Plug leaks. Caulk and add weather-stripping to windows and doors to stop heat and air conditioning losses. Use expanding foam to fill gaps, especially between the living space and unheated areas such as the attic and garage. Leaky air ducts can decrease energy efficiency by as much as 20 percent.

Advanced: Add insulation. Homes more than 10 years old probably have insufficient insulation, and even newer houses typically can use some improvement. Properly insulated houses not only use less energy, they also have better moisture control, meaning roofs and walls last longer. In addition to insulating outside walls and attics, owners should install insulation in basement walls, floors above unheated garages or porches, cathedral ceilings, and crawl spaces.

Appliance Excesses

Easy: Unplug chargers, power adapters, and appliances when they’re not in use. According to the U.S. Department of Energy, about 75 percent of the electricity used to power electronics such as VCRs, televisions, stereos, computers, and kitchen appliances is consumed while the products are turned off.

Advanced: Switch out older appliances — including dish and clothes washers, refrigerators, lighting fixtures, televisions, room air conditioners, and even cordless phones — with energy-saving models. Appliances with the government-rated Energy Star label use 25 percent to 75 percent less energy than unrated appliances.

Avoid Super-Hot Water

Easy: Lower your water heater temperature. The average tank style water heater uses about 5 percent less energy for every 10 degrees Fahrenheit you reduce the temperature, according to the Department of Energy. A lower temperature also slows mineral buildup and corrosion, which helps your water heater perform more efficiently over a longer time.

Advanced: Install tankless water heaters. These so-called “on-demand” heaters warm water only when required, reducing energy losses associated with maintaining water temperatures in a traditional storage tank. Tankless heaters range from $200 for an under-sink faucet unit to $1,500 for a high-capacity unit, but according to the Energy Department, they use 45 percent to 60 percent less energy than traditional heaters and last twice as long.


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