Save Money while Saving the Environment

So, you’ve seen “An Inconvenient Truth” and are ready to repent for your environmental sins. Or, maybe you’re just sick of handing over your paycheck to the electric company every month. Well, it’s your lucky day: the following tips will help save the environment and save you money at the same time.

Whether you have the time, resources and enthusiasm to build your own wind turbine or only a couple hours on a Saturday and a limited budget, there is always something you can do to save the environment and improve energy efficiency in your home.

Let’s start with the simple things, and as the excitement builds about going green and saving money, you can work your way down the list. However, if you start wearing T-shirts with slogans like “if it’s yellow let it mellow….” you may need to seek more “professional” help.

Phase 1: For the Green Greener

Things you can do for free

• Turn down the water heater thermostat to 120° F. Most water heaters are set too high. You may have to play with the thermostat to get a comfortable shower temperature—not all water heaters have clearly marked dials.
• Wash your clothes in cold water. Hot water is a huge expense, and most things can be washed in cold. If you must use hot water, wash during off-peak times. Check with your local electric company to get exact hours.
• Change air filters and vents regularly. A dirty filter, vent or duct slows air flow, overworking your cooling or heating system. At minimum, change filters every three months.
• Close heating vents in unused rooms; close doors to unused rooms.
• Close drapes and windows during sunny summer days and after sunset in cooler weather.
• Fireplaces are common sources of energy loss. Be sure the damper is in working order and that it's closed when the fireplace isn't in use. Also, replacing a wire screen with a flat glass screen will reduce the amount of warm air escaping up the flue.
• Set the thermostat to 68° F during winter months when you’re home and down to 55° F when you go to bed or are away from the home (programmable thermostats can do this automatically).

Phase 2: For the Intermediate Greener

Things you can do at minimal cost

• Stop air leaks around windows and doors with caulk or weather stripping. Air leaks can deplete your house of heat in the winter or make it too humid in the summer. ($3-$5)
• Install compact fluorescent light bulbs that use less energy and last 10 times longer than incandescent light bulbs. ($5-$8 each)
• Install a programmable thermostat that automatically adjusts the temperature when you are in bed or away. ($35-$65)
• Insulate your water heater. You can buy an insulation kit at most hardware stores that usually includes a wrap, adhesive tape and straps for easy and secure installation. An external wrap is not always necessary if you have a new water heater. ($15-$25)
• Install solar lights for pathways. Once purchased, the light emitted costs nothing. (as low as $10 a piece)

Phase 3: For the Advanced Greener

Things you can do that are long-term investments

• Install solar panels on your property. Solar panels transform sunlight into usable forms of energy to light your home and meet a variety of other energy demands.
• Buy energy-efficient appliances. Here’s the bottom line: the more efficient an appliance is, the less it costs to run. In most cases, you will save money by buying the high-end model. If you have an old water heater, this should be the first item to replace.

Going green doesn't always mean spending green but it could make your neighbors green with envy.

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