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New Years' Resolutions for Your Home, Part 3: Energy Savings

This is the third and final post in my series on New Years’ Resolutions you can make for your home. In the first post, we talked about Decluttering, and how to become more organized in the new year. The second post was all about Detoxifying, with several tips and all natural recipes to replace toxic cleaning products in your home. Today’s post will encourage you to change the way you use energy in your home in a positive way. Reducing energy usage in some areas, and using it smarter in others, will result in lower electric and heating bills and a lower impact on the environment.

Here are some tips for how you can save money and the planet by addressing your home’s energy usage:

Turn down the water heater temperature. Most hot water heaters are huge energy hogs, which translates directly to an emptier wallet for most homeowners. One very easy way to reduce total energy usage in your home is to turn down the temperature a little bit. By lowering the temp from 140 to 120 degrees, you could save 6 - 10% on your monthly electric bill!

Watch those Phantom Loads! A “phantom load” is any appliance or gadget that uses electricity even when it is turned off or not in use. Some of the appliances in your home- such as TVs, stereos, and computers, draw energy even when they are turned off! To remedy this, plug all of your entertainment-type devices into a power strip, and turn the strip off when you’re not using it. Also, phone and computer chargers draw electricity even when your phone or computer is not charging. So be sure to unplug those cords and cables when not in use, too. A Cornell University study estimates that the energy wasted by phantom loads in households across the country necessitates the equivalent of SEVEN electric plants nationwide. Seven nuclear and/or coal powered plants just to power our TVs and phone chargers when no one’s at home???? That’s crazy. Another tip: when you leave for vacation, unplug everything except the major kitchen appliances! Even your toaster oven draws energy when it’s not turned on.

Install low flow water fixtures. If you have a little money to invest in making your home more energy efficient this year, this may be the project for you. A little investment now could result in massive savings over the years to come- especially as energy costs continue to rise. Low-flow showerheads, faucets and toilets are available at your local hardware store, and prices range from $10-$300, but could easily save you that much or more in any given year.

Consider converting your lawn into raised bed gardens! Raised bed gardens use less water than conventional grass lawns, and are arguably prettier. They also provide you with fresh salads and herbs throughout the growing season! Raised beds conserve rain water through planting density and efficient drainage. A well designed system in a temperate climate like WNC can utilize rain much more efficiently than grass, meaning you shouldn’t have to water the beds more than once a week, even during dry spells. (If you incorporate a mulch cover into your beds, you can get away with watering even less frequently!) A system of raised beds in your front yard shouldn’t cost very much, and you can put attractive stone, gravel or mulch paths between the beds and never have to water a greedy, boring looking lawn again!

Take Control of your Heating and Cooling Costs! Are you like many people who dread opening the electric bill each month, especially in the very hot and very cold seasons? The Department of Energy tells us that American households spend 50-70% of their energy budgets on heating and cooling. But did you know that the simple act of installing a programmable thermostat could save you $150 a year on your heating and cooling costs? It’s true! Other savings tips include turning down the heat at night and piling on the covers instead, and remembering to turn the a/c off or the heat down to levels just high enough to prevent pipes freezing when you’re leaving for vacation.

Well, that’s it! I hope you enjoyed the series, and that it gave you some good ideas. Feel free to comment if you have ideas for other New Years’ Resolutions you can make for your home!

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