One of the most common reasons people choose not to "go green" in their home is because it is too expensive. Well not anymore! Here I have listed five ways to help you reduce your water and energy intake, all for less than $100.
1. Replace those incandescent bulbs with CFLs!
One of the EASIEST ways to reduce energy consumption and save money is by replacing your incandescent light bulbs with compact fluorescent light bulbs (CFLs). Many people stray away from CFL’s because they are more expensive upfront. But don’t let that $2 price tag defer you from purchasing; CFLs last 10 times longer than a standard incandescent bulb, and they use 80% less energy!! This results in a savings of about $30 throughout the life of the bulb. Take that savings time the average number of light bulbs in a US home (45), and you get an average savings of $1,350! Yes, you read that right. One THOUSAND, three hundred, and fifty dollars. Now isn’t that worth the extra $1.42? And the best part? When your CFL finally does burn out, you can bring it to Home Depot and they will recycle it for you for free!
Cost for entire household: Approximately $90
Savings: Approximately $1,350
2. Install low-flow water fixtures
For those of you shower singers, why don't you try this tune on for size. A standard shower head pumps out 2.5 gallons per minute. However, you can cut that number nearly in half by purchasing a low-flow shower head. You can easily find shower heads that restrict the water flow to 1.5 gpm, without sacrificing water pressure. For example, take a look at the American Standard Flowise shower head, which can be purchased for $42.25 at Home Depot.
Also, if your shower head dates back before 1992, I would strongly recommend you replace it as soon as you possibly can. Why? Not only does it probably LOOK dated...it IS dated. Before 1992, it wasn't uncommon to find shower heads that delivered water at speeds over 5.5 gallons per minute! Think of all that water you could be saving!
Low-flow fixtures are also available for your sink faucets, so when you go to purchase a new faucet, make sure it is rated at 1.5 gpm or less. The fish will thank you.
3. Enroll in Saver's Switch
Who doesn't like getting paid for doing absolutely nothing? I know I sure do. Well, Xcel Energy has a program that essentially is just that. If you go online and enroll in their Saver's Switch program, you will save 15% on your bill from June through September. That's it. You're done. In a nutshell, what Saver's Switch does is gives Xcel permission to switch your air conditioning on and off in 20 minute intervals during peak energy times in the summer. It saves you energy, it saves you money, AND, you can't even tell when the Saver's Switch has been activated. Now I'd say that's pretty cool. And yes, that pun was intended.
There is another similar program that Xcel offers that goes year round. If you sign up to have your water heater switched on and off for 6 hour periods (don't worry - you can still use the water that has already been heated up during that period), Xcel will give you a 2% discount on your bill. Now this one does require slighly more effort on your part, but only in the sense that you physically have to be home so Xcel can come into your house and install the switch on your water heater.
So what about those unfortunate souls who do not have Xcel Energy? Well, there is still hope for you. Check with your local utility company, because more often than not, similar discount programs are offered.
4. Hug your water heater
No, not literally. But go downstairs and touch your water heater. Is it warm? If so, you water heater needs to be insulated. By adding an insulating blanket around your water heater (hence the hug), you can reduce heat loss by 25%-45%. What does that mean to you? A savings of approximately 5%-10% on your bill.
These blankets cost NOTHING (otherwise known as approximately $20 from the Home Depot), so it won't take long before it pays itself off.
On a serious note, if you have a gas water heater, use EXTREME caution when installing the insulating blanket. I would highly recommend you have a plumbing or heating contractor install it for you, but if you must, make sure you keep the blanket away from the flame at the bottom.
5. Install a programmable thermostat
Last, but certainly not least, replace that nasty old thermostat with a shiny new programmable one! For only $30, you will have COMPLETE control over when your home is being heated and cooled. This will save you a tremendous amount of money, and besides, there's no need to keep your home at a roasty-toasty 70 degrees if you are at work or sleeping.
So, I hope you heed my advice, because for just a few hundred dollars, you will not only do your part in saving the planet, but your pocketbook will thank you in the long run.
For more information about money-saving strategies, check out the U.S. Department of Energy's website.