The case for "going green," or making more environmentally friendly choices, has never been stronger. And what better place to start than home? In fact, the National Association of Realtors found that 11% of new homebuyers purchased their particular house because of the home's green, or energy efficient, features.
But with the average cost of solar panel installation starting at almost $10,000, going green can also cost you a lot of green. Fortunately, there are some significantly less expensive updates that you can easily make and still have a positive impact on our environment. (Bonus: many of these changes could save you money on your monthly energy bills or be a valuable return when it's time to sell your house!)
Upgrade Your Appliances
Swapping out your current appliances for more energy efficient versions may give you the quickest return on your green investment. The Department of Energy recently reported that most home's appliance's account for about 15% of a house's total energy consumption.
HomeAdvisor.com offers a helpful blog post about which appliances may be most strategic to upgrade first. For example, replacing a pre-1994 clothes washer with an Energy Star washer could save you as much as $110 a year, and a new Energy Star dishwasher will save you about $25 per year on your utility bills. Multiple your savings by the amount of years you expect to own the appliance, and you'll get an idea as to when the purchase might pay for itself.
No need to head to the store for this one. Just grab a wrench and get to work. Energy.gov reports that you can significantly reduce water use by simply repairing leaks in fixtures. Leaks of one drip per second waste 1,661 gallons of water and cost you up to $35 per year. And that's just one leak!
Unplug the Unused
This one also requires zero research or shopping. If you're not using an appliance - don't just turn it off - physically unplug the device. Since household energy consumption varies greatly, specific savings potential per household is difficult to measure, but USA Today estimates that most people are able to save $100 or more from their yearly bills simply by implementing this practice. And the U.S. Department of Energy estimates that between 5 and 10% of your energy bill each year may come from devices on standby.
Swap Out Your Lightbulbs
As your current light bulbs burn out, replace them with more energy-efficient versions, like CFL (compact fluorescent light) or LEDs (light-emitting diodes). CFLs use about 70% less energy than incandescent (traditional) bulbs and last years longer. Plus they're only about $1 more! LEDs score even better on the green scale. While they typically cost a bit more, LEDs can last anywhere from 20,000 to 50,000 hours, or up to five times longer than any comparable bulb.
So how much could you save? Switching just the five most-used lights in your home could save you around $44 in one year on your electric bill.
Install Low-Flow Shower Heads and Toilets.
Houselogic, REALTORS blog, reports that replacing your old-water guzzling toilet with a low-flow version can shave as much as $90 off your annual utility bill! Not to mention the thousands fewer gallons of water down the drain. When it comes to your showerhead, Energy.gov suggests shopping for a flow rate of less than 2.5 gpm.