Whether you are looking to contribute to a healthier planet, reap the cost benefits of energy and waste reduction, or some combination of both, there are lots of things you can do to reduce your carbon footprint and transform your home into a more eco-efficient place. They don’t necessarily require a significant investment of time and money, either. Sure, you could install solar panels or purchase new Energy Star appliances, but there are also plenty of small changes you can make on your path to a more sustainable home.
Reducing your home’s carbon footprint has the added benefit of helping you save on energy, water, and maintenance to systems and appliances – reducing the overall cost of running your home. By making your home run more efficiently, you’ll also be able to contribute to a cleaner environment while ensuring a healthier home for your family and friends (furry ones included) to enjoy.
How to reduce your carbon footprint in every room
From cleaning the coils under your fridge, to incorporating a drip irrigation system in your backyard, here are 21 ideas you can start putting into practice over the course of a single hour, day, or weekend.
In the Kitchen
- Use more rags, fewer paper towels – We’re not saying you have to cut out all paper towels – sometimes you just need one – we’re saying use fewer. If you’re looking for a no cost solution, you can always recycle old t-shirts by cutting them up to make rags and launder them in a batch whenever you run out. Or buy some cute, inexpensive towels at the store.
- Clean the fridge coils – Get a long, skinny brush like this one and use it to gently scrub loose any lint and junk from the coils under your fridge. This will help it use less energy to keep your food cold.
- Plant herbs this spring – There’s no need to buy basil or parsley that had to be transported from a farm to your grocery store when you can snip a few sprigs from your own herb garden. This also makes for a fun activity with the kiddos!
- Get a recycling bin – You’ve probably already got one in your garage or on the side of the house, but it’s also a good idea to get a smaller bin to keep somewhere inside your kitchen so you’ll be more inclined to recycle things like water bottles and soda cans, instead of just throwing them in the trash.
- And a compost bin – Ok, maybe at first glance this isn’t your thing, but just hear us out—composting can be neat and tidy and even smell-free, plus it keeps waste out of landfills and creates a nutrient-rich additive for your garden (hurray for free fertilizer!). Stash scraps in a bag in your freezer, or in a sleek countertop bin designed for the purpose and watch your trash loads get a whole lot smaller.
- Fill your dishwasher all the way before running it – And if you really can’t wait, run it on the “top rack only” setting that so many of them have these days, instead of doing a full cycle just for a few wine glasses.
- Or run it in the middle of the night – Wait, really? Ever noticed that “delay” button on your dishwasher and wondered why you’d ever want to use it? If you set it to start during your electric company’s “off-peak hours” (usually the middle of the night), you’ll be reducing peak energy demand on the grid, and possibly get charged less.
In the Living Areas
- Swap in some LED or CFL bulbs – While it may be tempting to save a few bucks on incandescent lights, switching to LEDs or CFL bulbs will actually save you money in the long run. Most incandescent bulbs only last around a year or so, while this $17 16-pack of LEDs will last 13 years each.
- Upgrade to a smart thermostat – Sure, your old-school one works just fine, but a smart thermostat, like the Nest Learning Thermostat will have a setting like Eco-Mode that automatically drops the temperature when you’re not home. HVAC systems are the number one energy consumers in our homes, so investing in a smart thermostat that learns the temperature you like for different times/days and programs itself will save you tons on your energy bills.
- Update your HVAC system – Yes, this will be a costly change, however the benefits outweigh the upfront cost. Air conditioners today are more energy efficient and cost effective than ever before, so your energy bill doesn’t have to go up while you cool down. And if you choose to go with an Energy Star certified system, you’ll qualify for a $300 tax credit.
- Get power strips – You probably already own a few, but did you know that if you flip them off when you’re done using the things that are plugged in, it’ll save you big time? Everything from TVs to phone chargers can act as “vampire appliances,” leeching energy while not in use.
- Use curtains as bonus insulation – in the winter, open curtains when it’s sunny for some free heat, and close them when the sun goes down to block the chill from coming in, and the heat from escaping. REX Services partner, Blinds Galore, has a ton of great options that will keep your home looking beautiful and energy efficient.
In the Bathroom
- Don’t leave the water running when you don’t need it – This is an easy one. When you’re brushing your teeth or washing your face, turn the faucet off in between rinses.
- Get a low-flow shower head – Look for one with good reviews and make sure that it specifies a powerful spray despite the restricted water use—and screw it on. Easy, peasy!
In the Laundry Room
- Use cold water when washing your clothes – High efficiency washers and modern detergents get your clothes clean without the use of hot water. In reality, hot water actually sets stains, and cold water will get your clothes just as clean.
- Get a set of dryer balls – It’s time to get rid of dryer sheets. Think about all the dryer sheets you go through doing laundry—did you know one set of wool dryer balls can do the same work (speed up dry time and fluff out wrinkles) without the use of harsh chemicals? And they last basically forever.
- Upgrade your appliances – After HVAC systems, appliances are the real energy consumers in your home. Think of them as having two prices: the cost of buying and the cost of operating. When you buy the most energy-efficient options, you dramatically cut the second price, so if you’re in the market for a new washer and dryer, make sure they’re energy efficient models.
On Your Home’s Exterior
- Install a drip irrigation system – Keeping your yard healthy and green isn’t just about looks. Vegetation can keep your home cooler, serve as a windbreak, and contribute to cleaner air. If you need to keep your yard watered, however, you’ll cancel the benefits pretty quickly with the wrong methods. Drip irrigation systems use gravity to deliver water to plants, focusing it directly on the roots where it’s needed. You not only save electricity by eliminating pumps but also minimize waste through evaporation. If you consider yourself handy, you could tackle this project over a weekend (depending on the size of your yard) or you could use an on-demand lawn care company like Lawn Love.
- Turn down your water heater – The standard setting for a residential water heater is 140º F, but that’s extremely hot. To test: Turn on the hot tap but not the cold tap in your shower. Is it scalding? Too hot to touch? Try turning the heater down to 120º F so that the hottest it gets is your ideal shower temp.
- Insulate your home properly – A well-insulated home holds in heat properly, meaning that it’ll take less energy to keep reheating your living space when you really need to. It’s one of the smartest ways to save money. Good places to start include the walls of your house and the roof, but let’s not forget about windows as insolation too. High-performance windows make a huge difference. Windows account for 50% or more of lost energy, so by replacing your old ones with ENERGY STAR certified windows, you’re saving energy and you actually qualify for a tax credit for 10% of the cost, up to $500 (windows are capped at $200), according to energystar.gov.
- Invest in solar panels – For any home wanting to really become eco-friendly, solar panels are an essential feature. They are a long-term investment, and although there will be an initial layout of money, in time you could potentially save more money than you spend. One option is Sunrun, the leader in home solar panel and battery storage, whose online platform can get you qualified online in a few easy steps.
There’s a lot that goes into creating a sustainable dream home. If you’re considering some significant changes to make your home more eco-efficient, we recommend talking to a professional who can offer some guidance on where to start and what investments might offer the biggest return on your investment. The team at REX Home Services is always excited to help. Ask us anything by calling (588) 751-0464 or emailing us at HELLO@rexhomes.com