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10 Essentials for DIY Green Energy

Going green isn't as hard as you'd think. See more green living pictures.
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More than a buzzword or trend, green living is here to stay. Many households today make efforts to varying degrees to live a lifestyle that has less impact on Mother Earth. From purchasing eco-friendly products to practicing greener methods of living, there are many ways you can make a difference. If you're interested in taking a more environmentally friendly approach to your life, here are 10 ways to get you going.

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The easiest place to start making a difference in your green living is to replace the light bulbs in your home with compact fluorescents -- also known as CFLs. Not only do CFLs use 75 percent less energy than an incandescent bulb, but they last up to 10 times longer as well, meaning less cash spent on light bulb replacements. They also run cooler, which can lead to more energy savings on your summer bills.

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Look for the Energy Star symbol on your next appliance shopping excursion.
Look for the Energy Star symbol on your next appliance shopping excursion.
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In the early 1990s, the U.S. government started a program of rating and labeling energy-efficient consumer products. Other countries followed suit, and now the Energy Star label is what to look for if you're shopping for new appliances and other household products in the United States. Appliances are well-marked and easy to compare things like total energy usage. If you go with an Energy Star-labeled product, you can count on saving about 20 to 30 percent on your energy bills, which is good for the environment. Not only that, but you can earn federal tax credits on qualifying Energy Star purchases for even more savings.

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There's no better way to make a difference in your home's energy output than by practicing simple conservation. The easiest way to cut down on your energy bill is to remember to turn off the lights in your home that aren't in use. The perception that turning the lights on and off uses more energy because of the power surge needed to light the bulb is incorrect. While there is a slight surge when a light bulb is turned on, it's minimal and offset by energy savings from not burning an unused light.

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Programmable is the way to go if you want to be most efficient.
Programmable is the way to go if you want to be most efficient.
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A lot of energy waste comes from the simple fact that many households don't have their thermostats set correctly for maximum efficiency. In the winter, the heat should be set to go down some while you sleep, and then return back just before you awake. The same goes for leaving and coming home during workdays. In order to make this happen, you need a modern, programmable electronic thermostat. Energy experts recommend a winter setting of 68 degrees and a summer setting of 78 degrees. That number should go to about 55 degrees at night during the cold months.

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It's not just your home thermostat that needs regulation for home energy savings. Your hot water heater and refrigerator also need to be set correctly. A tank water heater supplies plenty of hot water at temperatures between 120 and 140 degrees. Or, if you want to really make a difference, you can go tankless, which heats water on demand. Your refrigerator keeps your food nice and chilled at 37 degrees, the recommended green setting. Most fridges don't have a temperature reading, so use a thermometer and then adjust the dial accordingly.

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Keep the cold where it belongs -- outside.
Keep the cold where it belongs -- outside.
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Losing heat in the winter and cool air in the summer to poorly sealed windows and doors is a common way many older homes waste energy and money. If you live in an old house, chances are you can feel slight breezes in the wintertime from the cracks around windows and doors. Use stick-on weather stripping to seal up these cracks. Exterior doors should have rubber flaps installed at the base so they form a tight seal with the door jamb when closed. This doesn't only happen in old houses either -- shoddy construction on new homes can result in plenty of air leaks as well.

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The sun is a great source of energy, but you don't need to set up a solar power system to take advantage of its heat. In the colder months, open your drapes and blinds on the sunny side of the home each day. A lot of natural heat comes into your home this way; it's called passive solar heating. On the coldest days, letting in some sunlight can raise the interior temperature of your home by a couple of degrees. It will also provide natural light so you don't even have to burn those compact fluorescent bulbs you bought.

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Since the deregulation of the energy industry, there are likely quite a few choices you'll have when it comes time to pick out your energy provider. And since not all energy providers are alike, you should do some homework to see how each one generates its power. Many companies these days are making efforts to save energy by using renewable sources of energy to feed the grid. Some companies use wind, others use low-impact hydroelectric or geothermal power. Most states have publications or Web sites that compare the options to make it easier on the consumer.

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One easy way to save on your home energy is to wise up on how your use your home appliances. Simply placing your clothes dryer in a warmer area of your house causes it to run more efficiently. Avoid doing small loads, and wash in cold water whenever you can. Try to do your laundry at night during the summer months when the power grid isn't working quite as hard. In fact, some hot-weather states offer lower rates at night to encourage this practice. There are also common sense things you can do, like avoiding leaving the oven and fridge doors open for any length of time.

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How much energy do you waste by leaving your coffee maker plugged in all day?
How much energy do you waste by leaving your coffee maker plugged in all day?
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It sounds like something from a horror movie, but vampire power is actually energy that's wasted simply by leaving unused appliances plugged in. Leaving your home computer, DVD player and coffee maker plugged in can account for as much 10 percent of your bill. When you turn out all the lights in your house at night, how many glowing lights do you see from various small appliances? Each of these appliances is sucking energy off the grid 24 hours a day, seven days a week. Try putting some of them on power strips that have an on-off switch and turn them off when not in use. You'll save energy and money at the same time.

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Sources

  • Bongiorno, Lori. "When to switch off your lights." Yahoo.com, April 2, 2009. http://green.yahoo.com/blog/the_conscious_consumer/61/when-to-switch-off-your-lights.html
  • "Detecting Air Leaks." Energysavers.gov, 2010. http://www.energysavers.gov/your_home/insulation_airsealing/index.cfm/mytopic=11250
  • "Federal Tax Credits for Consumer Energy Efficiency." Energystar.gov, 2010. http://www.energystar.gov/index.cfm?c=tax_credits.tx_index
  • "Interesting Facts about Alternative Energy." Discovery,com, 2010. http://planetgreen.discovery.com/go-green/alternative-energy/alternative-energy-numbers.html
  • "Light bulbs (CFLs)." Energystar.gov, 2010. http://www.energystar.gov/index.cfm?fuseaction=find_a_product.showProductGroup&pgw_code=LB
  • "Reducing Your Electricity Use." Energysavers.gov, 2010. http://www.energysavers.gov/your_home/electricity/index.cfm/mytopic=11140
  • "Save Energy at Home." Nrdc.org, 2010.http://www.nrdc.org/cities/living/gover.asp#energy
  • "Standby Power and Energy Vampires." Energystar.gov, 2010. http://www.energystar.gov/index.cfm?c=about.vampires

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