12 easy ways to “green” your home

If you haven’t caught the green fever yet, you’ll want to now. Being eco-friendly is great for the environment but it’s even healthier for you (not to mention more economical too). The more energy you save, the less money you spend and the better it is for the environment. Here are a dozen easy, energy-saving tips to start greening your home:

1. Change your light bulbs. Switch to LED light bulbs. They may be more expensive to buy initially, but they fit into every standard light socket, last longer and burn less electricity. You should only have to replace them every 7 or 8 years.

2. Turn it up, turn it down. In the summer turn your air conditioner up 3 degrees, and in the winter turn your thermostat down 3 degrees. To adjust to a slight change in temperature use a fan or cozy up in a nice fleece blanket. Remember, you’re helping the environment and saving money!

3. Get green windows. Peter Salo of It’s Curtains for You in Monroe says many homeowners are doing what they can to make the switch to environmentally friendly products. One of his favorite lines is Graber window treatments, which manufactures its products using recycled or renewable materials and offers shades and blinds to create more energy-efficient homes.

However, if you don’t want to cover all of your windows with Graber products, make sure that the windows on the southern exposed side of the house (where the sun beats down for the majority of the day) have blinds and curtains to help reduce the amount of sunlight entering the house, Salo explains. This will keep your AC from running all day to cool those rooms.

In the winter, be sure to open blinds and curtains so that the sun can help heat the room and your heating system won’t have to work overtime.

4. Make over your laundry. Try to cut down the number of loads you wash per week. To help even more, wash clothes in cold water (using cold water detergent) then hang them to dry. You may also want to consider more natural, fragrance-free detergents from companies like Seventh Generation and Ecover. Taking these steps will cut down on your hot water and electric bill, as well as keep harmful chemicals out of the water supply.

5. Buy energy efficient appliances. Did you know that, according to energystar.gov, the average home spends about $2,000 on energy bills every year? You can easily chop down that bill by $50, $75 or even $100 dollars by buying Energy Star refrigerators, washers, air conditioners and other appliances. Energy Star products use 10-15 percent less energy and water than regular appliances.

Dave Jansen of Sohn’s Appliance Center in Walden says many of his customers are interested in buying  Energy Star front load washers, dishwashers and refrigerators. Energy Star refrigerators have variable speed compressors that will ramp up if it detects warmth, but once the unit is cold it will run much more slowly to maintain that temperature, compared to an 8- or 10-year-old refrigerator that is constantly running.   

An Energy Star dishwasher uses much less water than a regular one and a lot less energy to run. Most have built-in heaters that heat only the gallon or two of water that is needed to wash the dishes, rather than using the hot water tank to heat much more water.

Energy-efficient washers also cut water use. “A front load washer uses, at max, 9 gallons of water. Your regular top load washer at max will use 40 gallons of water. That’s a huge difference.” Although front load washers are more expensive, about $700 and up compared to a top load washer that’s around $400, it’s saving you that much more in water and energy.

6. Insulate the water heater. Wrap an older water heater with a thick fiberglass blanket to reduce the amount of standby heat loss. If your heater is fewer than seven years old, just insulate the pipes. The money you spend on insulation will be easily made up on your energy bill.

7. Caulk and weather strip your home. Get ready for winter by caulking and weather stripping your home in preparation for winter’s cold. Your heating bill will go down and your earth friendly report card will go up!

8. Repaint. Many paint companies, like Benjamin Moore’s Aura line, are introducing low VOC (Volatile Organic Compounds) or no VOC paints. They have fewer chemicals and less odor, and come in hundreds of colors!

“Personally, I will only use Aura,” says Denise Rutherford, an associate at Gervic Paints in Middletown. “My daughter and I have asthma, so we used to have to hire a painter and leave the house. Now I can paint a room myself. Aura has no smell, dries fast and is 100 percent water based.”

Aura may cost more (around $57 a gallon), but Rutherford says it covers most colors in only one coat. Visit Benjamin Moore’s product site (benjaminmoore.com/
aura) for more information.

9. Choose bamboo. Bamboo is one of the newest trends, and it is tremendously eco-friendly. Bamboo grows fast (it’s renewable every 5 years, instead of 30+ like most trees). Try bamboo bedding, clothing, cutting boards, window blinds and flooring to start!

10. Natural flooring. Looking to replace that old carpet? Choose eco-friendly flooring. Try reclaimed wood flooring, bamboo, linoleum, recycled glass tile, stone tile or natural weaved carpets. Not only will this cut down on some of the toxic particles circulating the air from traditional carpeting, but you’ll be helping to conserve valuable natural resources as well.

11. Use green/organic cleaners. John Beever of The Green Janitor cleaning services in Poughkeepsie and Kingston says that people are absolutely interested in eco-friendly cleaning products. “Homeowners want to reduce their carbon footprint along with their VOC levels. They’re concerned about the toxic chemicals. Have you ever cleaned your bathroom and felt dizzy or gotten a headache? The agents that produce those effects have people wondering if these products are good and healthy for their home, especially in the winter when there’s low
ventilation,” Beever explains.

Household cleaning products can include harmful agents such as neurotoxins, carcinogens, allergens, central nervous system depressants, heavy metals, and other chemicals that cause or contribute to cancer, respiratory problems, reproductive abnormalities, allergic reactions, and behavioral problems.

Beever advises trying green cleaning products such as Ecover that you can find in any supermarket or health food store. Your home will be squeaky clean and your family will be breathing easy!

12. Turn on the fan. Install a whole-house fan to circulate air throughout the house instead of using the air conditioner. It cools down the house for a fraction of the price it takes to run the AC all day.