1. Install high efficiency light bulbs.
Did you know that the traditional light bulbs we still use waste up to 90% of their energy emitting heat? So replace your normal incandescent bulbs with high-efficiency Energy Star bulbs. They’ll lower your energy costs, last much longer, and are much friendlier on the environment. Look for compact fluorescent light bulbs (CFLs), and light emitting diodes (LEDs), which you can buy at any Home Depot. Those should save you a couple hundred dollars or more per year. And if every family in the U.S.A. replaced their bulbs, we’d reduce greenhouse gas emissions by one trillion pounds!
2. Program your thermostat.
A new “smart” thermostat, like an Energy Star, allows you to program specific temperatures for different times of the day. Too often we set one temperature for night and one for day, or even worse, one set temperature, which is completely unnecessary. So you can lower the temperature at night (when you are under blankets) or during the day (when you are at work.) The U.S. Department of Energy estimates you’ll save 5 to 15 percent per year by turning your thermostat back 10 to 15 degrees for eight hours a day.
It's recommended you keep the thermostat at 78 degrees or higher when cooling the house in the summer, and 68 degrees or cooler in the winter.
Stop pouring money down the drain!
Water is expensive these days, and the vast majority of indoor water usage comes from toilets flushing (30% of residential consumption) and showers. So install low-flow showerheads in your bathrooms - they only cost $20 or so and spray no more than 2.5 gallons per minute, saving you a couple hundred dollars per year. And install high-efficiency (low-flush) toilets, which can save a family of four a whopping $300 per year or more in water bills. If you don’t want to replace your new toilet, there’s a super simple (and free) way to turn it into a low-flushing model. Just fill up a few plastic water s with sand and place them in the tank!
4. Plug air leaks
Whenever you turn up your heat or AC, drafts can waste a lot of your money. Close doors, windows, and curtains appropriately to keep the heat or air in the rooms you need it most. Consider foam rollers or stick-on energy tape under doors or around window frames where the most air leaks in or out. In addition, caulking around exterior doors and windows and installing weather stripping in the chilly seasons can save you a bundle on energy costs!
5. Set up an outdoor compost bin.
Did you know that up to 50% of the trash in your home comes from food waste? All of that organic material goes in the trash and fills up landfills or is even dumped in the ocean! So instead of burdening our trash system with food scraps, set up a small compost station in your back yard. Over time, it will naturally break down organic material and create a safe, health fertilizer for your yard and plants. Studies show that separating food scraps from the trash also increases the amount of recyclable materials that are properly separated.
6. Optimize your water heater
If you don't have one installed already, put an insulated blanket around your hot water heater and also insulate the pipes around the water heater. Insulated blankets cost between $10 and $20, and you can get pipe insulation for less than $1 for six feet. Also consider turning the temperature on the water heater down to 120 degrees. Think about it – we turn the water on super hot and then use cold water to cool it down to the proper warm temperature – what a waste! Setting your water heater to a comfortable 120 degrees. It will save you up to $450 annually in energy bills…and use far less water!
In warm climates like the Central Valley of California, it takes far more energy (and money) to cool your house every year than it does to heat it. So during the scorching summer, instead of cranking up the air conditioning in the whole house, use fans. Ceiling fans are inexpensive to install and can cool down a room for cheap. Attic fans do a great job pushing hot air out of the attic, which accumulates because heat rises, attics have less ventilation, and roofing materials like tiles or shingles collect heat.
On rooms that face the sun (on the south and west of the house) hang heavy solar-blocking curtains to keep the rooms cool, and consider energy efficient windows to protect against UV rays.
Pull up your front lawn – which wastes an incredible amount of water for nothing more than an aesthetic. In fact, 30% of all water used in the U.S. goes to lawns and outdoor irrigation! By installing native species and draught-tolerant plants, you’ll have a much more attractive, natural, and garden-like front yard – and help the planet in a huge way. Shade trees plated on the south and west of your house can reduce AC bills by up to 15%, and many cities will come plant them for your for free.
9. Rainwater barrels and proper irrigation.
With California in the throes one of the worst draughts in U.S. history, every drop is precious – even rainwater. So why not put out a few barrels in your yard and next to your house, with gutters and downspout flowing into them. In a typical good night of rain, 300 gallons of water may be dumped on your roof alone, so capture this water and then use it for natural irrigation.
There is no doubt –the solar revolution is here, and in dry and hot climates like California, it’s nonsensical NOT to take advantage of the free and abundant sunshine. Thankfully, the cost to install solar panels on your roof or at your home has gone way down in the last several years, as technology and infrastructure has improved. Solar panels pay for themselves pretty quickly and grant homeowners huge tax rebates and incentives. If buying solar panels was too big of an investment, you can even lease them, which costs less than your energy bill every month!
For more information how solar works and availability in your area, click here.