17 simple ways to make your home more sustainable



According to data from the World Energy Council, the average American home uses over 11,000 kWh of power each year. To put that in context, thats 2 ½ times what the average UK home uses, 3 ½ times what German homes use and nearly 10 times what a home in China uses.

There are lots of reasons we use  or misuse  so much energy, including appliance efficiency standards, hydro costs, carelessness and the size of our homes. (For instance, the average UK house size is less than half the size of a US one.) And while energy consumption is a big piece of the puzzle, it isnt the only one  we need to do a better job with water conservation and waste management, too.

Here are just some ways you can make your home more sustainable by saving energy:

Clothes drying: Consider air drying laundry using a clothes drying rack or clothes line instead of an electric dryer, particularly in the summer when clothes dry more quickly.

  1. Light switches: Remember to turn off the lights and appliances  like a TV or fan  when youre not in the room. Use timers for lights you keep on for security, like porch lighting, which will do little to deter intruders during daylight hours.
  2. Thermostat: New high-tech programmable thermostats automatically kick in just before you wake up or come home and can save a lot of energy.
  3. Computers: Most PCs today have useful power-saving features to help reduce energy but even when theyre on sleep mode, theyre still sapping power. In fact, standby power accounts for up to 10% of all home electricity use. If youre not using your computer, shut it off. And if your iPad (or electric shaver) isnt recharging, unplug it.
  4. TV: A lot of us have a bad habit of leaving the TV on mute in the background as we go about home activities or take a phone call. Its wasteful  shut it off!
  5. Light bulbs: Compact fluorescent bulbs use 75% less energy and can last up to 12 times longer than old school incandescent bulbs. Replace them!
  6. Fireplace: If you have one, close the damper when its not in use (make sure the fire is completely out and ashes cold)  an open damper lets in cold air in winter.
  7. Fans: Ceiling or floor fans, particularly when youre asleep, are an excellent way to stay cool in the summer without using air conditioning.
  8. Window coverings: Blinds or curtains arent just for privacy  they help a room retain heat in the winter and keep it cool when its blazing outside.
  9. Refrigerator: Fridge coils, when covered in dust, grease or lint, cut the appliances efficiency by 6%. Carefully pull out your fridge and start wiping!
  10. Hot-water heater: Manufacturers often set your tank at a temperature that makes water scalding hot. Reduce the heaters setting by a few degrees and see if you notice a difference when youre showering or washing dishes. If you dont, try reducing the temperature by a few more degrees. Also consider a blanket for your water heater and insulation for the pipes that carry heated water from the tank into your home. New tankless heaters are even better energy savers  they heat water as you need it, significantly reducing the amount of energy wasted to have hot water continually at the ready.

Here are few more ways to reduce water and waste in your home:

  1. Dishwasher and washing machine: Both these appliances use a lot of water so its a good idea to run them only when you have a full load. Running your washing machine with cold water also saves energy and is usually just as effective.
  2. Drip, drip, drip: Dripping faucets and unused running water  like when youre brushing your teeth  waste about 8 gallons a day. Turn off the tap and inspect your faucets. Fix the leaky ones right away.
  3. Toilets: Most new toilets are designed with low-flow efficiency to converse water. If you dont want to buy a new one, you can always carefully place a brick into the tank to decrease the reservoir size and, therefore, the amount of water your toilets use.
  4. Reusable containers: These can significantly reduce waste from food and beverage packaging, and they limit use of aluminum foil, plastic wrap and paper. For instance, a glass water bottle can be used practically forever.
  5. Reusable cotton bags: Ideal for groceries or carrying your lunch, cotton bags are durable and reduce the use of plastic bags, which we consume at an alarming rate of a million every minute!
  6. Recycling: Weve been recycling for decades but its amazing how many of us still place non-recyclables into the recycling bin and toss out perfectly recyclable items. Go online or ask your city or town for a list of what you can and cannot recycle and post it near your recycling and garbage bins as a regular reminder.

This list is by no means an exhaustive one. We encourage you to search online for additional tips and suggestions on how you can do your part to create a more sustainable home.

What ways have you found most effective to save energy, reduce waste or lower your utility bills? Sharing is caring  tell us all about them in the Shop Talk Blog community forum!

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Did you know?

Solar energy use has surged 20% a year for the last 15 years. While solar panels are less efficient in cloudy weather and, obviously, at night, improvements to solar cell and battery technology, as well as dropping prices, are making solar energy a more viable alternative for powering more and more homes. The best part? Your energy bill can drop to zero and the fuel source  the sun  is pollution-free.

(Source: National Geographic)