Steps To Take For A Greener, Healthier Home 

lower monthly electric billIf you’re an environmentally conscious consumer, the first place you’ll want to start being green is in your home. After all, you control many different factors in your house, and it will be easiest for you to begin there. If you’re stumped on what you should do first, this handy guide will help you along the way. From environmentally friendly pest control to ways to make your home more energy efficient, here are ways you can make your home greener.

Energy Efficiency

The best parts about making your home more energy efficient? It usually will save you money, too. It’s estimated that the 115 million households in this country use about 22.5 percent of the country’s energy, which is a staggering amount. The average American family usually spends about $2,200 a year on utilities, according to the EPA. By following some of the these tips, you can save about 25 percent on your bill.

There are many different ways to accomplish this. The first starts with your thermostat. If you use a programmable one like Nest, you can set the temperature so it turns off when you’re not there and clicks back on when you’re about to arrive home. If you’re the type that likes your home hot or cold when you arrive, using a programmable thermostat is a great way to ensure that it’s the desired temperature when you walk in the door without you having to shell out for or waste unnecessary energy. Other quick tips include:

  • Air dry clothing and dishes
  • Turn off electronics when they’re not in use
  • Lower to the water heater to 120 degrees
  • Take shorter showers
  • Consider purchasing Energy Star-certified appliances.

Eco-Friendly Pest Prevention

Yes, it’s possible to have green pest prevention. Sure, it might be easier for you to head to the store and buy the can on the shelf, but that can might contain toxins that can be seriously detrimental to your health. A study published in the medical journal Cancer found that “kids with non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma were seven more times likely than healthy kids to have grown up in a home that was treated regularly by a professional exterminator,” as reported by the Huffington Post.

If you do have a pest problem, there are steps you can take to combat them using eco-friendly methods. One great resource to start with is the site beyondpesticides.org. When you visit, you can search by state to find a green pest control provider. Another great sign to look for is the Green Shield Certified logo. This nonprofit certification program is only handed out to companies that practice “smarter, more effective pest control without unnecessary pesticide use.” Visit greenshieldcertified.org to find providers that meet this criteria and learn more about the program.

You also can learn more about the insects themselves. Sites like insects.org are a great place to start. By brushing up on your knowledge of, let’s say, termites, you’d learn that you can use parasitic nematodes to naturally destroy a termite population. This will not only allow you to use a more biological method of getting rid of those pests, but also can save you the money you would have spent on an exterminator.

3 Ways To Take Control Of Your Home’s Biggest Energy And Water Guzzlers

electricity conservationFifty-eight percent of the energy the U.S. generates is wasted, according to the Energy Collective. The U.S. Energy Administration reports that energy use by the residential sector has increased dramatically over the past 60 years. Where are you losing energy? Learn about three home energy guzzlers and how to take back control of your energy consumption.

Washers and Water Efficiency

The average American home washes 400 loads of laundry each year, according to the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). Many of these households are not using green, energy-efficient options that can save money and energy. The average washer uses 41 gallons of water per load and is the second-largest water user inside of the home. New high-efficiency models use up to 50 percent less water and energy than older washers per load. The EPA states that if all U.S. households were to install water-efficient washers, the U.S. would save upwards of 3 trillion gallons of water a year which could lead to savings of $18 billion dollars annually. Energy Star-labeled appliances are proven to reduce both water and energy use. And, washing machines that have cycle and load setting prove to be more water and energy-efficient than models without the adjustments. So, if your laundry room is a source of water waste, consider upgrading your outdated appliances.

Additionally, washing your clothes in cold water instead of warm or hot water saves energy, too. The Department of Energy recommends washing your clothes in cool water whenever you can. They also suggest switching hot water temperatures to warm or cold settings. Simply switching the setting from hot to warm can cut your energy use in half.

Your Smartphone Uses More Energy Than the Fridge

Believe it or not, your cellphone uses more energy than an Energy Star-rated refrigerator. That’s according to a recent report by the Digital Power Group. The 2013 report states that an average iPhone uses more energy for battery charging, wireless connectivity and data use than a medium-sized Energy Star fridge.

You can easily reduce your energy use at home by unplugging your chargers and other electronics when they are not in use. According to the Department of Energy, five to 10 percent of your home’s energy consumption comes from electronic devices that use standby power.

Enhance your Pools Efficiency

The Consortium for Energy Efficiency reports that standard pool pumps contribute to 70 percent of a pool’s energy use. In some cases, pool pumps will run unmonitored for 24 hours or more, when it only takes six hours of run time to effectively clean the pool, according to Green Building Advisor. The Department of Energy suggests reducing energy use by installing a solar pool heater. The system will include a solar collector, filter, pump and a flow control valve. The Department of Energy states that a solar pool heating system will cost between $3,000 and $4,000, but homeowners will quickly recoup their investments–although cost and payback will depend on your location. Homeowners can even earn a $1,400 tax credit by installing a solar heating system, according to NC Solar.

Solar heated pools require special products to keep them running efficiently. Online retailers like PoolCenter.com will ship your liquid solar heating products directly to your doorstep. Pro Series Liquid Cover, for example, helps to conserve hundreds of gallons of water by decreasing the evaporation of your pool water. The solution is 100 percent harmless and invisible. The liquid cover creates a barrier on the surface even when the pool is in use. The solution also helps to conserve the heat, so you’ll potentially save on energy costs related to heating your pool.

Houston’s Electric Utility Reaping Windfall Profits, Asking For More

The Texas Coalition for Affordable Power (TCAP), a consumer advocacy group, reports that Houston company CenterPoint Energy is pulling in tens of millions of dollars in excess profits, and Houston’s electrical customers are the ones paying the bill.

Texas is a “Power to Choose” state, in which deregulation has opened the electric utility sector to commercial competition. The thinking is that if providers have to compete for customers, the market will decide whether a company sinks or swims, depending on how much customers like and trust them. If customers feel that they are not being treated fairly or that prices are unreasonable, they can switch to a different provider. However, CenterPoint Energy is exempt from this fray: Because it does not provide power directly to customers but is instead a transmission and distribution provider, CenterPoint is not subject to the market and is in fact a monopoly, with no competition. Texas’s Public Utility Commission allows charges to be automatically added to the electric bills of over 2 million customers to cover CenterPoint’s expenses–and allow a profit.

How much of a profit is supposed to be controlled, but CenterPoint has exceeded the authorized rate of return, currently 10%, instead seeing returns in excess of 11 – 12% or more. That may seem like a small difference, but in fact it translated to $46.5 million in excess revenue just in 2013 and may have exceeded $175 million in excess proceeds over the past three years, according to TCAP. CenterPoint is making no attempt to downplay this windfall, boasting to its investors in a June 30th meeting about the company’s profits and freely acknowledging that they were in excess of the allowable amount. When asked about the excess profits by the Houston Chronicle, a company vice president acknowledged the amount, stating that they wanted to earn as much as they could for their investors.

CenterPoint is so enthusiastic about turning profits for its investors that, despite the large amount of profits that it has recently received, the company is seeking a rate increase for 2015. TCAP reports that CenterPoint’s lobbyists have additionally been pushing for less municipal oversight, as cities have traditionally been a regulatory watchdog for the rights of utility consumers. CenterPoint is known to be a top political contributor to the Texas legislature and is reported to have spent around a million dollars on lobby contracts during the legislature’s 2013 session.