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Go Green At Home To Save Money: 7 Items To Upgrade

Solar panels with Electric Company WorkerThere are many reasons to go green at your home. Not only are you helping the environment, conserving water and energy, but you’re also saving your own pocketbook. Cut down your water and electricity bill with a few upgrades around the house, saving money in the long run and helping Mother Earth.

Household Appliances

Upgrading and investing in your appliances is a great way to help the environment as well as your wallet. Although new appliances can be a bit expensive at first, finding appliances that are Energy Star-certified will save you money in the long run, and eventually pay for themselves. For example, Energy Star-certified Whirlpool dishwashers have a sensor that determines how dirty your dishes are and adjusts the water amount used based on the dishes, ensuring not to waste more water than needed. It also has space for more dishes, thoughtfully using every crevice, giving you a bigger bang for your buck.

Proper Insulation

A poorly insulated home allows air to leak out around your windows and doors causing your energy bill to skyrocket. Whether your home has no insulation or a thin layer, adding insulation can pay for itself within a few years as your electricity bill drops. Since heating and cooling your home account for 50 percent of the energy consumed, proper insulation ensures efficient heating and cooling of your space.

Solar Panels

Utilizing the natural (and free) power of the sun is a great way to cut down your energy use and your electricity bill. Although a bit pricey up front, solar panels installed on your roof not only save you money and cut down energy consumption but send any excess energy back to your utility company. Look for any incentives and tax breaks from your state government to install solar panels for your home for additional savings.

Energy-Efficient Windows

Thanks in part to better insulation, energy efficient windows keep your home cooler in the summer and warmer in the winter. Windows labeled Energy Star are a great upgrade if you’re looking to go green to save some green. These windows basically pay for themselves from all the money you’ll be saving on your energy bill.

Eco-Conscious Lighting

Although more costly than traditional incandescent light bulbs, LED and CFL bulbs use less energy, last longer and saving you more money in the long run. CFL light bulbs can save you a whopping 66 percent on energy and 400 pounds of greenhouse gas emissions, compared to their incandescent counterparts, according to an infographic on Huffington Post.

Programmable Thermostat

Upgrade to a programmable thermostat that regulates your home’s temperature instead of allowing it to continue heating or cooling. When the temperature in your home drops below or rises above a designated temperature, your thermostat will turn on the system for either heating or cooling. In addition, setting your thermostat one degree lower during the winter and one degree higher during the summer can save you money on your energy bill without a big sacrifice of your comfort.

Low-Flow Water Fixtures

Upgrade your home’s water fixtures to low-flow toilets, shower heads and faucets. This will cut your water bill costs as well as conserving our precious resource. While you’re at it, make sure you fix all of your leaks which waste a lot more water than you would imagine.

How Solar Power Technology Can Reduce Your Energy Costs And Carbon Footprint

solar energy savingsThis month a team of students from the Stevens Institute of Technology won the Department of Energy’s biennial Solar Decathlon for building the best solar-powered home. Inspired by Hurricane Sandy, the SURE HOUSE, which stands for SUstainable + REsilient, is designed to continue to produce electricity during blackouts by using a solar array in combination with a 60s-style beach house design and boat building materials. The house uses 90 percent less energy than its conventional counterparts and can even supply neighbors with emergency power for electronic devices.

The Solar Decathlon illustrates the Department of Energy’s focus on developing solar technology as a solution for America’s energy future. Solar photovoltaic panels now cost half of what they did in 2011, a trend the DOE seeks to advance with a $53 million research initiative, announced last year, to drive solar energy costs down even further and cut carbon pollution. The DOE estimates that there is now enough solar power being generated every year to power 3.2 million average American homes. Here are a few ways you can use solar power to cut your energy costs and reduce your home’s carbon footprint.

Indoors

Heating consumes about half the energy of the average home, but you can cut this cost in half by using passive solar heating and cooling, according to the Department of Energy. This strategy uses a home’s location and materials to economize energy use. Active heating strategies add the pumping of solar-heated air or fluid through a home. Relying entirely on active heating is not usually cost-effective, so it is usually used to supplement passive heating.

For existing homes, start with an energy audit before pursuing any solar installations so that you can identify your most efficient potential improvements. When designing new homes, a passive energy strategy requires that part of the south side of your home has an unobstructed view of the sun. Your building designer will need to factor in considerations such as the orientation and size of the windows, the thermal energy absorbed by other materials in your home, how absorbed energy will be distributed through your house, and how to use features such as roof overhangs to prevent summer overheating. After your home is built, be sure to keep south-facing glass clean and to avoid blocking sunlight from hitting heat-absorbing walls or concrete slab floors.

Water heating, your home’s second-biggest energy cost, can also be done more efficiently by using solar power. Here you can select between passive and active systems. The cheapest type of passive option is an Integral Collector Storage (ICS) system, where a solar-heated water storage area heats cold water flowing through it. In more expensive thermosyphon systems, collected warm water rises through a higher storage tank as cooler water sinks. Active systems add circulating pumps and controls to circulate water either directly or indirectly using a heat-transfer fluid and heat exchanger. Which option is best for you depends on your solar resource, climate, and budget.

Outdoors

Using solar-powered lights to illuminate your yard is one of the easiest ways to use solar energy. Have a pool or a hot tub? Save money on your electricity bill and switch to solar power to cut the cost of heating your outdoor pool or hot tub.

In Your Car

For the first time, this year’s Solar Decathlon entrants were required to design their homes to generate enough energy to power a battery-electric vehicle in addition to the residence itself. Contest rules did not permit contestants to store electricity generated from the home’s roof in the car’s battery, but this could be easily done. Meanwhile, Ford has been working on improving the efficiency of solar panels in the roofs of electric cars, according to Consumer Reports. Soon you may be able to power an electric car from your home and car solar panels and leave no carbon footprint.

3 Simple Ways To Save Energy And Money

Solar EnergyWhen it comes to energy conservation, you can now save the planet and your hard-earned money. If you’re ready to adopt an eco-friendly lifestyle, the following practices will help you feel better about your carbon footprint and let you watch the savings pour in.

Take Shorter Showers

To take short showers, here’s a tip: Listen to music while you shower and never stay under running water for longer than two songs — and, ideally, one. The more time you spend getting doused by hot water, the more energy is being used to heat the flow and the more money is running down the drain.

Another counter-intuitive way to reduce water use is to take more showers. If you shower once per day and find yourself routinely taking more than five minutes to get clean, take two quicker showers instead. This method keeps you fresher all day and means you don’t have to stay in the bathroom so long. It’s the perfect blend of time management, water management and budget management.

Invest in Solar Panels

By this point, you should know that low-flow shower heads, energy-efficient lightbulbs and double-paned windows better maintain your indoor temperature. In addition to these simple solutions, consider buying energy-efficient refrigerators and stoves.

The best move you can make, however, is installing solar panels. The only problem is the initial investment; it may take a few years to save enough on electricity to pay for the panels, depending on how cheap your fossil fuel-powered electricity is and how much sunlight your house gets. Google recently came up with a solution for knowing how much solar energy can help your home. Its Project Sunroof estimates the exact amount of sunlight that hits any roof and enables you to measure how long it would take to reap savings off of an initial investment. Unfortunately, it is only available in parts of California and Boston so far, but it will soon be expanding its scope so that everyone can make the most-informed decision.

Take Charge of Your Mobile Device

How many times per day do you charge your devices? Between a laptop, tablet, mobile phone, e-reader and every other gadget in your arsenal, you are likely plugged into the electric grid more often than you would like to admit.

To lessen your impact, maximize each charge. Use your device’s power-saving mode or switch over to airplane mode when you don’t need to be connected. Better still, purchase a phone that has an Ultra Power Saving Mode, like the Samsung Galaxy Note 4, that helps your phone last longer and waste less energy.

These moves alone won’t solve global warming, but they help foster a mental shift. The more you look to make the small, no-brainer moves, the more you will find your whole way of thinking change about conservation. And as the baby steps increasingly lead to larger changes, you really will be making a difference and Mother Nature will thank you.