{Guest Blogger} 8 Tips for a Greener Home

In honor of Earth Day, Patrick Hughes, NEMA Policy Director for High Performance Buildings, has been gracious enough to put together a little list of helpful tips that anyone (even renters) can use to make their homes more energy efficient. Patrick is very busy these days turning his 1900 DC rowhouse into a green, energy-efficient home, and is blogging about it so everyone can borrow his ideas for their own spaces. He shares some great tips below in his guest post, and I’ve added some recommendations of my own below. Enjoy!

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Home Sweet Green Home

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By Patrick Hughes, NEMA Policy Director for High Performance Buildings

As an energy efficiency advocate, I spend my days thinking about ways to reduce energy waste in homes and buildings. Whether you’re renting a studio apartment for one or residing in a group house for 10, the fact that you’re a renter should not deter you from making energy-efficiency improvements. Although being a renter can feel somewhat limiting at times, especially if your landlord isn’t interested in helping you implement your vision, there’s still a lot you can do to improve the energy efficiency of your home without major renovations or investments.

In observation of Earth Day (April 22), here are a few tips to help you reduce your carbon footprint and save some cash at the same time!

1)    The easiest and most cost-effective way to reduce electricity consumption in your apartment is to change your light bulbs. Swapping incandescent and halogen lighting for CFLs or LEDs results in lower energy use, and thus lower electric bills. It’s great how relatively inexpensive LEDs have become, even in just the past few months. If you haven’t been to the hardware or big box store recently, I’d encourage you to go and check out these lighting options. LEDs mimic the warm color of traditional incandescent light bulbs, they use 75-90% less energy than traditional bulbs, and they can last for 20 years or more, so take them with you to your next apartment!

LED light bulbs

2)    A great way to reduce energy waste is to turn lights off when you’re not using them. You should swap out your light switches for occupancy/vacancy sensors, daylight sensors, and other lighting controls that automatically turn off the lights when they aren’t needed.

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3)    Electronic gadgets consume a lot of electricity each year, even when they aren’t on. DVRs use more electricity than your refrigerator! Between my fiancé and me, we have two laptops, two tablets, and two smart phones, but we make sure to use power strips to turn off electronics when they aren’t in use. Some power strips and smart plugs can even turn off electronics automatically based on whether you’re in the room or not. Reducing so-called “vampire power” (the power consumed by electronics when they aren’t on) can save you up to $100 a year!

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4)    Use a programmable thermostat, which will turn your heating and cooling system off and on, depending on when you leave and return home. Some utility companies, like Pepco’s Energy Wise Rewards Program in Maryland and D.C., will install a new programmable thermostat for you. Not only that, but they will pay you if you allow them to turn down your air-conditioning for a short period of time during the summer to help ease congestion on the electric grid. During those times of peak electricity demand, the most expensive and dirtiest power plants are running at full capacity, so by turning down your air-conditioning you are reducing your carbon footprint even further.

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So take a look around your own home this Earth Day and think about some of the small changes you can make that might have a big impact on reducing your environmental footprint. It also can’t hurt to have a few extra dollars in your wallet at the end of the month from lower electricity bills!

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And a few more ideas:

5) Consider adding thermal curtains to your windows! Keeping those babies closed on extremely hot or cold days will help keep your rooms at a constant temperature. Already have curtains? Just order some heavy duty drapery lining online and add them to the backs. (Or, if you’re anything like me, ask your dry cleaner to do it for you.)

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6) Change out your shower heads to more efficient models to save on water. There’s something for every budget, and you can take them with you when you move out!

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7) Start a gift registry with all your energy-saving wishes added, so family and friends know exactly what you get you when birthdays and holidays roll around. I like Amazon.com registries because you can add virtually anything from anywhere. BONUS: You never have to return a gift again.

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8) Ask your landlord to install solar panels. Solar City, for example, will install and maintain your panels FOR FREE (I’m not even kidding), and then you pay them instead of the electric company for the energy you draw from the panels. It’s totally free for your landlord so don’t be afraid to ask! If they say no just send them this blog post and give me their info so I can call and harass them on your behalf. Not only is installing solar panels more environmentally conscious, but your monthly energy bills could be reduced by as much as 50%!

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Do you have any renter-friendly tips and tricks to share with other readers? If so, please leave your suggestions in the comment section below! And for more info on Patrick and his wonderful project at home, definitely follow #thepatrickproject on Twitter to stay up to date!

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