- For every 10 minutes you shower, you may be using up to 25 gallons of water. If every GH reader used a WaterSense-rated showerhead (epa.gov/watersense), 120 million gallons could be saved in just one day — that's 182 Olympic-size pools! — and $88 million a year.
- Windows and doors can be major causes of heat loss, with faulty windows adding 10 to 25 percent to your heating bill. Open blinds during the day to let sun in. At dusk, close them to trap heat.
- CFL bulbs work best in rooms where they'll be left on for at least 15 minutes. Frequent on-and-off (say, in a closet or pantry) can shorten bulb life, so the replacement cost can outweigh energy savings. — Todd J. Kent, GHRI senior test engineer
- Configure your office printer or copy machine so it prints on both sides of the page.
- Pay bills online, or set up automatic check paying from your bank account. No envelopes, no postage — and no late fees, if you’re on an automatic plan.
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- Driving 10 mph above 60 is like adding nearly 50 cents to the price of a gallon of gas, since higher speed equals more guzzling.
- Choose concentrated or ultra cleaning products, which use 50 to 60 percent less packaging than traditional formulas while cleaning just as thoroughly.
- March 1944:THEN — Grease from fingers or food is bad for your refrigerator door’s rubber gasket. Wash it with soap and water. Don’t make [your freezer] work overtime by making more ice cubes than needed. NOW — These days there’s a good chance your icemaker shuts off automatically. And more important than cleaning the gasket: dusting the coils underneath or on the back side of the fridge (accumulated dust can cause the motor to overheat and cost more to run). Unplug the appliance, and use your vacuum’s crevice attachment or flat long-handled brush to carefully remove dust.
- Plant trees around the house strategically (on the south and west sides; shading the air-conditioning unit, if possible) to save up to about $250 a year on cooling and heating.
- Switch to a front-loading washer from a top loader. In a recent GHRI test of front loaders, they used less than half the water traditionally used by a top loader for a full load.
- You probably know that compact fluorescent bulbs are more energy efficient — in fact, ones that are Energy Star qualified use about 75 percent less electricity and last up to 10 times longer than traditional incandescents. They now come in a covered style, so they don’t look strange in certain fixtures, and can hold a clamp-on lampshade.
Video: D.I.Y Green Cleaners >
- Install a programmable thermostat, which can save an estimated $150 yearly if preset to cool your home’s air or pump up the heat (such as before you get home from work)
- Upgrade two toilets made before 1992 to low-flow ones, and turn down water costs nearly $200 a year in a two-bathroom, four-person home
- Mythbuster!MYTH — The bigger a window air conditioner, the better it will cool a room. REALITY — Air conditioners work best — and conserve energy — when they run at a consistent rate. An oversize AC tends to cycle on and off frequently, because it cools the immediate area around the unit very quickly and then stops because the internal thermostat thinks it’s done; when the temp creeps up, it goes on again. A unit that’s the right size is less likely to overshoot.
- Washing your car for 10 minutes with an unrestricted hose can use 80 gallons of water, while the typical car wash uses half that — and even less if the shop recycles its water. Ask. — Carolyn Forte, GHRI home appliances & cleaning products director
- Greener holidays: When cooking for your guests, turn down your thermostat a few degrees to save on energy costs — with the oven going, everyone will still feel warm and cozy.
- True or false: The only way to save your computer’s energy during a lunch break is to shut it down. False. Leaving it in “sleep” mode uses very little electricity — with no wait for rebooting when you return.
- True or false: Heat is your home’s biggest energy hog. True. Heat typically accounts for 31 percent of the costs, and AC uses 12 percent. Contact your local utility company to ask about a free energy audit, which will locate drafts.
- Don't flush your cash. Toilets are the top source of indoor water use for a home. In the 1992 law, they were mandated to a max of 1.6 gallons per flush. Older ones can use from 3.5 to 7.0 GPF — real water wasters! Early low-flow toilets often weren’t efficient; some required two or more flushes, defeating the purpose.
- Hang drapes to help block drafts from where the window meets the frame.
- Spritz spray cleaner on cloth, not surfaces. You’ll use less.
- Running a full dishwasher uses half the water and energy — or less — of washing the same dishes by hand. Another water saver: Don’t rinse before loading. — Carolyn Forte, home appliances & cleaning products director
- True or false: Compact fluorescent lightbulbs (CFLs) are the most energy-efficient option. False. LEDs are. Now available as direct replacement bulbs, they can use about half the energy that CFLs do, and last about four times as long — in some cases, 25 years!
Video: Saving Green: Kitchen >
- Game off: Yep, get the kids to turn off video games (both the TV and the console) after they’re done playing, and you’ll win back about $100 per year.
- Get pumped: Once a month, check the pressure of each of your tires against the guidelines listed in your car’s manual; add air if needed. Doing this can improve mileage by about 3 percent.
- Stop brown-bagging it (literally) and wasting paper when you pack lunch. The L.L.Bean Flip-Top Lunch Box (plus some ice packs) keeps contents nice and cool.
- Pocket up to 25 cents for every laundry load you wash in cold water (versus hot). Cold-wash three loads a week, and save up to $40 a year.
- Stairways, halls, and garages get a lot of through traffic, and people often forget to shut off lights once they’ve passed by. Install motion sensors that turn lights on when you walk in and off when motion is no longer detected. Indoor sensors range from $15 (with the sensor fixed in the wall switch) to $45 (a kit with a separate sensor to put where you’d like). Outdoor ones can cost $16 (for basic floodlights) to $100 (for more decorative or powerful models). Outdoor fixtures that are solar-powered — used for driveways and patios — charge during the day and don’t draw off house electricity ($60 to $100).
- Lower your heater’s temp by 2 degrees to potentially lower your bill about $40 a year. In warm months, set the AC at 78 degrees (at 73 degrees, you’ll pay 40 percent more!).
- Not in the budget to replace your toilets? Try Brondell Perfect Flush ($79), which will convert your toilet into a dual-flush — saving about half the water and $100 per year per toilet.
- Take leave of your leaf blower. Using a gas-powered leaf blower for one hour can emit the same amount of carbon monoxide as driving a car 224 miles, and can spew 11 times the exhaust particles. (Electric blowers are less polluting.) If every GH reader raked instead, 6.3 million pounds of carbon monoxide emissions would be avoided — plus, you’d burn 300 calories.
- You’ve probably weather-stripped your exterior doors, but don’t forget the inside ones that lead to uninsulated areas like your garage or attic. My quick, cheap fix: A threshold draft blocker, made of two foam rolls connected by a piece of fabric. You slide it under the door to keep cold air out and your heat from escaping. And it only costs about $10 at the drugstore or online. — Stacy Genovese, GHRI technical director
- It’s a no-brainer: The lower the lights, the less electricity used. In case where you use regular bulbs (many CFLs aren’t compatible with dimmer switches unless the package says so), setting your dimmer at 75 percent output saves an estimated 20 percent in energy — and can quadruple the life of the bulb.
- Be sprinkler savvy. For every half hour your hose runs, an astounding 240 to 300 gallons of water — enough for almost two weeks’ worth of showers — flows into the ground. For responsible lawn and garden watering, GHRI suggests using a water timer on outdoor spigots: Basic egg timer styles (around $15) simply turn off the hose after a set time so water’s not wasted if you forget to turn it off. More expensive digital ones ($35 and up) can be programmed to start and stop on a schedule.
- Inspect weather stripping around exterior doors. Old, cracked, or gone? Replace it to reduce heat loss.
- On an electric stove, use a pan that matches the burner size. Putting a six-inch pan on an eight-inch burner wastes 40 percent of the energy because the heat dissipates into the air. — Sharon Franke, GHRI kitchen appliances & technology director
- Truly turn off electronics. Plug your devices — the TV and DVD player, or the computer and printer — into a UL-certified power strip; switch the whole group off for the evening to prevent phantom electrical draw.
- Since 1992 legislation, all new showerheads must have a flow rate of 2.5 gallons per minute or lower. Replace your old showerhead and save up to $45 a month for a family of four.
- Fix dripping faucets. A drop per second wastes 192 gallons per month! First, try tightening all fittings a quarter to half a turn. No luck? The gaskets or O-rings might be worn out. To check, the faucet will need to be taken apart, so for best results, consult a plumber.
- Replacing a pre-1990 refrigerator with a new Energy Star one saves enough energy to light an average house for nearly four months. — Sharon Franke, GHRI kitchen appliances & technology director
- Air out:Replace filters regularly. A new oxygen sensor alone can improve mileage by as much as 15 percent.
- Don’t use more product than the directions indicate. Pouring in extra laundry detergent or fabric softener won’t get your clothes any cleaner or cuddlier. Instead, follow the markings as directed on the label.
- Check for toilet leaks. Open the tank and drop in enough food coloring so that the water tints. If color slowly appears in the bowl, there’s a leak. Flush dye, then replace worn-out parts or get a pro to do the dirty work for you.
- Improve the seal of interior doors (like the one to the garage) by attaching a sweep. Sold at hardware stores, these flexible plastic strips are easily screwed to door bottoms, and keep cold air out from below.
- Greener holidays: Put outdoor light decorations on timers so they don’t inadvertently stay on all night long.
- Make sure the gaskets on access doors to your attic and basement aren’t old or cracked.
- April 1970:THEN — Daily cooking produces grease, smoke, and odors that can cause eye and nose irritation. To remove cooking pollutants, a ceiling or a wall exhaust fan and two types of range hoods — vented and ventless — are available. NOW — Still good advice, with one caveat: Choose a hood that vents to the outside, if you can.
- Wrap an insulation blanket around your water heater and lower its running cost as much as 9 percent.
- Add aerators: Most kitchen and bath faucets can be fitted with an aerator ($5 to $10 at hardware stores), which screws into the faucet opening and mixes air into the water stream for less water output while still maintaining adequate and steady pressure.
- Apply both interior and exterior caulking to fill gaps around window frames. If cold air is coming in around the sashes, impacting your heating, install appropriate weather stripping.
- DIY energy audit: Preventing drafts around windows, doors, and other openings in your home (fireplaces, attic hatches, even electrical outlets) can decrease a heating bill by 5 to 30 percent. Pinpoint the problem yourself (and skip hiring a costly professional energy auditor) with a thermal leak detector. This special thermometer takes infrared temperature readings: Aim it at a reference point (like the wall), pull the trigger to take a reading, then do the same along the window frame or another opening. Find a big temp dip, and that’s where to focus patching and insulation efforts.
- Don't tap out: Teach children to turn off the water while brushing their teeth. Leaving the tap running during the recommended two minutes of brushing can waste up to five gallons of water a day.
- True or false: Using a coffeemaker daily can cost you $35 a year. True. Leaving the warmer on for an hour a day adds up. GHRI Kitchen Appliances Director Sharon Franke turns hers off to prevent a burned taste and microwaves coffee to reheat it — saving energy to boot.