Upgrade Your Applicances
Take the step: Any time an old appliance gives out, make sure to replace it with an energy-efficient model—and follow our guidelines below for replacing existing appliances. When shopping for appliances, look for the Energy Star logo—it will ensure that you’re purchasing an energy-efficient model, and may make you eligible for a tax break.
Refrigerators: In most homes, refrigerators are the most energy-consuming appliances, accounting for about one-third of the electric bill in the average household. If your fridge was purchased before 1993, it’s very inefficient. Replace it as soon as you can with a new fridge marked with the Energy Star logo—it will pay for itself quickly in energy savings.
Washing Machines: An efficient washer expends 50 percent less energy than a standard washer and uses 15 to 22 fewer gallons of water per load, saving you about $100 per year. The American Council for an Energy Efficient Economy (ACEEE) recommends replacing washing machines older than ten years with Energy Star models.
Why: Appliances account for 20 percent of home energy use. According to the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), efficient appliances use ten to 50 percent less energy and water than standard models. An Energy Star fridge can be 50 percent more efficient than a pre-1993 fridge, saving you over $70 a year on energy costs. When you upgrade, make sure to recycle your old appliances, instead of giving them away to be an energy hog somewhere else. Search Earth911.org for an appliance recycler near you, or contact the Steel Recycling Institute at 800/YES-1-CAN (that’s the number one between “YES” and “CAN”).
Resources: For more about how to make sure you’re saving energy through your appliances, see our Real Green article, “Buying the Best Appliances.”
Upgrade Your Hot Water Heater
Take the step: Save energy, and space, by upgrading to a tankless or solar hot water heater.
Why: In the average home, 14–25 percent of the energy bills each month are going to powering the hot water heater.
Tankless Hot Water Heaters: Tankless, or on-demand, hot water heaters heat water when you need it, rather than constantly heating a tank of water to be ready for use. When you turn on your hot water tap, cold water moves through a pipe and is heated either by gas or electricity just before it gets to you. On-demand water heaters deliver a constant supply of hot water. According to the Department of Energy, on-demand water heaters can be 24–34 percent more energy-efficient than conventional storage tank water heaters for homes that use 41 gallons or less of hot water daily. Plus, you’ll never come home to a burst hot water pipe.
Solar Hot Water Heater: If you want to switch some of your energy off the grid but can’t afford to install a solar electricity system, consider installing a less-expensive solar hot water heater.
Resources: Find out if a solar-powered hot water heater is right for you by reading our Real Green article, “Try a Solar Water Heater.”
Green Your Roof
Take the step: Consider installing a green roof.
Why: Green roofs—roofs that have been upgraded by covering them with a “carpet” of soil, rocks, and small plants—help save energy for building owners by insulating against cooling loss. They also aid the environment by absorbing rainwater that would otherwise contribute to polluted
Energy savings provided by a green roof will differ depending on your climate—those in warmer climates will experience greater energy savings. Environment Canada found that a green roof on a typical one-story building would result in a 25 percent reduction in summer cooling needs.
Resources: For more information about green roofs, read our Real Green article, “Is a Green Roof Right for You?”
Save Energy Through Landscaping
Take the step: Taking a conscious approach to the landscaping around your home.
Why: Doing so can help you beautify your environment and save up to 25 percent of your energy use for heating and cooling. The US Department of Energy says that the proper placement of only three trees will save an average household between $100–$250 in energy costs annually. In warmer months, strategically planted trees and other plants can shade your windows and help reduce your cooling costs. Air temperatures directly under trees can be as much as 25°F cooler than any surrounding blacktop, thereby keeping the air around your home and windows cooler. A small tree that shades your windows now will eventually grow to shade and cool your roof. Shading an AC unit can increase its efficiency by ten percent. In winter months, trees and shrubs can act as wind blockers to stop chilling winds from reaching your home.
Resources: The Department of Energy’s “Consumer Guide to Landscaping” can help you decide which landscaping steps are best for your local environment. Find a local, eco-conscious landscaper in the “Landscaping/Lawn Care” category of our National Green Pages™.
Replace Your Windows
Take the step: In "Level 2," we gave you ways to keep your windows from losing precious warm or cool air from your home. For even greater energy savings, explore whether or not replacing your windows is right for you.
Why: The Department of Energy recommends that home-owners with single-pane windows replace them with more energy-efficient models, although adding a good storm window may be nearly as effective. Double-pane windows will help better-insulate a home, and extra features may be a good idea depending on your climate. In colder climates, consider gas-filled windows (a layer of gas between panes helps prevent cool air from coming through) with low-emissivity (low-e) coatings to reduce heat loss. In warmer climates, select windows with spectrally selective coatings (a special kind of low-e coating) to reduce heat gain.
The big picture : Replacing windows with Energy Star triple-pane windows can prevent almost 3,400 pounds of CO2 from being emitted into the atmosphere—and the windows can save you over $3,000 in energy costs over their lifetime.
Don't Waste Energy on TV
Take the step: With the switch to digital TV coming in 2009 (for more information, see www.dtv.gov), many people may be buying new, digital-ready TVs. If you must shop for a new television, look for an LCD (liquid crystal display) screen instead of plasma.
Why: Plasma screens can use up to six times the energy as LCD screens. But each TV model uses a different amount of energy, so always look for the Energy Star label, which indicates that the TV uses at least 30 percent less energy than conventional TVs. Philips recently launched its new Eco-TV, an LCD model that saves energy by dimming the screen when the TV sensors tell it the room is dark, among other measures.