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Six Steps to a Greener Home

Here are six things anyone can do to their home to make it greener. A “green home” means a lot of things. But it always includes energy efficiency. These simple things increase the efficiency of the home by attacking the most dramatic energy loss aspects of a house.

They are relatively cheap and simple steps but their energy efficiency is actually very powerful. Doing these things can in most cases save you more money on utility bills than doing anything else.

1. Add a layer to your attic insulation,
especially if your home was built before 1980. This is one of the easiest and most effective ways to cut heating and cooling costs, according to the Department of Energy. As a general rule, if you have less than 12 inches of insulation in your attic, you probably need more.

2. Seal all cracks and crevices, both inside and outside your home’s building envelope.
Pay particular attention to penetrations for cable wires, plumbing pipes and electrical boxes, as well as those spots around windows and doors where siding or bricks and wood trim meet. Use expandable foam-sealant products around doors and windows, then finish off with the best-quality caulking you can find. Make sure all products are low in volatile organic compound (VOC) content to ensure good indoor air quality.

3. Seal the ducts.
More than likely, thanks to leaky ductwork, you’re heating your attic and basement and wasting energy. That’s because small cracks or holes in the ducts leak warm, conditioned air into the unheated spaces through which the ducts travel. So check your ducts for leaks, and use duct mastic (preferable) or duct tape (acceptable) to seal the leaky spots. If you’re installing ductwork in an addition or new home, consider installing the ducts in conditioned spaces, or make sure the ducts are well-insulated.

4. Install a programmable thermostat.
By programming your thermostat to lower your home’s air temperature when no one is home this winter (say, from 72 degrees to 65 degrees during the day), you can save as much as 10 percent on your heating costs. Programmable thermostats are priced from about $30, which you should be able to recoup in the first year of use.

5. Check and, if necessary, replace furnace filters,
and clean air registers, baseboard heaters and radiators as needed. By changing filters monthly, you can save as much as 10 percent on heating costs.

6. Insulate the water heater and pipes.

If you haven’t insulated your water heater, you may be losing heat into the surrounding area, which in turn will make the water heater work overtime to keep the water hot. Consult your water heater directions or a qualified water heater professional to determine whether your water heater is properly insulated. Also, insulate hot water pipes to keep the water in them warmer longer. Insulating materials for pipes and water heaters are available at hardware and home improvement stores.

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