By AFM Contributing Writer, Cheryl Conklin
Climate change, according to NASA, is “one of the most complex issues facing us today.” It’s an issue that goes beyond science, and it involves politics, economics, and ethics. Despite its large scale, it’s the small things that are going to impact its effects. As a homeowner, there are things you can do to minimize your own carbon footprint and help Mother Nature keep her cool.
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If you have an eye for details, RoofingCalc.com points out you can perform your own smart home energy audit without spending the $400 you are likely to be charged by a professional. Start by looking for areas of your home where heat can escape. This may be old windows, poor seals around the door, or on insulated flooring above the basement. If your home is more than 10 years old, you likely have room for improvement via steps like caulking air leaks and improved heating and cooling.
Harness the power of the sun
Solar energy is provided by the sun free of charge. However, solar panels will cost you. The average cost to install solar panels ranges from $17,760 to $23,828. Many local power companies have agreements with installation providers that can get you a discount. Some even offer money back on your energy bill for installing one or more solar panels. If you can get your neighborhood together and convince several homeowners to purchase solar panels, you’ll have leverage when asking for better pricing.
Get your heat from underground
Many homes today are advertised as being green. One of the biggest selling points for these is geothermal heat. Popular Mechanics explains that geothermal heat comes from underground and is a cost-effective way to save money on your monthly power bill while doing some good for the environment. Retrofitting a home with a geothermal system isn’t cheap and may cost as much as $30,000, but if you can get tax credits or incentives from your local power company, a geothermal system can pay for itself in about 10 years.
Switch to a new type of outlet
If you weren’t already aware, the outlets in your home can continue to provide power to appliances even if they are turned off. Business Insider recommends installing power-saving switches, which can be turned on and off at your convenience and won’t add to your utility bill when not in use. Chargers in particular are the biggest energy vampires in the home, so consider at least upgrading where they are plugged in.
“Low-flow” is a term used in plumbing to describe faucets that use less water than a traditional fixture. When installed throughout the home, low-flow fixtures can cut your home’s water usage in half without sacrificing your hygiene routine. A low-flow showerhead typically runs around $20. Check with your water company – they may provide these free of charge
Maximize natural light
Solar power is not the only way you can harness the power of the sun. Natural light, which is available even on cloudy days, can keep you from flicking on your fixtures. But it’s not enough to simply open the curtains. You’ll need to strategically hang mirrors throughout your home and use a lighter color palette on the walls.
Use common sense
DirectEnergy.com lists more than two dozen ways to be energy-efficient at home. These include common sense actions such as washing your clothes in cold water and setting your thermostat up and down as the temperature changes.
Upgrade your community
Addressing your own policies and practices is one thing, but have you considered making a broader effort? Look at cities that are known for their green practices, and consider pushing for changes on a local level. Bikeability, walkability and renewable energy sources are key factors influencing how green a location truly is.
Challenge your own community to embrace the changes necessary to raise your own town’s environmental ratings. To help make your case, point out how these changes not only create a healthier environment for living, but a healthier economy at the same time.
Making a few modifications to your home won’t change the world, but it’s a good start. By taking the initiative to go green, you set a positive example for your friends and neighbors, and may start a domino effect that can help get the climate under control.
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