It’s Great To Be Home . . .

a homebody’s guide to home renovation and more

Kermit Got It Wrong . . . February 27, 2009

That little green frog has no reason to complain about being green these days – not only is it easy to be green, but going green can be pretty easy on the wallet as well.  Think you’ve got a dainty carbon footprint?  Take a sec and check it out here.  

While it probably isn’t feasible for most of us to convert our homes into ultra-green abodes, there are a few simple changes that each of us can make in our homes or our daily routine to help out ol’ Mother Earth.  You might be surprised that these green tips can actually lead to a little more green in your bank account!  
 

1.  Make CFLs your friend.  ENERGY STAR says that compact fluorescent lights, or “CFLs,” use only 1/4 of the electricity used by ordinary incandescent bulbs – that means that even if CFLs cost a little more than incandescent bulbs, the amount of money that you’ll save on your electricity bill will totally make up for the higher up-front costs (about $30 over the life of the bulb, according to ENERGY STAR).  And you’ll be ecstatic once you realize that your CFLs last 10 times longer than your old incandescent bulbs, saving you trips to the store AND extra cash.  The hubby and I switched out all of the regular incandescent light bulbs in our home for CFLs – it’s a simple switch to make, and what a difference!  

CFLs have really come a long way in the past few years.  Modern CFLs have left the twirly CFLs of yesteryear in the dust!  While those spot-em-a-mile-away twirly bulbs are still around, they’ve been joined by a bunch of new and much more attractive friends:

 

Bare Products Covered Products Reflector Products
Mini-Spiral or Twist Tube or Universal Incandescent/ A-line Globe G25, G30, G40 Candelabra, Post or Bullet Shape Indoor and Outdoor
R20, R30, R40, PAR38
Spiral bulb triple tube bulb covered bulb globe bulb bullet bulb floods

CFLs also give you a choice of the quality of light you want – do you want daylight (like for applying makeup), soft white (for most living areas), or bright white (for areas that you really need lit up)?  For a little more info on CFLs, check out the ENERGY STAR website and its neat little interactive tool you can use to figure out what CFLs are best for your home – click here to check it out!!  And find out how to safely dispose of CFLs here.

 

2.  Go low with the flow.  Every time most of us take a shower or brush our teeth gallons and gallons of unused water goes down the drain.  Low Impact Living says that low-flow attachments for your sink and shower can save up to 3,000 gallons of per person each year – that’s a serious amount of water!!  These attachments are pretty cheap ($30 and up), and can make a big difference in your water consumption as well as your water bill.

 

3.  Program it, stat!  Programmable thermostats are one of the greatest inventions ever – how awesome is it that you can tell your programmable thermostat that you want your house to be 70 degrees at 3 pm on Tuesday, and your programmable thermostat will make it happen!?!  You can find low-cost programmable thermostats (I’m talking $40 or less) at any Lowe’s or Home Depot that you can install in a jiff.  And once you’ve got that baby in place, use it!!  Make sure that you turn the heat or A/C down when you’re at work or out of town – your utility bills will thank you!

 

4.  Put a sweater on it.  Ah water heaters, apparently one of my favorite subjects.  You already know to turn your water heater down to 120 degrees – that way you can prevent scalding and save the money you would have been spending to heat all that water to a bazillion degrees.  But Low Impact Living has a few other nifty (and cheap!) ideas to increase the efficiency of your water heater – put an insulation sweater on your water heater and insulate the pipes coming out of your water heater.  The added insulation will decrease the amount of energy that your water heater has to expend to keep your water hot.

 

5.  Recycle.  It can be confusing to figure out what can and can’t be recycled, and how to take advantage of recycling programs in your city.  Earth911.com will tell you everything you need to know about recycling and how to recycle in your neck of the woods.  Since my husband and I added an extra trash can to our kitchen specifically for recycling, we’ve been amazed at how little actual “trash” we have – almost everything that we used to just throw away is recyclable! 

 

6.  Give plastic water bottles the boot.  Yes, they’re convenient, but those little “disposable” plastic containers are a big no-no these days.  Take a trip to your local grocery store or click here to pick up a few reusable, sturdy plastic bottles that you can use and then pop in the dishwasher to reuse.  And with all the water filters available these days, the water in your reusable bottle will taste just as good as store bought (and it will be a lot cheaper).  
think-outside-the-bottle

 

That doesn’t sound so hard, does it?  Visit Low Impact Living for more ideas on how you can save a little green while you’re saving the planet.  Got any green ideas of your own?  Let us know!!
 

Images courtesy of ENERGY STAR and Think Outside the Bottle

 



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Kick Your Water Heater To The . . . Attic?? February 16, 2009

I know, I know – it sounds crazy.  Before I get into the specifics, let me give the background for this story…

When we were deciding how to renovate our kitchen, everyone that we talked to was all atwitter about our lack of pantry space – we were getting rid of upper cabinets in a lot of areas, and the kitchen did not have a built-in pantry.  What was a girl to do??  I was considering a lifetime of takeout and fast food when all of a sudden – I got it!!!

What about that water heater closet in the garage?  Before you think I’m crazy, hear me out – the water heater closet was accessible from the garage, but backed up into the laundry room which was . . . you guessed it – right next to the kitchen!

So now I had a space for the pantry, but where was the water heater going to go?  Straight to the attic, as it turned out.  That little baby made the move with no trouble and was soon joined by another water heater friend, and they lived happily ever after.  Moral of the story – stick your water heater in the attic and use the extra space for something a LOT more fun, like a pantry or a closet.  Brilliant!!

Once the water heater was relocated, we patched up the garage access to the closet, made an opening in the laundry room, put in some shelves and got right down to enjoying our new pantry.  Problem solved!! 


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Cold Shower? Not Anymore February 15, 2009

With one water heater and almost 2,700 square feet spread out over only one level, you can imagine that anyone waiting for a toasty hot shower in our house had a pretty long, cold wait.  Until now.
 

Enter the recirculating pump.  What is a recirculating pump, you might ask?  Well, it’s a cool little device that a plumber or an ambitious DIYer can connect to your water heater to provide hot water to all of your fixtures, practically instantaneously.  Check out an example of a recirculating pump right here.  While we briefly thought about installing a tankless water heater instead, we quickly realized that recirculation pumps are about 1/3 the cost of tankless water heaters – decision made!
 

Not only does a recirculating pump keep you from freezing while you wait for a hot shower, but it can also save you buckets of money in utility bills – if you do it right, as we learned the hard way.  At our house, we installed a second hot water heater AND a recirculating pump, guaranteeing that we’d never again take a cold shower.  However, we were shocked when we got our first, gasp-inducing gas and electric bills – how could this be??  Once we actually thought about it, the high bills made a lot of sense – the gas bill was high because the hot water heaters were constantly heating water, and the electric bill was big due to the recirculation of water throughout the house.  But now that we had the culprit behind the high bills figured out, how could we fix it?  Well, the hubs had the brilliant idea of installing a timer on the recirculating pump, limiting the time that the recirculation pump was operating to those times that we would actually be showering (with different settings for weekdays v. weekend).  Pretty cool, right??  Now we have hot water when we need it AND cheapo gas and electric bills!

Got any great tips for keeping your bills down?  Stay tuned for more water heater fun…