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Bankrate's 2007 Living Green, Saving Green Guide
Green tomorrows
A penny of prevention is worth a dollar of cure.
Green tomorrows
  Green remodeling
Entire home
Idea 1:
Energy audits
If you want to make sure the impact on your savings is as large as the impact on the planet, an energy audit (offered through utility companies and private companies) can help you find the places you're losing the most energy, and where you can make changes that will give you the most bang for your buck. The audits, which can last up to a few hours, may be just an expert with a clipboard or may include high-tech tools like blower doors (a fan that measures air leakage in doors), duct blasters (a machine that measures duct leaks) and infrared cameras (a device that can show damaged insulation, improper caulking, and gaps). Cash strapped? You can find a do-it-yourself audit at the Department of Energy's Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy Website.
$0 to $700.
Idea 2:
Compact fluorescent light bulbs
You've likely heard this tip before, but it can't be emphasized enough: For just a few dollars' investment, you can reap significant returns by replacing your old incandescent bulbs with compact fluorescents. Though you'll pay a bit of a premium, you'll more than offset the costs with life expectancy and energy savings. The bulbs usually use less than a third of the energy of a typical bulb while producing the same amount of light, and they'll last up to 10 times longer. They also don't give off as much heat as incandescent bulbs, which helps keep rooms cool.
$2 to $5 a bulb, but you can reap from $10 to $75 in energy savings over the life of the each bulb.
Idea 3:
Programmable thermostats
Having a thermostat that automatically adjusts to a few degrees cooler (or warmer, depending on the season) while you're out of the house can mean big savings on your energy bill. While it's not necessary to have one -- you can adjust a traditional thermostat easily on your own -- it's just one less detail you have to worry about.
Programmable thermostats start as low as $30 and can result in savings of about $150 annually. Visit WarmAir.net to calculate savings.
Idea 4:
Low or no-VOC paints
Many paints and varnishes release volatile organic compounds, or VOCs, which are dangerous not only to the environment, but to your health. Whenever possible, look for low- or no-VOC products. Though some brands tout their low-VOC status in large print on the packaging (Sherwin Williams offers a Harmony line of zero-VOC paints and Benjamin Moore has the Pristine EcoSpec offerings), you may have to read the fine print. To meet EPA standards, low-VOC paints must have less than 200 grams of VOCs per liter and varnishes less than 300 grams per liter; many have far less.
$27 to $45 a gallon.
Idea 5:
A poorly insulated house -- particularly in attic spaces -- can mean that you're spending lots of money cooling (and heating) the sky. Up to a third of all of a home's heating and cooling is lost through the attic and another quarter through the walls. Though all properly installed insulation will improve your energy efficiency, consider recycled cotton insulation as a green option.
The costs vary, of course, depending on the type of insulation and the size of your home. But the savings can be significant. If, for example, you had no insulation in your home and improved to insulation rated at R-22, you would retain about seven times as much heat that would be lost through your ceiling.
Idea 6:
New windows can get pricey, but a combination of tax credits and energy savings can help offset the cost. Double- or even triple-paned windows will do a great job preventing drafts and reducing your energy costs. While the energy savings alone might not make it a sure bet, if you'd like a different look for your windows anyway, the upgrade will be worthwhile. If you opt against new windows, be sure to make sure your current windows are well sealed; this alone will make a difference in energy loss.
Double-paned vinyl windows start at about $150; wooden windows are substantially higher. Triple-paned windows and glazed windows add significantly to the cost. Savings, however, can run 25 percent to 50 percent on heating and cooling costs.
-- Posted: Oct. 4, 2007
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