9 ways to go green on any budget

Shannon Lee

Many homeowners might want to go green, but they wonder if they can afford it. That can be especially true if you live in an older house, which might not be up to any sort of eco-friendly standard. No matter your budget, there are several things you can do to your house that will save money and help the environment at the same time.

When the budget is tight

Sometimes even the smallest change can make a big difference. These affordable upgrades can have a significant impact.

  1. Change a light bulb. It seems like such a simple thing, but it matters more than you might think -- Energy Star estimates a CFL or LED bulb uses 75 percent less energy and produces 75 percent less heat. That one little light bulb can save you about $6 per year in energy costs. Multiply that by all the light bulbs in your house and that's some substantial savings while being good to the environment, too.
  2. Install a programmable thermostat. You don't need all that cooling and heating when you're not at home, so programming your thermostat to adjust to your lifestyle can save big cash -- about $180 per year for the average home.
  3. Seal up the ducts. No matter how efficient your HVAC system is, you can lose much of the benefit if your ducts aren't sealed properly. Sealing and insulating the ducts can increase the efficiency of your heating and cooling by 20 percent, sometimes more.

When you have some breathing room

Got a little more money to spend on the good things that going green can give you? These eco-friendly home improvements can save you big money in the long run, and they can improve your comfort level immediately.

  1. Go with new Energy Star appliances. To get the Energy Star approval, appliances must save on energy costs. Whether it's the refrigerator that uses 20 percent less energy or the dishwasher that saves an average of 1,300 gallons of water over its lifetime, these appliances save a little energy every day.
  2. Add more insulation. Keep all that heating and cooling where it belongs by adding insulation where it counts. The U.S. Department of Energy recommends focusing on the attic first, followed by the walls, floors, basement and crawl spaces.
  3. Upgrade your water heater. A solar water heater system with a gas-powered backup can save the average home up to $190 per year, according to Energy Star. If you have an electric backup, look to save $250 per year. Large families can save even more.

Going crazy with going green

If you've got a big budget, these significant improvements can do wonders for both your comfort and the environment.

  1. Get Energy Star windows. New windows can protect you from UV rays, dampen outdoor noise and make your home more comfortable. In addition, you could lower your energy bills by as much as 15 percent by installing new Energy Star windows.
  2. Use solar power. Adding photovoltaic cells to your home can be a large initial investment, but it can lead to substantial savings over time. Though solar cells function most effectively in the Southwest, anywhere sunlight touches can be a good candidate for solar power.
  3. Opt for a geothermal unit. Geothermal heat pumps are 45 percent more efficient than other units. Though the upfront cost can be significant, the savings over time can be impressive and a 30 percent tax credit -- in effect through 2016 -- can help ease the sting.

These options are just a sampling of the many things you can do to make your house -- new or old -- more energy-efficient. To find out more about going green with any budget, speak to a local contractor.

About the Author
Shannon Lee is a freelance writer and occasional novelist who has spent over twenty years writing about home improvement, education, relationships and medical and health topics.

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