David Martinez

Four simple changes you can make in your home that reap environmental benefits

August 14, 2008

"Even simple changes around your home can reap green benefits,"says Louis Smith, AIA, with Commercial Builders and Architects inCharlotte, North Carolina.

1. Switch-controlled electrical outlets
Benefit: many electronic devices, such as televisions,computers, and cell phone chargers, use electricity even when theyappear to be turned off or in standby mode. This is called phantompower, and it may make up 10 percent of a typical power bill,according to the U.S. Department of Energy.
How to use: By having an electrician link outlets to wallswitches, you can turn off the phantom power to an electric devicewith the flick of a finger, "You can accomplish the same goal byplugging devices into a power strip and turning it off when devicesare not in use," Snyder says.

2. Programmable thermostat
Benefit: These thermostats save energy by reducing heat andcooling output when you're not at home. They cost around $50 andcan save about $150 per year in energy costs.
How to use: Installing a programmable thermostat is arelatively simple DIY project for those who have experience workingwith wiring, but if you don't, an electrician can suppluy andinstall a thermostat that matches your home's heating and coolingunit.

3. Compact fluorescent lights (CFLs)
Benefit: CFLs use about 75 percent less energy, generate 75less heat, and last up to 10 times longer than incandescent bulbs.You'll save about $30 in electricity costs over each CFL's life.
How to use: CFLs contain a small amount of mercury (aboutthe amount that would cover the tip of a ballpoint pen), so handlewith care. If a bulb breaks, go to www.epa.gov forcleanup recommendations. When CFLs burn out, visit www.earth911.orgfor local recycling options.

4. Opt for green power:
Benefit: Comes from emission-free resources, such as solar,wind, geothermal, and low-impact hydroelectric energy, or fromrenewable fuel sources, such as biomass or methane gas capturesfrom landfills or large farms.
How to use: More than 20 percent of utilities nationwide nowoffer customers the option of buying part or all of theirelectricity from a green power source. Call your utility company orvisit www.epa.gov/greenpower tofind local options. You'll typically pay a premium of about twocents per kilowatt hour (kWh) used, adding an average monthlypremium of about $18.

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