By C. Jeanne Heida , Yahoo! Contributor Network
One of the most basic ways to "go green" is to use less energy to heat and cool your home. Air conditioners, furnaces, and water heaters account for the majority of our home energy needs. Scaling back your use can be easier than you think.
Use a whole house fan instead of air conditioning. We have a whole house fan which cools down the heated interior of our home by pulling in cool exterior air through open windows. Whole house fans use a tenth of the electricity of an air conditioner making them a very green alternative for cooling your home.
Plant fast-growing trees to shade your home. Shade trees naturally block sunlight from heating up the roof and interior of your home, and will drop air temperatures in the yard up to 20 degrees. Yards without shade trees can benefit from fast-growing varieties such as Lombardy Poplars which will provide welcoming shade in as little as three years.
Harness lost heat to warm your house. Hot showers, your dishwasher, stove, and dryer all generate heat that is often lost. One simple tip that works for heating my kitchen area is cooking or baking in the early morning or late afternoon. The heat generated by cooking is often enough to keep the kitchen warm through meal times.
Use a humidifier to increase air temperature. Homes with 40 percent relative humidity or more feel several degrees warmer than a home with only 20 percent humidity. Using a humidifier means that your family will feel comfortable at a lower temperature which is another easy, eco way to reduce energy consumption.
Upgrade to high efficiency gas furnace and watch the thermostat. When we replaced our furnace a few years ago, we switched to a 97% high efficiency gas furnace which dropped our winter energy consumption by 30 percent. Lowering the thermostat to 55 degrees at night and 65 degrees during waking hours trimmed an additional 30 percent from our bill. While this may seem a bit extreme, we discovered that our bodies adjusted to the cooler temperatures in just a few weeks.Lowering your energy use doesn't just take the pressure off your budget, it eases the strain on our earth's limited resources as well. These five tips will help you live a greener lifestyle with just a few simple changes.