21 Ways to Green Your Home (and Save Money!)

Reducing your carbon footprint doesn't require an entire lifestyle overhaul. Start with a few of these simple swaps and habits and you'll even slash your energy bills.

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1. Switch to Energy Star-rated CFL bulbs, like GHRI fave Satco's Mini Spiral S6202; they use 75 percent less energy and last 10 times longer than standard bulbs. You'll knock $30 off your electric bill for each bulb over its lifetime.

2. Plant trees around the house strategically (on the south and west sides; shading the air-conditioning unit, if possible) to save up to about $250 a year on cooling and heating.

3. Install dimmer switches in the living and dining rooms and three bedrooms to dial down electricity fees about $37 a year.

4. Since 1992 legislation, all new showerheads must have a flow rate of 2.5 gallons per minute or lower. We recently looked at the Evolve Roadrunner Showerhead ($40) which can save a family of 3 up to $75 and 2,700 gallons of water per year.

Related: Check Out Our Top 10 Energy Saving Tips

5. Wrap an insulation blanket around your water heater and lower its running cost as much as 9 percent.

6. Run a full dishwasher whenever possible - it uses half or less of the water and energy of washing the same dishes by hand. And don't waste water by rinsing before loading (today's machines are designed to power off the mess).

7. Invest in a faucet-mounted water filter for a low $30, and use refillable bottles like our top-rated GHRI pick, the Nalgene OTG Everyday 24-ounce bottle. By giving up bottled water, a family of four can save about $1,250 a year.

Double-Duty Ideas
The goal is "reduce, reuse, recycle."

8. Magazines. Roll up a couple of these and stick one into each of your calf- or knee-high boots so the footwear will keep its shape.

9. Empty paper-towel roll. Flatten,and use it to sheathe a knife kept in a drawer.

10. Small glass food jars. These make perfect see-through storage vessels for nails, screws, nuts, and bolts.

11. Old shower curtain. Stash one in your car's trunk to line it when carting potentially messy paints or picnic and beach gear.

12. Used coffee grounds. Spread them over flower beds of acid-craving plants such as azaleas or rhododendrons.

13. Plastic tub. Get the largest-size container of yogurt, sour cream, or margarine. When done with the tub, rinse and reuse it as a travel dish for pets or for craft-supply storage.

Related: Recycling Mistakes You Might Be Making

14. Plastic gallon milk jug. Cut off top with a utility knife just above the handle and use as a scoop for kitty litter, birdseed, etc.

15. Foam packing peanuts. Put some in the bases of potted plants to help drainage.

16. Plastic mesh produce bag. Turn it into a no-scratch scrubber for a gunky pot or pan. Ball up the bag, scour, then throw the whole mess away.

Good (Enough) Ways to Go Green

17. Good Way: Switch to a front-loading washer from a top loader. In a recent GHRI test of front loaders, they used less than half the water traditionally used by a top loader for a full load.
- vs. -
Good Enough: Pocket up to 25 cents for every laundry load you wash in cold water (versus hot). Cold-wash three loads a week, and save up to $40 a year.

Related: Go-Green Advice from 1903 - Today


18. Good Way: Install a programmable thermostat, which can save an estimated $150 yearly if preset to cool your home's air or pump up the heat (such as before you get home from work).
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Good Enough: Lower your heater's temp by 2 degrees to potentially lower your bill about $40 a year. In warm months, set the AC at 78 degrees (at 73 degrees, you'll pay 40 percent more!).

19. Good Way:
Upgrade two toilets made before 1992 to low-flow ones, and turn down water costs nearly $200 a year in a two-bathroom, four-person home.
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Good Enough: Not in the budget to replace your toilets? Try Brondell Perfect Flush ($79), which will convert your toilet into a dual-flush - saving about half the water and $100 per year per toilet.

20. Good Way: Always look for the 'organic' label on veggies and fruit, which means that they were produced without the use of synthetic pesticides and fertilizers.
- vs. -
Good Enough: If buying only organic is a strain on your finances, opt for organic versions of the items known to have the highest pesticide levels: peaches, apples, and bell peppers.

Related: 5 Eco Labels You Can Trust

21. Good Way: Open windows and doors or operate window or attic fans when the weather permits. Most heating and cooling systems do not bring fresh air into the house.
- vs. -
Good Enough: Bring home superhero plants. Certain easy-care greens (English ivy, mums, and peace lilies) naturally help remove indoor air pollutants like formaldehyde and benzene.

Are you already taking steps to save energy in your home? Share your suggestions with us!

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