8 steps you can take to go green and save money - Quincy Newspapers, Inc. - Print, Broadcast, Interactive

8 steps you can take to go green and save money

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© iStockphoto.com / Morgan Lane Studios © iStockphoto.com / Morgan Lane Studios


By Andrew Housser

 

Spring is well underway, and it is a good time to spring clean up both your home and your budget. Identify ways to save energy and money with these eight changes that are double-eco-friendly (ecological and economical).

1. Change your light bulbs.

Just a few years ago, the only option for energy-efficient light bulbs was compact fluorescent lights (CFLs). If you chose the wrong bulb, your lamps might flicker or take five minutes to warm up. Now, consumers have hundreds of energy-efficient options. LEDs are still relatively expensive up front (yet coming down in price), but some bulbs will last for decades – and your bills will be tiny in the meantime. You can even choose smart bulbs that shut themselves off after a period of time, or install an exterior bulb that goes on after dark and off at dawn. Replacing your household's five most frequently used bulbs can save $75 a year.

2. Install water-saving fixtures.

For around $5, you can install a low-flow showerhead yourself. Most of today's showerheads direct the flow to maximize the shower power, so you will not feel like you are standing beneath a dribble. Many are adjustable, too. And if you need to swap out a toilet in your home, look for one with the WaterSense label. By replacing old, inefficient toilets with these water-efficient models, the average family can reduce water used for toilets by 20 to 60 percent. That could save a family of four $2,000 over the fixture's lifetime, according to the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). Plus you will be conserving a valuable resource.

3. Warm up to lower water heating costs.

Water heating accounts for about one-fourth of heating and cooling, or $475 a year. Wrap your water heater in an insulating blanket (about $20) to reduce how often it runs. You can also lower your hot water temperature to 120 degrees and probably not notice the difference – except in your energy bill, which could go down $5 a month. New energy regulations mean water heater manufacturers now must sell more efficient models, too. If you buy a new model, you'll have a win-win for the budget and the environment.

4. Cut transit costs.

Check out your city's options for alternative transit. More communities are getting on board with bike lanes, ride sharing and improved public transportation. You can save money, reduce pollution and possibly get in better shape by greening your commute.

5. BYOWB.

That stands for “Bring your own water bottle.” Buying bottled water is a huge waste of money, plastic and the fuel needed to transport all that water from factory to store to your home. In fact, some sources say it takes three times the amount of the water in a bottle to manufacture the water bottle. Most tap water is drinkable, so instead of spending $3 on a bottle of water – the amount you might pay for 700 gallons of tap water at home – fill up your refillable bottle instead. An at-home filter for your refrigerator is inexpensive and ups the confidence in the water quality, too.

6. Clean up your laundry room's energy footprint.

In most homes, the dryer uses more energy than any other appliance. Hang most of your laundry to dry, indoors or out, and you could save around $100 per year. Your clothes will last longer, too. Wash clothes in cold water to preserve garments' color (most detergents are now designed to work just as well in cold as in warm water) and save up to 90 percent of the energy in your washing machine cycle.

7. Be smart about going smart.

Smart-home devices are all the rage. These tools let you use your smartphone to control your heat, your security system, your lights and more. But before you jump on the trend, be sure you need what they offer. A $30 digital programmable thermostat might give you the same features you would use in a $200 model, and you can bank the savings.

8. Sign up for paperless billing.

Paying your bills automatically has several advantages. Saving all that paper is great for the forests. Avoiding buying stamps keeps money in your pocket. For instance, if you pay six bills a month, the stamps would cost $35 a year. And perhaps best of all, it is easy to find and automatically pay paperless bills, which can help you avoid late fees and preserve your credit score.

What will you do with your savings? It is a great idea to use money you used to spend on bills and instead stash it in an emergency fund or use it to get out of debt. And you will know you are helping the planet, too.

 

 

Andrew Housser is a co-founder and CEO of Bills.com, a free one-stop online portal where consumers can educate themselves about personal finance issues and compare financial products and services. He also is co-CEO of Freedom Financial Network, LLC providing comprehensive consumer credit advocacy and debt relief services. Housser holds a Master of Business Administration degree from Stanford University and Bachelor of Arts degree from Dartmouth College.
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