Homeowners can help themselves and the environment by choosing more environmentally responsible products or by adopting any measure that allows them to use fewer resources. In this context, “resources” can be practically anything used in the home. Within these broad parameters, there are a number of practical things people can do to make a contribution and reduce their bills.
Green measures for the home can be grouped into two categories. If a home is being constructed or features such as a new pergola or patio are being added, provisions can be made in the construction to ensure long-term resource conservation. If the home is already finished, residents can make purchasing and daily lifestyle decisions to limit their use of resources.
• Make provisions for water harvesting. Many areas experience water shortages making it advisable for people to conserve water in every way possible. Even in places where this is not the case, energy must be expended to pump and store water, so water conservation is always a good thing for the world and for the bill-paying homeowner. A good way to limit water consumption is to use the free water that falls out of the sky. When a home is being built, the owners should install water-catching tanks on the roof or in the yard. Tanks are now made in a wide range of sizes and shapes for use in almost any location.
• Use composites and laminates. This tip is given with a certain amount of caution, because it is true that not all composite products are equal. A composite can be loosely defined as any product using some natural materials along with industrial additives to give superior performance characteristics or stretch natural resources further. Good examples are composite wood products incorporating wood particles in a plastic matrix. These products may be chosen for outdoor features such as a new pergola without detracting from the design, since they look exactly like the real thing. Some controversy surrounds composites because the matrix materials may contain volatile organic compounds (VOCs), but many newer products use safer materials and can bring a real environmental advantage. For instance, that pergola built with composite planks will resist decay and last much longer than natural wood.
• Do not own a drier or limit the use of one. Using electricity to dry clothes is silly when a line in the sun will do the same thing. If the neighbours complain, there are folding clothes racks for indoor use. If it is not practical to completely eliminate a drier in the home, its use should be limited. Parents may use their drier for the baby’s things but dry their own clothes on a line.
• Plant trees to shade the home. A shaded home is cooler and has lower air conditioning bills than one in full sun.
• Use energy-conserving appliances. The Energy Star Australia is a valuable guide for homeowners, so shoppers should look for it whenever shopping for new appliances. Be careful when purchasing used appliances, since some older models do not have energy-conserving features.
• Set the water heater at a lower temperature. Most units make water hot enough to burn the skin. If you need water that hot, heat it on the stove. This will use less power than keeping a tank of water at a constant high temperature.
• Give up reusable bags. Provide your own bags for groceries. Sometimes an old bag can be reused, or reusable bags can be ordered from various online sources.
• Replace incandescent bulbs with CFCs or LEDs. The harsh, unpleasant light of early LED elements has been improved, and newer models are suitable for reading or any other household use.
• Use cold water for laundry. Most modern detergents will work just as well in cold water as hot.
• Cultivate the habit of turning off lights when they are not needed. Open the curtains and use natural light as much as possible.
• Do not leave computers on when they are not being used.
• Have a professional energy audit done on the home.
• Grow as much of your food as possible. Gardening is fun and saves a lot of money. Besides, fresh veggies taste way better than the store-bought kind.
• Fix leaking faucets and other problems causing chronic, slow drains of water or power.
• Use cloth for cleaning instead of paper napkins or paper towels. This is a great way to repurpose old pieces of fabric.
• Reuse old jars. When you finish a jar of something, wash it out and put something else in it. You won’t have to buy so many containers for your kitchen, and you will be decreasing the amount of stuff you throw away.
By using these ideas, any homeowner can cut their bills and their environmental impact, helping themselves and the whole planet.