Last week, the New York Times ran an interview with the author, Eric Corey Freed of Green Building & Remodeling for Dummies, and asked him what 5 steps homeowners should take to achieve a greener home.
Here are Freedís 5 beginner steps for a greener home:
1. Look at all the vampire loads that are sucking energy even when youíre not using them. Anything with a ready light. Collectively, vampire loads cost Americans about $3 billion a year. The biggest culprits are stereos, DVDís, game systems and plasma TVs. Simply unplug them when theyíre not in use. Or purchase smart power strips, which cost about $25 and shut off automatically.
2. Take an empty two-liter soda bottle, wash it out, fill it with water, screw the lid on tightly and set it into your toilet tank, as far away from the flapper valve as possible. This prevents two liters of water from being used every time you flush. A new low-flow toilet uses 1.6 gallons per flush. Older toilets go up to seven gallons a flush. Two liters is only half a gallon, so thereís still plenty of water left for most bathroom visits. Besides, you can always flush twice for those rare occasions when itís truly needed.
3. Install an ultra-low-flow shower head. A 1992 federal law requires all shower heads to be “low flow,” which means 2.5 gallons shoot out every minute itís on. Switching to ultra-low-flow means you could go anywhere from two gallons all the way down to half a gallon a minute. Ultra-low-flow shower heads mix outside room air into the water so the pressure is surprisingly good. The technology has really advanced.
4. Install a gray-water system that collects soapy water and diverts it to the toilet. Instead of clean water, you flush with soapy water. WaterSaver Technologies makes AQUS, a $300 system that installs under the sink. Is there a simpler way to capture and use gray water? Actually, there is. Itís a toilet-topped sink called SinkPositive. You replace the toiletís heavy porcelain lid with this sink basin, which has a built-in faucet. When you flush, fresh water comes out of the faucet and you wash your hands with it. The soapy water collects in the toilet tank for the next flush.
5. This is probably the most important: replace old thermostats with a programmable one. Itís kind of like a TiVo of thermostats. It lets you turn the heat down when you sleep and back up before you wake. It can also tell the difference between Monday and Friday, so you can turn down the heat while youíre at work. A good one costs about $20, and saves about $180 a year on energy bills.
Freed concludes by saying that these five projects arenít sexy, but everybody can do them. What steps have you taken to make your home greener?
Ronnie Citron-Fink lives in New York with her husband, two children (when they come home to the nest), two dogs and a cat. Ronnie is a teacher and a writer. She has been a contributing writer for Family Fun magazine. She currently writes articles about education and home design. Her writings are in four books including Family Fun Home and Some Delights of the Hudson Valley.