Ready to make this your most sustainable summer ever? As we settle in for another season of warm and sunny days, now is a great time to take a look around your home and think about making some simple green updates. There are lots of concrete steps you can take to lower your household’s energy and water consumption, all summer long — including many projects you can tackle in just a few hours.
Looking for a few quick and easy green home projects to try this summer? Here are ten ideas to try out for your Chicagoland home. What would you add to the list?
1.) Install a Programmable Thermostat
Home automation can help you keep your home cool and comfortable — while also helping rein in your summer utility bills. After installing a smart thermostat, you can automatically set your system to increase the temperature while you’re away, and lower the temperature by a few degrees while you’re home. While you are home, energy efficiency experts encourage keeping your home’s interior temperature within a few degrees of the temperature outside. You may even be able to section your home into “zones,” and focus on cooling just the rooms you use most. Taking simple actions such as these can help you save as much as 10 percent a year on heating and cooling costs.
2.) Hang New Blinds or Window Treatments
Thermal energy is a major source of discomfort, especially in the summer months. Fortunately, you can stay cool by strategically covering your windows during the hottest and brightest parts of the day. This summer, consider adding simple window treatments, which can reduce the amount of heat streaming in while also allowing you to enjoy some mood-enhancing natural light when you want it. Install energy efficient window coverings to help prevent heat gain; some quick and effective options include blackout curtains and blinds. On the exterior of your home, shutters and awnings can also help reduce the amount of heat that enters on bright summer days.
3.) Set Up a Low-Impact Garden
Want to enjoy the health and wellness benefits of tending to your garden during the summer months, without using too much water? There are all sorts of solutions that you can use to flex your green thumb, while staying green. Look into adding an ornamental rock garden, which can add beauty without requiring any excess water. You may also consider planting cacti, succulents, and other low-water plants, or swap out some of your thirstiest flowers for native species that will thrive during a Midwest summer.
4.) Seal Up the Gaps In Your Home
Cool air loves to sneak away, right when you need it most. To stay cool and cut down on your energy use this summer, spend some time searching for gaps and cracks in your windows and doors, where cool air might escape. You can seal cracks and openings with caulk or weatherstripping, or work with a local professional to evaluate and improve the insulation in your walls, basement, and attic.
5.) Adjust Your Water Heater
Getting your water heater ready for summer is a simple, effective way to save money — and make your household more sustainable — with just a few simple steps. At the start of the season, consider lowering the temperature on your water heater by a few degrees. While the Department of Energy recommends keeping your water heater around 120 degrees, most units come at a factory default around 140 degrees. For each ten degrees you lower the water temperature, you can save up to 3 to 5 percent on your next utility bill, according to a report from HouseLogic. Similarly, you can keep your system running efficiently by draining your tank of sediment, and adding a simple insulating blanket to your tank, which can help reduce heat loss by 25 to 45 percent, per HouseLogic.
6.) Start Composting
Composting can help reduce the amount of waste you send to landfills, while producing a rich material that you can use to support healthy plant growth in your backyard and garden. That’s a win-win! To start, composting requires three main components — lawn refuse and waste; vegetable scraps and food waste; and water. To learn more about the benefits of composting and how you can begin this summer, check out this great guide from the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA).
7.) Update Your Old Appliances
When was the last time you upgraded your oven? Has your washing machine been in your home longer than you have? If you have the budget, upgrading some of your home’s appliances can make a significant impact on the amount of energy you use. Modern washers with an “Energy Star” certification use 25 percent less energy and about 70 to 75 percent less water than units did 20 years ago, according to data cited by Consumer Reports. Similarly, updating your air conditioner to a more efficient, modern model may help you save 20 to 40 percent on your cooling energy costs, compared with an air conditioner from just ten years ago.
8.) Capture and Reuse Water
Want to make sure you’re not letting perfectly good water, and money, flow down the drain? This summer, take some simple steps to capture and reuse water around the house. This might include collecting water that you run while letting a faucet or shower heat up, or turning off the tap while you brush your teeth. Similarly, washing dishes in an energy efficient dishwasher can save more than 20 gallons of water per session, compared to washing dishes by hand. Looking for an outdoor project? You can also install an outdoor rain barrel, to collect water which you can then use to care for your lawn and garden.
9.) Sweep Your Home for “Energy Vampires”
Many common electronics devices will continue to draw “phantom” or “stand-by” power, even when they’re turned off or set to sleep mode. Over time, these little energy vampires can add up, and cause a significant uptick in your home energy bills. Regularly sweep your home and unplug any appliances you’re not using. You can also switch to power strips, which can allow you to cut off the flow of energy to multiple sources at once. Some smart energy strips can even cycle on and off, or alert you to how much phantom power your TV, computer, or video game console is actually using.
10.) Replace Your Showerheads, Toilets, and Faucets
You don’t need to overhaul your entire plumbing system to promote a more sustainable household! Instead, consider switching out your old fixtures for “low-flow” models, which can help reduce the amount of water that you use, without sacrificing water pressure or comfort. According to reports, adding just one low-flow showerhead can help the average American household save 2900 gallons of water per year.
How Are You Making the Most of Your Time at Home?
This is the time to remember what’s truly important — health, family, and the bonds that tie us together. Whether it’s now serving as a school, office, playground, or simply a safe space, our home has never been more important. We know this is as well as anyone. At Baird & Warner, Chicagoland has been our home since 1855.
We are here for you, no matter what. We understand that you still have important real estate decisions to make, and our mission is to make achieving those goals easier. We will continue to provide the most updated information and guide you through this extraordinary time with a calm and steady hand.