The average U.S. household spends close to $2000 on utility bills annually.  As much as 1/3 of that money can be saved by making your household more energy efficient and using environmentally friendly methods to do so. It is never too late to become environmentally savvy and the effects are always helpful.  Following these tips and others will reduce your impact on the environment and save you some of your hard earned money in the long run.

HEATING

Heating bills are a large portion of annual expenses in the average home.  There are many factors that contribute to the large amount of money spent on heating a home.  Some of the factors are regional climate, the amount of insulation in the home and whether or not windows are properly sealed.  Lower your heating bill each year with these behaviors:

  • Use Layers and Blankets Instead of Cranking up the Heat
  • Caulking Drafty Windows- Sealing drafty windows will keep the heat you want in your home, while keeping the cold out.
  • Door Blockers- Placing a rolled towel below the door is a free way to keep heat in your home.  If you prefer a more permanent solution, you can purchase a door blocker.
  • Lower Thermostat Setting- Keeping your thermostat at a lower temperature, especially when at work or while sleeping, can save you up to hundreds of dollars annually.  To do this automatically you can purchase a programmable thermostat that will adjust itself at certain times or depending on whether or not the room is occupied.
  • Home Insulation- Energy Star estimates that having a properly insulated and sealed home can save you 20% on heating and cooling costs.
  • Window Insulation- Improving your window insulation or upgrading your windows to a triple pane gas filled windows will keep heat in your home during the winter and block heat from getting inside in the summer.
  • Use an Energy Star Rated Water Heater- Energy star models are rated for efficiency and environmental impact. Tank-less or solar water heaters are the most efficient tanks on the market.
  • Line dry clothes- Using an electric dryer, especially multiple times in a week can send your appliance costs soaring.

WATER

Reducing the amount of water used in your home is a simple and extremely effective way to lower your annual utilities costs.  This consists of everything from monitoring shower times to reducing the amount of laundry you do in a week.  While water is an abundant resource, using it wisely is still instrumental to the planets health and your pocket book.

  • Use a Water Filter or Reusable Bottle
  • Wash Clothes in Cold Water
  • Washing Dishes by Hand- This will use less hot water and less water overall.
  • Reduce Bathing Times- To reduce the amount you use, try to keep bathing times consistently under 10 minutes.
  • Buy or Build a Rain Barrel- Rain barrels are a relatively cheap and efficient way of storing water that can be used to water plants, gardens or perform household chores.

ELECTRICITY

Electronics contribute a substantial portion of your annual electricity bill.  One quick way to lower cost (without disconnecting your cable service) is to switch to energy star rated appliances.  Most of them now have an automatic power down feature which turns the appliance off if it is not in use for a period of time. There are many other ways to get that electricity bill down as well.

  • Buy LED or Fluorescent Lights- Replacing your incandescent light bulbs with LED or fluorescent lighting can save up to 75% on your annual lighting costs.
  • Use Power Strips- Most appliances still use energy even when they are turned off.  By plugging your appliances in to a power strip and turning off the strip after use, the appliances will no longer use up your money or energy.
  • Electronics Disposal- When an electronic no longer works, recycle the item at a nearby electronics recycling location (recyclespot.org can assist in finding you a location) which is more eco-friendly and can earn you some money.

MISCELLANEOUS TIPS

  • Make or Pick up Reusable Grocery Bags- Most grocers now offer reusable bags that you can take home instead of the traditional paper or plastic.  These bags, which are usually made of recycled materials, are more sturdy, dependable are much more environmentally sound.
  • Pay Your Bills Online- This reduces the amount of paper waste generated by your billing companies and your home.
  • Carpooling- The average work commuter spends nearly $1,300 per year. Splitting that cost with only one co-worker can save you each $600 per year and reduces your carbon footprint substantially.
  • Fuel Efficient Vehicles- If you are in the market for a new car, why not try one of the new, cleaner hybrid cars?  These new models can get 34 miles per gallon or more.
  • Start Your Own Garden- Growing food at home is a much safer, healthier and inexpensive alternative to buying your produce at a store.  Growing your produce naturally reduces the amount of preservatives and chemicals you and your family ingest, keeping them healthier and happier.
  • Use Homemade Cleaning Products- By making your own household cleaning products you can reduce the amount of chemicals in your home’s air and keep your children away from harmful chemicals all while saving a large portion of your budget.  For homemade cleaners that are eco-friendly visit TheDailyGreen.com or purchase cleaners that have a “Green Seal” certification.

RECYCLING

  • What to recycle – Finding out which items in your home can be recycled is as easy as finding the small numbered marking on the container.
  • Recycling old electronics – In the past few years though recycling old electronics has become easier. Some websites offer to buy back your old cell phones instead of having you throw them out.  Also, numerous companies offer recycling services for televisions, computers and other electronic devices in the Kansas City and other metropolitan areas.

COMPOSTING

The average American family of four throws away close to 20 pounds of food each month.  This food then goes to landfills where it accounts for more than 20% of the waste composition.

Benefits of Composting:

  • By diverting compostable food from landfills, you can reduce the amount of methane in the atmosphere astronomically.
  • Composting will also add vital nutrients to your lawn or garden, recycle waste that may not be recycled otherwise and is better for the environment than chemical fertilizers.

How to Compost:

  • Starting a compost pile will take some planning and a little work. Some websites that can help get you started are eartheasy.com and nationalgeographic.com.  Missouri Organic is a local company that can help you start and maintain your compost pile.
  • The most basic need is mesh wire or some sort of enclosure, if you want to keep your pile tidy.  These can be built by hand or purchased.
  • The piles are easy to maintain, needing only to be churned and dampened every so often.

What to Compost:

  • Most food scraps can be composted.  Dairy, meats, fish and oils are unable to be composted.  Compost piles should be made up of both carbon based products (newspapers, straw and leaves) and nitrogen based products (food, lawn clippings).

RENEWABLE ENERGY

Not all forms of renewable sources of energy are practical in any given area and this is one reason for the continuing reliance on fossil fuels.  Solar, wind, hydro and geothermal energy are all viable options in different regions and should become the norm rather than the exception in the near future.  Installing alternative energy sources such as solar panels and wind turbines now can also grant tax breaks and rebates, making these options more affordable.

  • Solar Energy – Solar energy is predicated on the fact that the fast moving particles travelling from the sun to the earth can be captured and converted to energy efficiently.  As the technology continues to grow each year, solar panels become more efficient and less expensive.  For more info on solar energy options in the Kansas City area visit KCPLsave.com.
  • Wind Energy – Wind energy is best suited for areas on a shore line or any place that has a high amount of wind.  The turbines come in varying sizes and can provide enough energy to power a home, small business, farm or college campus.  Kansas City is placed as an ideal inland area for investing in this source of energy.
  • Hydro Energy – Hydro energy is a form of renewable energy this is available immediately and that harnesses the power of running water and converts it to electricity.  Living in an area such as Kansas City, with myriad streams and rivers running through the city and neighboring cities, provides an exclusive and exciting opportunity to utilize this source of energy.  Currently the U.S. is the number two consumer of hydro energy worldwide and hydro energy is the most widely used form of alternative energy in the country.
  • Geothermal Energy – Geothermal systems can be used to reliably heat or cool a home or business.  Tubes are placed under the surface of the earth in the areas that have a constant temperature of close to 58 degrees.  In colder months, the heat below the ground is brought up through the tubes and distributed as warm air through a duct system.  During warmer months, the warm air inside your home is dragged back down to the tubes and cycled through to be redistributed as conditioned, cooler air inside.