American Studies

How can I make my home more sustainable?

Here are some ideas you should consider:
  • Adjust door thresholds for an airtight fit and install weatherstripping. The largest air-leak culprits are gaps around plumbing, chimneys, recessed lights and unfinished spaces behind cupboards and closets. Also be sure to seal ductwork connections with duct mastic to prevent leakage.
  • Don't overlook outlets: Install foam gaskets over switch and receptacle plates. Caulk the sides first, then place the gasket in place. Insert child protective covers into outlet holes to stop air.
  • If air seems to be coming in around your windows, it may be time to boost their efficiency with caulking, weatherstripping and storm windows. Better yet, replace them with new double-glazed, low-E windows that are Energy Star-approved.
  • Put shade screens and tinting on windows facing south, east and west. Insulated window shades can reduce winter heat loss and summer heat gain by as much as 80 percent.
  • Arrange furniture so it does not block heating and air system vents and return registers.
  • Reduce the amount of hazardous waste generated at home from paints, pesticides, fertilizers, etc. Read labels and buy only what is needed to complete the job. Use paints and sealants with low or no volatile organic compounds (VOC). They don’t smell as bad, and they offer the same quality, cost and colors as traditional paints.
  • Replace incandescent lights with compact fluorescents (CFL), which use three-quarters less electricity and last years longer. The new CFLs don’t flicker and give an excellent quality of light. They also generate less heat, so your air conditioner doesn’t have to work as hard.
  • Use motion detectors, photo-sensors and timers on exterior lighting.
  • Lower the temperature of your water heater to 120 degrees and insulate your water heater and pipes.
  • Change your thermostat temperature by just 2 degrees when you’re home and awake, and 8 degrees when you’re at work or asleep.
  • Install a programmable thermostat and use it consistently. This can save you as much as 10 percent a year on heating and cooling bills.
  • Consider having higher-efficiency heating and cooling equipment installed if you can. Also consider replacing your water heater with an on-demand model.
  • Wash your family’s clothes in full loads with cold water—maybe even hang them out to dry on a clothesline.
  • Turn off lights and appliances when you leave a room, especially the computer when the workday is done.
  • Select high-efficiency refrigerators, clothes washers and dishwashers that are Energy Star-approved. Select a gas dryer if possible. You’ll see the savings.
  • Don’t overload the refrigerator; it makes the compressor work harder. Also, vacuum the coils in back every six months to improve heat transfer. Finally, don’t stand in front of the refrigerator with the door open, letting the cold air drain out. Consider unplugging or getting rid of that extra refrigerator in the garage or basement.
  • When you boil water, put a lid on the pot. The water boils faster, using less energy. Also, make sure the burner pans are clean and shiny, so they’ll reflect more heat and save energy.
  • Hire an energy auditor to perform a home energy assessment so you can know where the worst energy waste is occurring.
  • If you need more living space, remodeling is the greenest choice you can make. Reusing an existing house rather than building a new one (no matter how energy efficient it is) is a much greener thing to do.

(These suggestions taken from Atlanta Home Improvement Magazine)

Useful Links:
US Green Building Council: LEED for Homes
Energy Star