We all know we need to conserve energy, cut fuel bills, and reduce our carbon footprint, but sometimes it seems that doing good can cost you a bundle -- especially when it comes to environmentally-friendly home improvements.
Going green doesn't have to mean losing green. Doing so now can save you cash, particularly on electric bills.
"With a little know-how and some affordable products, you can create a home that uses energy efficiently and saves you money," says Mei Noguchi, President of Sentina, a company that manufactures cost-effective LED lighting solutions.
It’s easy to get started:
• Look for Stars: Home appliances can look alike, but they often vary greatly in energy use.
Look for appliances marked with an Energy Star, the federal government's label for energy efficient appliances. Read the yellow and black Energy Guide sticker, which has an energy efficiency rating. The lower the number, the more energy and money you'll save.
• Light the Way: Whether indoor or outdoor, LED lights can light a walkway for pennies a day.
Formerly limited to traffic lights and airplane emergency exit routes, LED lights now combine efficiency with aesthetics for home kitchens, bathrooms, hallways, bedrooms and patios.
Check out SentinaSmart.com, maker of the ZenLight, which combines Japanese Shoji Paper and LED lighting to create a soothing, peaceful glow. These lights are especially useful as hallway nightlights or bathroom or kitchen accents and can be purchased for less than $50.
• Sense It: Whether you're lighting your home or backyard, motion and photosensors go a long way to help reduce electricity costs.
Consider outfitting indoor lighting with photosensors, which automatically turn on lamps at dusk. Motion detectors, meanwhile, are great for indoor and outdoor use. Look for wall plug-in versions that can double as emergency lighting during power outages.
• Strip Wisely: Nowadays, every home office or entertainment room is outfitted with power strips for multiple electronics and toys. Don’t forget the most cost-saving measure about power strips: you can turn them off or unplug them when appliances aren’t in use.
The really energy-conscious should consider strips with displays, such as the Energy Monitoring Power Strip from Fujitsu, which shows how much energy you're using.
• Free Change: Changing your behavior also will keep cash in your pocket.
There are many ways to alter your habits to save electricity, including running only full loads of laundry, not using the heat dry on the dishwasher, and turning down the temperature on your water heater.
For more tips, visit the Energy Information Administration at www.eia.gov
“Many homeowners we talk with think that going green is an all or nothing decision. It doesn't have to be,” says Noguchi, "For as little as $50, consumers can begin the process with energy efficient home lighting solutions that simply plug in to standard outlets."