Green Retrofit Checklist
Switch to compact fluorescent light bulbs
CFLs can be a huge energy saver and typically have a much longer life than other bulbs. Replace some (or all) of your incandescent bulbs with fluorescents and enjoy reductions in heat production and energy use. Changing five of the most frequently used bulbs in your home can save you $100 per year on electric bills.
Check our Buyer's Guide to Energy Efficient Bulbs for pros, cons, and cost data on CFLs, LEDs, etc.
Program your thermostat
When you are at home, keep the thermostat at 78° F or higher in the summer and 62° F or lower in the winter. Programmable thermostats allow you to preset the system to reduce output when it's not needed, like when no one is home during the day or when everyone is sleeping at night.
Plug air leaks
This simple step can go a long way toward keeping your home at the temperature you desire, saving money on heating and air conditioning bills. Common leaks occur around windows, doors, and other wall penetrations. Plugging those leaks with weather stripping and caulk is an easy and inexpensive task.
Tune up your heating and cooling (HVAC) system
Have a checkup for your HVAC system every two years to make sure it is running efficiently. Be sure to clean the filter monthly during times of peak usage; a dirty filter can significantly reduce the system’s efficiency.
Choose Energy Star appliances
Energy Star qualified products meet a high level of energy efficiency, which can translate into savings on electric bills. So when it’s time to replace that old refrigerator, microwave, clothes washer, or other appliance, remember that even if an Energy Star appliance costs more, you could reduce your energy bill by $50 a year for each appliance. Also, check with your electric utility—some offer incentives for replacing old appliances with more efficient ones.
Reduce water use
Inside, install aerators—available for a few dollars at your local home supply store—to your sink faucets and change to low-flow showerheads. Outside, landscape with native plants and minimize high-maintenance landscaping such as turf grass.
Switch to green power
Green power is an optional utility service for customers who want to help expand the production and distribution of renewable energy technologies. With green power, you do not have to change your electricity provider. Instead, customers just choose to pay a premium on their electricity bills to cover the extra cost of purchasing clean, sustainable energy. The U.S. Department of Energy has more information.
Photovoltaics—technology that uses solar cells or arrays to convert light from the sun directly into electricity or heat—is increasingly available for residential use. Solar power can be harnessed to create electricity for your home, to heat water, and to improve indoor lighting. The U.S. Department of Energy's Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy can help you find the right solar solutions for you.
Use low-VOC products
Switch to products that don’t give off volatile organic compounds, or VOCs. Low- or no-VOC products greatly improve your indoor air quality and protect your health. Look for low-VOC paints and cleaning products, or you can make your own cleaning products using simple household materials like baking soda, vinegar, and borax.
Plant trees to provide shade and wind protection for your house
This simple step can help you save money on heating and air conditioning bills while providing beautiful views around your home.
Use native plantings
Native plants have been growing and evolving in your area for thousands of years and, as a result, have adapted to the local soils and climate. As a result they are more likely to thrive with minimal care, unlike exotic plants. That can mean less need for water, fertilizer, and pesticides. The Environmental Protection Agency has additional information on green landscaping techniques here.
Green Home Guide Staff