When it comes to your home, it’s easy being green. Or at least easier than it used to be. And it’s good for you, too. Having an eco-friendly home conserves energy, reduces pollution and saves money, not to mention making you feel good for being kind to the planet.
Here Comes the Sun
One of the best ways to go green is by installing solar panels on the roof of your home. Solar photovoltaic (PV) panels, which convert the sun’s rays into usable energy, will significantly cut your energy costs. That’s especially important in Connecticut, which has among the highest electricity prices in the country. (The average price is about 12 cents per kilowatt hour. In Connecticut, the average for 2016 is over 20 cents.)
Solar panels will also increase the value of your home. A study by the U.S. Department of Energy’s Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory found that adding solar panels to a home increased its sale price by an average of $13,000.
Solar panels pay for themselves within 10 years, but rebates and tax incentives makes the breakeven point come even sooner. Through 2019, homeowners who purchase solar panels are eligible for a federal tax incentive that lets them deduct 30% of the cost of their solar system from their tax bill. Also available is a Connecticut Clean Energy Fund (CCEF) rebate that pays $1.75 per watt for the first 5 kilowatts and $1.25 per watt thereafter, up to $15,000. (In 2015, the average American household used 10,812 kilowatt hours.)
You can also use the federal 30% renewable energy tax credit to offset the cost of installing a solar hot water system, which heats water for domestic use. The CCEF Solar Thermal Incentive Rebate Program provides a rebate of up to $275/MMBtu for solar water heat ad solar thermal process heat systems.
There is also a 100% property tax exemption for renewable energy systems that generate power for private residential use. For a list of energy incentives available in Connecticut, visit DSIRE.
Aside from going solar, there are many other ways to make your home more environmentally friendly, including:
Use fluorescent light bulbs. Energy-efficient light bulbs such as compact fluorescent light (CFL), halogen incandescent and light-emitting diodes (LED) bulbs use 25%-80% less energy than traditional incandescent bulbs (which are no longer manufactured) and can last up to 25 times longer.
Upgrade appliances. Energy Star-rated appliances such as refrigerators, dishwashers, air conditioners, TVs, and clothes washers and dryers are 10%-25% more energy-efficient than standard models, which can save hundreds of dollars a year.
Stop the leaks. Up to 20% of the average family’s heating and cooling costs are a result of air leaking into and out of the house through holes, cracks and gaps. Air leaks in your home not only increase your utility bills, they let it noise, pollen, moisture and bugs. To eliminate costly leaks, caulk and weatherstrip around windows and doors, install insulation in areas that experience drafts, and use foam sealant on gaps near baseboards and around vents, exhaust fans, ducts and pipes that enter the house from outside.
Install a programmable thermostat. A programmable thermostat lets you set your heat or A/C to come on just before you come home, so you don’t waste money heating or cooling the house when no one’s home. Only keep it as hot or cool as you need it—you can save up to 3% on your heating bill for every degree you turn back your thermostat.
Unplug electronics when not in use. Anything that’s plugged in is using energy, even if it’s off, including appliances, electronics, lamps, toasters, coffeemakers, printers and chargers. This “vampire” energy can make up 5%-8% of a family’s energy usage, according to the Department of Energy. And if any of those idle electronics are actually on, it can cost a lot more. Having a computer turned on and plugged in all day can cost up to $75 a year, for example. To make it easier to turn things off, plug multiple electronics into a power strip.
Replace your windows. Replacing older, single-pane windows with modern energy-efficient windows can reduce energy costs by up to 30% and increase the value of your home, as well as reduce noise and make maintenance and cleaning easier.
Save water. Reduce water use by installing sink water aerators and low-flow toilets and shower heads, and wait till you have a full load before doing laundry or running your dishwasher.