Gallery: HOW TO: Turn Your Inefficient Household Items Into Green Machi...

Inefficiency abounds in most homes, especially in older ones, but a few simple changes can make any abode more eco-friendly. While making your home more energy efficient may seem like an overwhelming undertaking, there's no need to tackle everything to
Inefficiency abounds in most homes, especially in older ones, but a few simple changes can make any abode more eco-friendly. While making your home more energy efficient may seem like an overwhelming undertaking, there's no need to tackle everything you're thinking about improving simultaneously. Getting to the big projects will have a large impact, but sometimes it's easier to get the ball rolling with the smaller ones and start racking up the savings to put toward more expensive projects. Simply setting the goal to work through your home one step at a time will eventually result in a complete living space that's gentler on the environment and has lower utility costs. We've rounded up 7 easy steps to help set you down the path towards greening your home -- jump ahead to learn more!

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STEP 1: Filter your water

The amount of energy used to bottle and transport water is staggering, not to mention the waste that’s created when countless empty bottles are discarded. Even when recycling bottles, the energy cost to process them is significant. One alternative is to install water filters, which eliminates the need to purchase bottled water. A refrigerator water filter lasts up to six months and provides a large supply of filtered water for the home.

STEP 2: Replace old light bulbs

About 10 percent of a home’s energy usage goes toward lighting, but it’s easy to cut that number by switching to more energy-efficient bulbs. Although the price tag is higher to purchase compact fluorescent bulbs, they have a much longer life and use significantly less energy. Plus, they’re great for the summer because they don’t produce as much heat. Choosing bulbs with the right wattage for a room also helps to limit wastefulness.

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STEP 3: Install efficient toilets

Older toilets may use up to seven gallons of water for each flush. In contrast, newer models use 1.6 gallons or less per flush; the low-flow models use as little as 1.3 gallons. Swapping-out toilets doesn’t cost much, and it can add up to big savings on a household’s water bill. In addition, reducing water use helps protect the environment, particularly in drought-prone areas. One way to be even greener is to place a bucket under the bathroom sink to collect graywater to use for flushing the toilet, or to install a more high-tech system to automatically divert graywater to flush the toilet.

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STEP 4: Tune-up or replace your furnace and air conditioner

As two of the biggest energy-consuming systems in a house, efficiency is important in furnaces and air conditioners. Replacing aging models with new green machines will significantly cut energy use, particularly if the models are appropriately sized for the home so they don’t cycle on and off too frequently. Tune-up furnaces and air conditioners every year to ensure they are operating as efficiently as possible. Installing a programmable thermostat is also helpful for reducing the wastefulness of heating or cooling an empty home.

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STEP 5: Check your insulation

Homeowners can save a lot of money by installing more efficient insulation. One area of particular concern is the attic, which heats up in the summer and can significantly increase the amount of work your air conditioner needs to do to keep the home cool. In the winter, your furnace may be working harder than it needs to if your attic is poorly insulated. Adding attic insulation helps protect the home from temperature fluctuations.

Photo Shutterstock

STEP 6: Update your refrigerator

Of all of the appliances in a typical home, the refrigerator is the one that costs the most to run on an annual basis. Energy efficiency standards have changed a lot in the last few years, and getting an energy efficient refrigerator can significantly cut power bills. Get rid of the old refrigerator rather than leaving it running in the garage or somewhere else for additional food storage. Vacuuming refrigerator coils at least twice yearly and keeping it fully stocked will help it better maintain temperatures.

Photo Shutterstock

STEP 7: Weatherproof or replace aging windows and doors

Old windows and doors may look quaint, but they’re usually the source of significant energy leaks. Keeping a tight seal between your home and the outdoors reduces the strain on your furnace and air conditioner. Weatherproof existing windows and doors to cut down on drafts, or even better, replace aging ones with newer models designed for energy efficiency.

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