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An energy-efficient home saves money, improves comfort

By Parker Beck

Special to the Citizen

Making your home more energy efficient can help reduce high energy bills and improve comfort, while taking that important first step toward the growing trend of green remodeling. The energy we use in our homes often comes from the burning of fossil fuels at power plants, which contributes to smog, acid rain and global warming. So, the less energy we use in our homes, the less air pollution we generate. Here are some tips to help you save energy, money, and do your part for the environment:

Make the switch: Compact fluorescent light bulbs are a bright idea. They use 75 percent less electricity, emit little heat, and last up to 10 times longer than incandescent bulbs. Used in conjunction with automatic or photocell timers, motion sensors and dimmers, they can extend product life and provide energy savings.

A matter of degrees: Install a programmable thermostat for home heating and cooling. You can save 2 percent on your heating bill for every 1 degree you lower the thermostat. Also, set your water heater's thermostat to 120 degrees Fahrenheit. Lowering it from a higher setting will save you money and reduce your risk of being scalded. Upgrading to a tankless water heater, installing a solar heater, or wrapping your existing unit in a water heater blanket can help you save money.

Water battle: By installing a watersaver flush kit in your toilet, you can save hundreds of gallons of water per year. Also, replacing large-volume toilets with 1.8-gallon-per-flush models saves at least 70 percent of the water used. And an energy-efficient or low-flow shower head conserves energy without affecting water pressure.

Grow green: Use landscaping to your advantage. Deciduous trees lower your energy bill all year by providing shade in summer and sunshine in winter. Low-growing evergreen shrubs planted beside basement walls help keep warmth in and winter winds out. Also, flower gardens with tall plants help retain moisture in the ground so that you spend less energy on watering and mowing your lawn.

Appliances:

- Your refrigerator accounts for 11 percent of your household's total energy consumption, so buying an energy-efficient model is a wise investment.

- Choose a front-loading clothes washer which uses less soap, about 40 percent less water per load, and 50 percent less energy than top loading models.

- A dryer with a sensor that turns the machine off automatically when clothes are dry helps save energy.

- A freezer that is too big for your needs wastes energy and money. A rule of thumb is to allow 5 cubic feet of freezer capacity per person. Bottom freezers and chest freezers are more energy efficient than upright models because cold air stays in better when the door is opened.

These are just a few of the easy, low-cost changes you can make to your home that will help you protect the environment, as well as your family's wallet.

Parker Beck is the owner of Plan B ReDesigns, an interior decorating and home staging business in Conyers. She can be reached at Parker@PlanBReDesigns.com.