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Going Green at Home

solar panels.

Considering going green at home? You're not alone; a survey by Realtor.com indicated that almost 85 percent of homeowners wish they had a more eco-friendly home — and more than 30 percent already live in an eco-friendly house!

Most people have already taken steps toward making their homes green, whether through energy-efficient appliances and lighting, solar panels, or even simple efforts, like recycling and composting.

Here are a few ways to help make your home a little greener:

Solar Power

Solar power has grown in popularity over the past few years, and the trend doesn't look like it'll slow down any time soon. Consider how fast the industry has grown over the past decade; in 2006, only about 30,000 homes utilized solar panels, and every watt of power generated by solar cost $9, according to TechInsider. Ten years later, each watt costs about $3.79. The Solar Energy Industries Association notes that in the first 6 months of 2015 alone a new solar panel project was installed every 2 minutes, further illustrating the growth in this industry.

Not only do today's solar panels generate about 85 percent of an average home's energy needs, they also don't create emissions, and only take up about 400 to 800 square feet on a rooftop. Plus, they're dropping in price.

If you want to go solar, EnergySage offers a free, online tool that'll let you compare prices and options from various providers so you can meet your power and budget needs.

Energy-Efficient Appliances

When it comes to buying appliances, today's consumer has a lot of choices... including how energy-efficient a product is (or isn't). If you've shopped for appliances over the past two decades, you've likely seen the Energy Star label on some products. This Environmental Protection Agency program was started in 1992 with the goal of helping individuals and businesses reduce their greenhouse gas emissions.

When you're out shopping for appliances, check for the Energy Star label. In order to feature an Energy Star rating, products must pass a series of laboratory tests that verify that they meet or exceed strict criteria for energy efficiency; only more energy-efficient appliances bear the label. The label will also provide you with an:

  • An estimate of how much it will cost to use the appliance each year
  • A range of costs for similar appliances
  • An estimate of yearly energy usage

Green Building Materials and Remodels

Whether you're building a new home from the ground up or remodeling your existing home, green materials make an eco-friendly build possible. For a more sustainable home, Sunset magazine suggests using green building materials such as:

  • Zero or low VOC paint. This paint omits noxious chemicals that aren't good for the environment or your family's respiratory health.
  • Energy-efficient LED lights. These lights use less energy and emit a pleasant, bright light that mimics natural light.
  • Low-water usage bathroom and kitchen features. Water-efficient showers, sinks, and toilets help conserve our most precious resource.
  • Low- or no-maintenance outdoor materials. Utilize materials that weather attractively, like cedar shingles or bluestone pavings, reduces the need for constant upkeep involving chemicals.
  • Sustainable wood. Choose FSC-certified wood for cabinets and flooring; the Forest Stewardship Council label indicates trees were harvested from a sustainably managed forest.

Small Steps

If you're not in the market for new solar panels or a major remodel, you can still take small steps to green up your home.

  • Using natural cleaners — such as those based on vinegar, hydrogen peroxide, or baking soda — to keep your home sparkling and save you money while you avoid breathing in toxic fumes from bleach or ammonia.
  • Recycling is worthwhile, but when you're buying products labeled as "recycled," check to see how much waste they actually reuse. Aim for at least 85 percent.
  • Unplug appliances when they're not in use. Televisions and computers consume lots of energy, even when they're not being used.
  • Plug leaks around windows, doors, vents, and outlets with caulk or sealant.
  • Go "green" with indoor plants; Boston ferns, rubber plants, and palm trees filter the air naturally, removing pollutants and toxins.

Taking these steps could help make your house a healthier, more sustainable place to call home.

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