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Top tips for a green home

April 22 is Earth Day and we look at some tips on how you can green your home, which isn’t just good for the planet but also for you wallet

Reduce

  • For every 10 minutes you shower, you may be using up to 94 liters of water. Shower smarter by installing shower heads with low flow. 
  • Windows and doors can be major causes of heat loss, with faulty windows adding 10 to 25 percent to your heating bill. Open blinds during the day to let sun in. At dusk, close them to trap heat.
  • CFL bulbs work best in rooms where they'll be left on for at least 15 minutes. Frequent on-and-off (say, in a closet or pantry) can shorten bulb life, so the replacement cost can outweigh energy savings. 
  • Configure your home printer or copy machine so it prints on both sides of the page.
  • Pay bills online, or set up automatic paying from your bank account. No envelopes, no postage — and no late fees.
  • Driving 16km/h above a 100 is like adding nearly R5 to your fuel costs every kilometer, since higher speed equals more guzzling.
  • Choose concentrated or ultra cleaning products, which use 50 to 60 percent less packaging than traditional formulas while cleaning just as thoroughly.
  • Plant trees around the house strategically on the south and west sides; shading the air-conditioning unit, if possible to save money on your electricity bill. 
  • Switch to a front-loading washer from a top loader. In a recent GHRI test of front loaders, they used less than half the water traditionally used by a top loader for a full load.
  • You probably know that compact fluorescent bulbs are more energy efficient — in fact, ones that are Energy Star qualified use about 75 percent less electricity and last up to 10 times longer than traditional incandescents. They now come in a covered style, so they don’t look strange in certain fixtures, and can hold a clamp-on lampshade.
  • Stairways, halls, and garages get a lot of through traffic, and people often forget to shut off lights once they’ve passed by. Install motion sensors that turn lights on when you walk in and off when motion is no longer detected.
  • Check for toilet leaks Open the tank and drop in enough food coloring so that the water tints. If color slowly appears in the bowl, there’s a leak. Flush dye, then replace worn-out parts or get a pro to do the dirty work for you.
  • Improve the seal of interior doors (like the one to the garage) by attaching a sweep. Sold at hardware stores, these flexible plastic strips are easily screwed to door bottoms, and keep cold air out from below.
  • Wrap an insulation blanket around your water heater and lower its running cost as much as 9 percent.

Reuse

  • Many cleaning products are available in large jugs for decanting into the smaller spray bottles. Also, look for concentrated cleaner refills for which you can reuse the old spray bottle and just add the water, and ultra strength detergents, which save packaging because you get more laundry loads out of the container.
  • Double duty: Used coffee grounds Spread them over flower beds of acid-craving plants such as azaleas or rhododendrons.

Going Green 

  • While there are no specific criteria that qualify a product as green, most that make the claim are biodegradable, phosphate and chlorine free, and derive their ingredients from plants like coconut or palm (renewable sources) rather than petrochemicals like crude oil or natural gas (which are not renewable). But even if a product seems green, read the label — and keep it away from kids and pets.
  • Eco-trend: Low VOCs Some paints now claim low or no VOCs — polluting gases emitted as paint dries. Since companies’ definitions of “low” vary, ask the paint seller for the number of grams per liter.
  • If buying only organic is a strain on your finances, opt for organic versions of the items known to have the highest pesticide levels: peaches, apples, and bell peppers.


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