Introduction: Automatically Green
Everyday, we hear countless ways to "go green." From changing all the light bulbs in your house to turning off the lights whenever they are not in use, to remembering to raise the thermostat temperature in the summer or lower it in the winter while remembering also to replace the filter every two months. The problem is, no one has the time, the energy or the memory to do all these things.
This Instructable will show you how to be green without so much work on the going part. You will be presented with several easy ways to conserve energy by reducing the energy used by lighting and controlling the climate of your home, and in the process, save money, all automatically. When it comes to going green, less work is sometimes better. Automation is the key.
The steps in this Instructable contain comprehensive (and a bit expansive) background information and statistics which describe the usefulness of each method to be Automatically Green. This information is also meant to illustrate the economical and environmental advantages of these methods. If this information does not interest you, skip to the last step for the instructions without so much information.
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Step 1: Change the Lights
About 12% of the annual energy budget for the average American home is used for lighting. This equates to about 1200 kWh/year per home or about $128, just to run the lights. What is more appalling, however, is that 90% of this energy is emitted as heat instead of light. Not only does this cost the average U.S. home about $115 each year, but it also contributes heat to the house in the summer, raising air conditioning costs.
We have all heard it a million times, but replacing incandescent light bulbs with compact florescent ones is an essential step in improving your home's efficiency. No energy saving habits or switching gadgets can replace the vast improvement in efficiency between incandescent and compact florescent bulbs. Compact florescent light bulbs use 75% less energy than incandescent bulbs to produce the same amount of light. Lastly, while compact florescent light bulbs are significantly more expensive than incandescent bulbs, the energy they save more than compensates for this difference. An Energy Star compact florescent light bulb saves about $30 over its lifetime and it also helps to reduce electricity use and greenhouse gas emission. If you want to know how much money you can save by replacing your conventional light bulbs with compact florescent, take a look at this calculator developed by the Environmental Protection Agency and the U.S. Department of Energy: Savings Calculator. Yet another way you can save by switching to compact florescent light bulbs is through special rebates which may be available in your area; visit this website to find special deals where you live: Rebates
Step 2: Automate the Lights
The second way to save money in lighting expenses is another one you have heard over and over again: turn off the lights when you leave the room. The difference here, however, will be that you wont have to, it will all be automatic. The easiest and most professional way to retrofit your home with automatic light switches is to buy motion sensitive switches. These are fairly cheap and are easy to install with minimal electrical knowledge. I recommend buying a cheap switch because it will pay for itself in energy savings more quickly, but I do not recommend buying the cheapest switch you can find because these are often very low quality and are not reliable. I recommend searching http://www.amazon.com or another online shopping site to find the greatest selection.
There is one cautionary note regarding the use of motion sensitive light switches: it is generally not a good idea to use them with compact fluorescent lights. Repeatedly switching on and off any light bulb will lower its lifespan, however, compact florescent bulbs are particularly vulnerable to this effect. In fact, a compact florescence's life can be cut by 85% making the cost of replacing the bulb far higher than the savings in energy gained by turning it off. So, if you plan to install a motion sensitive light switch with compact florescent light bulbs, make sure that it is in a room that you do not walk in and out of frequently. Incandescent or other light bulbs should always be turned off when not in use however. Because incandescent light bulbs are so inefficient and cheap to replace, it is advantageous to turn off the lights whenever a room is not occupied.
A great video guide for installing motion sensitive light switches can be found here: Installation Video Instructions. If you already know to to install light switches, just remember one thing: TURN OFF THE POWER BEFORE YOU START WORKING, it could save your life, and, like the video says, "if in doubt, consult a professional."
Step 3: Automate the Climate Control
Another extremely simple, and automatic, way to save money and reduce your home's carbon "footprint," is to change your thermostat temperature. In the summer, set the temperature higher, and in the winter, set it lower. For every degree closer to the outside temperature you set your thermostat you can save 1 percent on your energy bill. You can also save about 300 kg of carbon dioxide emissions per degree Celsius.
The easiest and most effective way to manage these temperature changes throughout the day is with a programmable digital thermostat. There are hundreds of programmable thermostats on the market and many are Energy Star certified. Different models offer different features as well and obviously range in price considerably. The cheapest, simplest models cost about $25 and, if you want every bell and whistle possible, you can spend $150. An instructional video detailing how to install a new thermostat can be found here: Installing A Thermostat. The man in this video is working with the simplest of climate control systems, but if your thermostat has more than just two wires, the process is still very simple. All you have to do is connect the colored wire to the connection of the same color.
Don't drop/raise the temperature of your home to drastically; it takes time to get used to the new temperate and too sudden a change will probably make you and your family uncomfortable. Instead change the temperature by one degree each week until the desired, more eco-friendly temperature is reached.
Here are the the settings recommended by Energy Star, I found this information here: Programmable Thermostat
Step 4: Summing Up
This page contains brief instructions on the automatic, energy-saving home improvements presented in the previous three steps.
1. Plain and simple, replace your incandescent light bulbs with compact florescent bulbs. Doing so could save you $30 per bulb and at least 150 pounds of carbon dioxide. Compact florescent light bulbs are relatively expensive, but over the course of their lifetime, they more than pay for themselves. There may also be a rebate program for compact florescent light bulbs in your area; check here: Rebates
2. In high traffic rooms in your home, install motion sensitive light switches. These detect when a person enters a room and automatically turn on the lights, then when there is no one present the lights automatically turn off. Motion sensitive switches can take some time to pay off from energy savings but in the meantime you will be saving greenhouse gasses and improving your home's energy efficiency, no to mention they are super cool. Check here for a video installation guide: Installation Video Instructions. The only caveat is: do not use these switches with compact florescent light bulbs.
3. Replace your existing, outdated thermostat with a digital, programmable thermostat. Use it to automatically regulate the temperature of your home throughout the day. For every degree closer to the outside temperature your thermostat is set, you can save 1% on your energy bill. If planned correctly a programable thermostat could save 25% or more on your heating and cooling costs. It will also greatly reduce greenhouse gas emission as climate control in U.S. homes is responsible for a large proportion of the CO2 the United States as a whole emits. Look here for an instructional installation video: Installing A Thermostat.
"We must all work together in order to save the environment and the world that we live in from further change." -Dave Foreman
Participated in the
Earthjustice United States of Efficiency Contest