Some people think you have to spend a lot of money to save a lot of money for home energy and water conservation. As this list shows, there are many things you can do under $100 that will have a huge impact in your consumption habits. I put them in order based on what I think would have the biggest bang for the buck, but this will change based on your geographic location and your living habits. Enjoy!
- Put in CFLs ($1.25 / bulb) - I first wrote about the CFLs I use when Home Depot was selling N:Vision CFLs. Since then they have changed the bulb's name to EcoSmart, but they're the same color and quality. If you don't believe how much money CFLs can save you check out our lighting cost analysis.
- Get a programmable thermostat ($30 - $80) and use it - It's amazing how many people don't get control over their thermostat settings. It takes constant tweaking to remain comfortable, but it is well worth it. If you have a little more money to spend, then you can get an internet programmable thermostat like the one from Ecobee.
- Install a ceiling fan ($50-$100) - If you have any rooms that you spend time in and don't have a ceiling fan in them yet...get one! Be a fan of fans. We have installed three ceiling fans in our home (bedroom, living room, and guest bedroom) and they enable us to rely less on the thermostat to keep us comfortable. In the summer, a ceiling fan will allow you to use your air conditioner much less, which will save loads of money! Don't want to install a ceiling fan? Then at least get a tabletop fan to use in your home office or bedroom.
- Get a whole home electricity monitor ($85) - The Kill-A-Watt mentioned below is great for single appliances but to get a true understanding of how your entire home uses electricity you will need one like the unit from Black and Decker. I have a TED 5000, which was around $200, so I couldn't add it to this list. The unit from Black and Decker (which I covered in October of 2009 and is very similar to the BlueLine monitor) only works on certain meters, but it could be a good fit for your home. If you're interested in this area, check out our list of home energy monitoring devices.
- Get a Kill-A-Watt by P3 International ($19.99) and find your electricity hogs - The Kill-A-Watt is a great educational tool for you to figure out which appliances are costing you money. It only works for 120 V appliances (so no air conditioner monitoring) but it really helps pin-point where you are using energy. We put in a wine chiller downstairs and I monitored the electricity consumption first just to make sure we weren't using more electricity than it was worth.
- Install the Perfect Flush by Brondell ($82) - We wrote about the Perfect Flush almost a year ago and I finally got to use one when I was out in San Francisco in the Fall of 2009. This is one of the best water saving devices that I know of.
- Get a bicycle pump for your car tires ($27) -Thankfully I have a sensor in my car that let's me know when my tires are low. When they are, I just use a bicycle pump to put more air in my tires. It's surprisingly easy to do. Not only is this air free (unlike most gas stations) but it also gives you a nice air workout (mostly focusing on your triceps). :)
- Use an automatic light sensor - ($15 ) - The automatic sensor was one of the first conservation tools I installed in my town-home 2 years ago and it has been working great ever since. I even have it connected to the circuit with 10 CFLs (lighting in kitchen) and there are no problems. Get one of these for any rooms where you or others may have brain lapses when it comes to switching off the light.
- Rechargeable Battery Charger and Batteries - ($12.50) -We just put up a post on the topic of Rechargeable Batteries. This is a no-brainer if you aren't using them. Still don't believe us? Check out the calculator in the post! Not only does this save you loads of money, but it also prevents toxic batteries from entering the waste stream.
- Find air leaks with a thermal leak detector ($43.55) - Programming your thermostat won't do much good if your conditioned air keeps leaking out of your house. If you have an older, drafty home, this tool will help pinpoint where air is escaping so you can seal it up.
I hope this list helps, and I'm sure some of you will think we have left some important conservation tip off, so tell us about it in the comments!