Hello there, and welcome to another pledge in MNN's Nest, an interactive program that helps you create and accomplish easy and Earth-friendly personal goals. With each goal you tackle, you earn points that are then turned into donations to your favorite nonprofit eco-charity.
For many, this next goal may hit really close to home. Home improvements of any kind are enough to leave even the most eco-emboldened of us with butterflies in the tummy and a nasty pounding of the head. But here's the thing: making your home more energy-efficient doesn't have to be hard. Sure, there are more involved ways to curb your household ecological footprint — the things that keep you up at night fretting about R-values and passive solar window design — but you don't necessarily need to start there. Start small and work your way up — baby steps — while working with your specific budget and comfort level. The small things you can do around the house to make it more energy-efficient do add up, so don't sweat it if a complete overhaul isn't in the near future. Now take a deep breath and pledge to make your home more energy-efficient in 2012. Here are some ways to ease into it.
Fear not the energy audit: Ah, the "A" word. It's not one to be thrown around lightly. However, home energy audits, unlike their more dreaded, intrusive brethren, are meant to be nothing but beneficial to you. They aren't scolding indictments of how you live a wasteful life; they aren't meant to be invasive (although having folks brandishing thermal infrared cameras examine your home top to bottom can be a touch unnerving); and they certainly aren't a waste of money since following up on auditor-recommended improvements can save you beaucoup bucks in the long run. In this growing green economy, there is an increasing number of home energy auditing firms out there that specialize in educating you on how you can manage energy costs and your carbon footprint. Do some asking around — or simply go online — to find a home energy auditor near you. And don't forget to check if you qualify for a rebate. Home energy auditors provide a service that leaves you with another "A" word that's absolutely priceless: awareness.
DIYers, rejoice: Are you crafty? Do you have an intimate relationship with your tool bench? Get to work on these small-scale, energy-saving home improvements that can be completed on the cheap and with minimal effort. Usually just a quick trip to your local home improvement or hardware store is required. Many of these tasks are most effective when the weather gets chilly, but it's never too early to start making a winter weatherization checklist. Plus, in addition to keeping cold air out and warm air in during the winter months, some of these projects can help keep warm out air and cold air in on sweltering summer days when you're running the AC. A few DIY-y tasks to consider: installing foam outlet gaskets, chimney balloons and attic stair covers; making a homemade draft snake; and going to town with a caulk gun.
Apply yourself: If your fridge is on the fritz and you've been considering replacing it, now is the time. Swapping out old, clunky appliances for newer, more efficient models has never been easier, thanks to state-run incentive programs that reward you with government green for going green. Energy-guzzling household appliances, especially that fridge, play a significant role in a home's overall energy consumption, about 17 percent, so consider transitioning out older models. But remember: don't trash a perfectly good, functional appliance just because it isn't EnergyStar-branded. And don't search high and low for EnergyStar clothes dryers, space heaters and microwaves ... they don't exist.
See, that wasn't so hard now was it? Now repeat after me: I will make my home more energy-efficient in 2012.
More personal pledges to consider:
- Once a week, I will walk one place instead of driving.
- I will actually use my reusable bags.
- I will get my kids (and myself!) outside more this year.
- I will do a toxin audit of my home.
- I will support my town's local and green businesses this year.
- I will eat more meals at home.
- I will read three environmentally themed books this year.
- Instead of throwing them away, I will recycle my old electronics before buying new ones.