Tips for Going Green!

Airmakers: Heating, Air Conditioning, Ventilation, Solar, Plumbing Carrier - turn to the experts.

Lint hint
Saving energy doesn't get any easier than this: Lower your energy bill by cleaning your clothes dryer's lint trap before every load to improve air circulation, therefore cutting down on energy-wasting drying time.

Power to the people
Reduce your carbon footprint (and maybe even your waistline) by using human-powered appliances and equipment. Think reel mowers, good old-fashioned manual can openers, carpet sweepers, whisks and wooden spoons instead of electric mixers.

Good day sunshine
On cold sunny days, open window coverings to let the sun warm your home. On hot days, close window coverings on the south and west sides to keep your home cooler.

Washing day
Save $30 to $40 per year in water heating costs by washing and rinsing clothes in cold water. You can also save more than 3,400 gallons of water per year, according to Energy Star, by washing full loads instead of partial loads.

Fridge shui
Refrigerators blasted by the sun's rays or subjected to heat from an adjacent oven or heating vent have to work harder to chill your food. If possible, relocate the fridge to a cooler spot, or close window coverings to keep the sun off.

Rock-a-bye computer
Enabling your computer and monitor's power management features so they go into sleep mode when idle can save from $25 to $75 each year in energy costs, according to Energy Star. Also, turn off computers and peripherals at night.

Wrap it up
In the winter, room air conditioners installed in windows can be a source of cold drafts. Remove window units during cold months or insulate them with tight-fitting A/C covers, available from most local home-improvement stores.

Battery recycling
Recycle your old cell phones and used portable rechargeable batteries from cordless power tools, laptop computers, digital cameras and other devices.

Run the numbers
Use the U.S. EPA's online emissions calculator to find out how many greenhouse gas emissions your household is responsible for. Spend 10 minutes entering your data, and you'll get a rough estimate of your total CO2 emissions, plus action steps to go on a carbon diet.

Think globally, buy locally
Choosing a product that's harvested or made locally reduces transportation energy use and helps sustain your community's economy.

Nix the night lights
Install motion sensors, photocell controls or timers so outdoor lights are only on when needed. Reduce light pollution and keep the night sky darker by using light fixtures that direct light downward instead of toward the sky.

Be a dim bulb
If you have incandescent light fixtures where you can't or don't want to use compact fluorescent bulbs, install dimmer switches. Dimming shaves a bit off an incandescent bulb's energy use and makes the bulb last longer (Note: Most compact fluorescent bulbs can't be used with dimmer switches).

Hung out to dry
Many newer clothes dryers have moisture sensors that shut off the heat when they detect that the clothes are dry. If your dryer lacks this feature, try not to over dry your clothes. Operating the dryer for an extra 15 minutes per load can cost as much as $34 per year, according to Energy Star.

Wipe your paws
Worried about toxins in the home? The Washington Toxics Coalition reports that using entryway mats can reduce the amount of pesticide residue on carpets by 25% and the amount of dust on carpets by 33%. And homes where shoes are removed at the door, according to the WTC, have 10 times less dust than homes where shoes are worn.

Paint your home green
The air in our homes can be two to five times more polluted than outdoor air. One of the major culprits? Volatile organic compounds, or VOCs, that are released from paint, particleboard and other home-improvement products. Most major paint manufacturers now make low-VOC paints, and some offer zero-VOC paints.

Compost happens
Food waste that winds up in landfills generates methane, a greenhouse gas that's 23 times more potent than carbon dioxide. Take charge of your greenhouse gas emissions by composting food scraps (except meat) in a backyard composting bin or even a worm bin. A bonus: Your plants will love the nutrient-laden finished compost.

Prevent energy-wasting air leaks
To stop drafts, install weather-stripping around doors and caulk cracks around windows. Check the heating and cooling systems' ducts to make sure all joints are connected and well sealed. Use a mastic sealant or foil-backed tape to seal ducts.'

Keep it in the garage
If your garage is attached to the house, fumes from car exhaust and stored chemicals can enter living spaces through gaps around doors or cracks in the ceilings and wall. Make sure the door between the garage and house seals tightly, and caulk or seal any cracks or openings between the garage and house.

Breathe easy
Carbon monoxide is called the silent killer because it's colorless and odorless. If you have a fuel-burning appliance inside the home, such as a gas stove, furnace, water heater, fireplace or clothes dryer, be safe and install a UL-listed carbon monoxide detector on each floor.

One man's trash is another's treasure
When you're through with an item, sell or Freecycle it rather than throwing it away.

The M word
To keep mold at bay, use your bathroom and kitchen ventilation fans. To be effective, fans need to vent to the outdoors, and Energy Star products are more efficient, quieter and last longer.

Automate it
Reduce energy bills by as much as $150 a year with a programmable thermostat that adjusts the temperature when you leave the house or go to sleep.

Audit it
A home energy audit helps you assess how your home uses energy and prioritize actions you can take to make it more efficient and comfortable. To get started, try Energy Star's Home Energy Yardstick.

Water is the new oil
Consider repurposing water for irrigation. Graywater systems typically recycle wash water from sinks, tubs, showers and clothes washers. Rainwater harvesting systems direct rainwater from the roof into barrels or above- or underground tanks.

Cool-down upgrade
An old refrigerator or freezer in the basement that's just cooling its heels and a few cases of soda may be costing you as much as $100 each year. If it's more than 10 years old, recycle it and replace it with a new, high-efficiency model.

Once is not enough
Choosing salvaged, secondhand or antique furnishings, doors, trim, fixtures and other items that have been around the block a few times is often a smarter use of natural resources than buying new products. One caveat: Steer clear of single-pane windows, old toilets and used appliances that waste energy or water compared with their newly manufactured counterparts.

Be rid of radon
Radon in indoor air is responsible for 21,000 lung cancer deaths in the United States each year, according to the U.S. EPA. To check for it, DIY tests are available from home improvement stores or from the National Safety Council for $20 or less. If unsafe levels are detected, the cost for reducing radon ranges from $800 to $2,500.

Light at the end of the tunnel
Brighten up dark hallways, bathrooms and other spaces with tubular skylights. They let in daylight without the excess heat and are relatively easy and affordable to install.

Plant it again, Sam
Plants like bamboo that can be harvested and grown again within a short time ease demand for slower-growing trees and nonrenewable resources like petroleum. Check out great bamboo alternatives for floors, cabinets, built-ins and furniture.

Be an Energy Star
Sometimes to save a lot, you have to spend a little. Energy Star-qualified appliances may cost a bit more than standard models, but they incorporate features like high-efficiency compressors and motors and better insulation. And they use 10% to 50% less energy and water, which means more money in your pocket year after year.

A truly green landscape
Waterwise, landscaping doesn't have to resemble a desert scene, thanks to today's high-efficiency irrigation products. Drip and bubbler irrigators and smart controllers determine when and how much to water based on moisture sensors, historic local weather data or a signal from a weather station.

Made in the shade
Summer sun striking west- or south-facing windows and walls can make your home unbearably hot and drive air conditioning costs through the roof. Plant deciduous trees along them and get relief.

Blow off some heat
Solar-powered attic fans exhaust hot air and help keep your home comfortable while reducing cooling costs. An added benefit: No need for electrical wiring, so installation is straightforward.

Got WaterSense?
If a family of four replaces their 3.5- gallon-per-flush toilets made before 1994 with a WaterSense-labeled toilet, they could save $90 a year and as much as $2,000 over the toilet's life.

Deconstruct, don't demolish
When remodeling, reuse as much as you can of the existing structure, trim, finishes and fixtures. If you hire a deconstruction outfit, ask if they're a charitable organization — if so, you may be eligible for a sizable tax deduction for the value of the salvaged goods.

Button up
Save energy and feel more comfortable by beefing up insulation in perimeter walls and ceilings. Check out eco-friendly options like recycled cotton or cellulose and fiberglass batts with no added formaldehyde.

Foiled again
In hot summer climates, attic radiant barriers can help keep homes comfortable and reduce cooling bills. Made of a reflective foil, radiant barriers block the transfer of radiant heat from a hot roof into the attic. In the Southeast, radiant barriers can reduce cooling costs by 8% to 12%, according to the Florida Solar Energy Center.

Consider the source
When choosing appliances and equipment, remember that not all energy sources are created equal. If you're in the market for a backup generator, natural gas and liquid propane (LP) engines burn cleaner than gasoline engines, which reduce air pollution and extend the engine's life.

Double up
To keep heat inside during winter and outside in the summer, choose double-pane windows with an appropriate low-e coating. For help choosing the right window for your climate, go to

Be radiant
Radiant floor heating systems are a boon to indoor air quality because unlike forced-air systems, they don't blow dust and other allergens around. Thanks to warm water circulating in flexible tubing installed under the floor, heat radiates evenly up through the floor, providing quiet, even warmth while using less energy.

Grow a green roof
Also called living roofs or vegetated roofs, green roofs are specially engineered with a waterproof membrane topped by a lightweight planting medium. Typically planted with native grasses, wildflowers or other climate-appropriate groundcovers, they slow the flow of storm water off the roof, keep surrounding outside air temperatures cooler, insulate the home from noise, heat and cold, and may even extend the roof's life.

Don't get burned
Wood-burning fireplaces are notorious polluters and energy wasters. Think about retrofitting yours with an energy-efficient, clean-burning, EPA-certified fireplace insert. The inserts include glass or metal doors, vents to provide outside air for combustion, and blowers to circulate heated air into the room.

Cool roof products come in a variety of colors and materials (including ceramic or concrete tiles, metal and synthetic membranes) and reflect more of the sun's heat, lowering the roof's temperature by up to 100 degrees F.

Harvest the sun
In regions with abundant sunshine and high energy costs, solar systems are gaining ground. Solar electric systems can offset some or all of your home's electricity use, while solar water-heating systems can heat water for sinks, showers, laundry, home heating, pools and spas. A variety of federal, state and local incentives are making renewable-energy systems more affordable. For a directory of incentives by state, go to

Salvage style
Spare the precious forests by choosing salvaged wood harvested from dismantled buildings, old barrels, urban trees that would otherwise have been chipped for mulch or firewood, sinker logs from lake and river bottoms, and many other sources.

Cleaning Green
The big secret: you can make very effective, non-toxic cleaning products whenever you need them. All you need are a few simple ingredients like baking soda, vinegar, lemon, and soap. Making your own cleaning products saves money, time, and packaging-not to mention your indoor air quality.

Borrow instead of buying.
Borrow from libraries instead of buying personal books and movies. This saves money, not to mention the ink and paper that goes into printing new books. Share power tools and other appliances. Get to know your neighbors while cutting down on the number of things cluttering your closet or garage.

Buy smart.
Buy in bulk. Purchasing food from bulk bins can save money and packaging. Wear clothes that don't need to be dry-cleaned. This saves money and cuts down on toxic chemical use. Invest in high-quality, long-lasting products. You might pay more now, but you'll be happy when you don't have to replace items as frequently (and this means less waste!).

Save water to save money.
Take shorter showers to reduce water use. This will lower your water and heating bills too. Install a low-flow showerhead. They don't cost much, and the water and energy savings can quickly pay back your investment. Make sure you have a faucet aerator on each faucet. These inexpensive appliances conserve heat and water, while keeping water pressure high. Plant drought-tolerant native plants in your garden. Many plants need minimal watering. Find out which occur naturally in your area.

Energy-Efficient Cooking
Preheating is almost prehistoric. Many newer ovens come to temperature so rapidly, they make preheating almost obsolete (except perhaps for soufflés and other delicate dishes). If you're roasting or baking something that's a little flexible when it comes to cooking time, you can put it in right away, then turn the oven off five or ten minutes early, and let dishes finish cooking in the residual heat. (Ditto for anything cooked on an electric stove top.)

Baby Solid foods
At about six months, babies start to eat real food. Rice cereal and mushy veggies turn to combinations of fish, meat, eggs, legumes, and vegetables—yep, a regular person's diet. Buying jars of food is sure convenient, but as an adult you don't live out of jars, so why should your baby? For those occasional situations, purchase organic or fresh frozen baby foods. Otherwise, make your own. Cook up veggies, casseroles, or tofu and lentils, whatever is your thing, and freeze it in tiny containers or ice cube trays ready to take out and defrost when needed. (Be sure you discuss any concerns over dietary requirements with your health professional).

Harvest rainwater
Adding a rain barrel is an inexpensive and effortless way to capture mineral- and chlorine-free water for watering lawns, yards, and gardens, as well as washing cars or rinsing windows. By harnessing what's literally raining from the sky, you'll not only notice a marked dip in water costs, but also a reduction in stormwater runoff, which in turn helps prevent erosion and flooding. Pop a screen on top of your barrel to keep out insects, debris, and bird missiles, and make frequent use of your water supply to keep it moving and aerated.

Pet Accessories
Your furry friends can get in on some saving-the-planet goodness, too—and have plenty of fun—with toys made from recycled materials or sustainable fibers (sans herbicides or pesticides) such as hemp. A hemp collar (with matching leash) is a rocking accessory for a tree-hugging mutt. These days, you can even get pet beds made with organic cotton or even recycled PET bottles.

Stay in tune with your car
Getting regular tune-ups, maintenance, and having clean air filters will help you burn less gas, pollute less, and prevent car trouble down the line. Pump up: if every American's tires were properly inflated we could save around 2 billion gallons of gas each year! (Check your manual for optimal pressure). Lastly, get the junk out of the trunk! All that extra weight is sapping your fuel economy.

Ease up on the meat
Meat is the most resource-intensive food on the table and eating less of it can be the single most green move a person makes. Producing meat requires huge amounts of water, grain, land, and other inputs including hormones and antibiotics, and leads to pollution of soil, air, and water. A pound of beef requires around 12,000 gallons of water to produce, compared to 60 gallons for a pound of potatoes. If you're a meat eater, for starters, try cutting out a serving of meat each week. Going vegetarian or vegan is a profoundly meaningful environmental choice, and it's done wonders for Chris Martin and Prince.

Mug shots
Go ahead, find that perfect mug and make the investment. Not only is a reusable mug more pleasurable to sip out of than a paper cup, but it will replace an untold number of disposable cups, plastic sippy tops, “java jackets,” and other disposable paraphernalia.

A natural smile?—toothpaste
Unfortunately, while we like a bright smile, many major brands of toothpaste contain chemicals like parabens, titanium dioxide for whitening, and high levels of fluoride. There has been concern for some time about the level of fluoride that we ingest on a daily basis both through drinking water and toothpaste. While we are told that fluoride helps fight tooth decay, high doses can also be poisonous. Since mid-1997, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has mandated all toothpastes containing fluoride to carry a poison warning. Luckily, as with deodorants, there are natural toothpastes on the market. Many people also find that just using a bit of baking soda will do the trick as well.

Air dry
Instead of letting your washer use electric heat or a fan to dry the dishes, just open the door at the end of the washing cycle and let them air dry. Leave the dishes to dry overnight and they'll be ready for you when you wake up.

Up in your grill
Love to BBQ? Propane burns much cleaner than either wood or charcoal briquettes. If you can't resist charcoal, try a natural product like those produced by Cowboy Charcoal—much cleaner than your traditional briquettes. Of course, when you're done grilling, use natural cleaning products such as SoyClean organic grill cleaner to keep your summer as chemical-free as possible. Tests show it's just as tough on grime as traditional cleaners, but won't leave that chemical residue behind to leach into your next burger or grilled tomato. Plus, if you want to give your neighbors something to gossip about, try a solar over from a company like Solar Cookers International. How to Green Your Meals has some tasty advice, as well.

The color purple
Everything on this list can't have a cheesy "green" pun. But seriously, what better way to go green than with the color itself. Craft projects give your kids an opportunity to use their imagination. Find non-toxic paints and crayons and let the kids loose on all sorts of recycled material from cardboard boxes to junk mail to items they find in the woods. Pet rock, here we come.