Going greener doesn’t have to be expensive, nor does it have to be time consuming. While solar panels are a great way to take that next step into greener living, there are many other home projects that can have energy and cost saving benefits. Take for example, the benefits of improving the existing insulation on your home. Some forms of insulation can be applied without professional assistance, and within as little as two days. If insulation isn’t a concern, you can also take smaller steps, such as replacing all of the incandescent light bulbs with energy saving LEDs. If you don’t want to spend any extra money on going green, you can try minimizing the use of certain appliances, such as the clothes dryer. In other words, you can go greener without spending a penny!

Being a newer homeowner, I’m always looking for ways to save on energy costs while keeping my family’s consumption at a minimum. Our home, which was constructed in the roaring 20’s, seemed to have a roaring insulation issue. Every year, we watched helplessly as our monthly energy costs continued to creep up. We identified the biggest offender as the attic, as it needed some additional sealing and better insulation. I guess you could say our energy costs were running sky high, with all of our hard earned money literally seeping through the cracks in our attic.

Insulation is important for keeping heat within the home during the winter, and out of the home during the summer. Quality home insulation can be found at many of your local hardware and big box stores. There are many different types of insulation, each involving different application methods and costs. No matter which insulation you ultimately choose, it is important to first hire a trained professional to visit your home and conduct an energy audit. The audit will expose the weak links in your existing structure, allowing the professional to assess which areas within the home actually need the most work. The audit can also help you determine which type of insulation would be the best for your home. Once the audit is complete, you will first have to seal the areas where heat and cool air tend to escape. After the sealant is applied, you can move on to the insulation.

Insulation is widely sold in five different varieties: radiant barrier, foam, fiberglass, denim, and blown-in cellulose. As stated above, each home is unique. While denim insulation may be appropriate for one home, it may not be the best for your home. That is why it is important to do your own research and listen to the suggestions of a professional. For the sake of brevity, I will only give you a short description of each type of insulation and its benefits (or downfalls). Plenty of information about each type of insulation can be found online or by visiting your local hardware store.

Radiant barrier insulation resists and reflects heat transfer. Common applications include facing for attics, or if laminated, it can be applied to roof sheathing. Foam insulation is applied by spraying, and should be done by a professional due to the toxicity of the material. The foam may be applied in open or closed cells. Foam is excellent at preventing air infiltration through walls and has the added benefit of noise reduction. Who would have thought that foam could also block out your loud neighbors?

Denim insulation is made from recycled denim, just as its name suggests. In other words, this insulation could have been your favorite pair of pants. This insulation is made from cotton fibers, the same cotton that keeps your legs warm in the winter. Denim insulation is uniquely eco-friendly, as it is made from mostly recycled materials that would have otherwise gone into a landfill. It is often used within walls and is known for its excellence in keeping warm air within the home. Unlike some of the other insulation mentioned above, there are no toxins in the denim, so it can be applied with little protection.

Last but not least are the fiberglass and blown in cellulose materials. Both types of materials need to be applied carefully, if not professionally. Blow in cellulose insulation can be applied to an attic within 1-2 days. Due to the excess dust it often creates, it may be messy and harmful if inhaled. Many brands are made of recycled paper and fit tightly within the gaps and crevices of the wall. One common downside occurs with leaking; cellulose insulation can stay damp for days, creating mold and mildew hazards. Though fiberglass insulation does not carry the same mold risks, it can create minor injuries if touched without protection. The sheets of fiberglass insulation are made of tiny interwoven glass fibers that flake off if touched. The tiny glass shards can also be inhaled during close contact, so it is important to hire a professional for installation.

In sum, there are several reasons why an insulation overhaul may be beneficial to your home. Monthly energy costs can decline by up to 25% depending on the location of your home, the insulation used, and the type(s) of other eco friendly measures already employed. Besides the cost saving benefits, insulation can make your home more comfortable, reducing temperature fluctuations, outdoor noise, and allergens.

As stated above, if your budget can’t handle new insulation, it may be able to handle a dozen new light bulbs. For example, you can replace your incandescent light bulbs with Renogy 7W 500LM White LED Bulbs and see energy cost savings within a month! LED light bulbs more energy efficient than incandescents because of heat saving technology. In the past, the go-to light bulb was the incandescent bulb. Incandescent light bulbs are manufactured by an endless number of companies and come in many different sizes and shapes. These bulbs were, and still are, commonly used around homes, in business buildings, and behind signs across the US. They are quickly and inexpensively manufactured, and are available for purchase in almost any convenience or big box store. However, these bulbs have their faults: only about 5% of the energy they use is actually converted into light. The rest of the energy is released as heat, and that makes them inefficient and wasteful lighting option.

LED light bulbs are a great alternative to the traditionally (and still widely) used incandescent light bulbs. If you are an energy conscious individual, LEDs are just another way that you can save on energy costs and improve energy efficiency around your home or office. Unlike traditional incandescent light bulbs, LED light bulbs have greater energy efficiency, are more durable, and release less wasted heat. LEDs also have a much longer lifespan: 25,000-35,000 hours vs. 1,000 hours for incandescent bulbs. A telltale sign of an incandescent bulb is the long (dim) warm-up time; LED light bulbs are bright immediately.

Finally, if you’d prefer not to spend a penny on living a greener lifestyle, you can simply use less of your favorite appliances. I’ll be the first to admit that I love the convenience of my clothes dryer. However, ditching the dryer and hanging your clothing out to air dry can help save on electricity costs. Ditching the dryer may be harder to do if you live in a colder region of the US. After all, we wouldn’t want your favorite blouse to freeze!

The average dryer uses 3.1-3.5 kilowatt hours of electricity. In SoCal during the summer months and at peak hours, every kilowatt-hour costs .46. It probably takes you about an hour to dry a load of laundry. That costs about $1.50 per load. If you dry 10 loads per month, that amounts to $15.00 of your hard earned money going toward drying costs every month. Furthermore, depending on the make and model of your dryer, it may last less than 20 years and require replacement parts and maintenance. Besides all of the benefits mentioned above, nothing beats the fresh smell of air-dried laundry.

Whether your budget is large or small, there are steps you can take to live a greener lifestyle. Some of the changes require little to no out of pocket investment and little extra work on the part of the homeowner. For more information on Renogy Solar and LED products, visit Renogy-Store.com.