Angie's List: How you can reduce your carbon footprint and save money

Every homeowner has a herd of hogs whether they've ever visited a farm or not. Energy hogs, that is.

The biggest energy hogs are water heaters, HVAC systems, major appliances and lights. If any of these items in your home have a little age on them and you've not been giving them regular maintenance, you may be losing up to 50 percent of your energy efficiency.

The good news is that you can put your energy hogs on a diet without breaking the bank as you evaluate how to budget for some of the more expensive ways to reduce your carbon footprint.

Low-ticket ways to go green:

  • Programmable Thermostats – Available for as cheap as $30, but a good one on average will cost around $100. Programmable thermostats can automate your home's temperature to be lower when you're not there or when you sleep. You can also manually adjust your temperature, and that doesn't anything but time and attention.
  • Seal it up – Seal any window or door drafts to keep you warm air in and the cold air out.
  • Paint – Use paints with a low VOC rating, they are better for the environment.
  • Insulation – Having the right amount and right type of insulation will help your home retain the work your HVAC system does year round, but more than half of homes in the U.S. are not properly insulated.

Higher ticket ways to go green:

  • HVAC system – If your system is 10 years or older and is in need of repair, you may be better off with a newer, more energy efficient unit. Ask a reliable local expert and do the math to determine when replacement is most economical.
  • Water Heater – Prolong the good life of your heater by emptying a quart of water from it every few months. This will remove sediment that left to build up will reduce the unit's efficiency. If it's been working longer than 10 years and is having trouble, replacement could be the best option. Talk to a reliable expert and do the math.
  • Major appliances – If you are replacing any major appliance, check their Energy Star rating to save on your energy bill.
  • Flooring – Bamboo and cork flooring are popular eco-friendly options because of the source material's ability to regenerate quickly. Hardwood floors are also a good option because they last a very long time and often contractors use recycled hardwood.
  • Carpet – Eco-friendly carpeting can include carpet made from recycled water bottles that comes in all sorts of colors and patterns. Also, you can get carpet tiles. That way if just one place gets damaged, you can just replace that one carpet section rather than ripping up the whole carpet.
  • Windows – Replacing old drafty windows with energy efficient replacement windows can help address drafts but do your homework to determine what kind of windows you need and do the math on the return you'll get for the investment.

Once you have decided it's time to go green do your research to find contractors that are green One way to tell is they will have Green Seal Certification and a good, local reputation for doing good work.

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