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Top 4 DIY Energy Efficiency Upgrades

Imagine if you could put $25 under a couch cushion, and in 5 years go back and find $1,250. That’s the type of return on investment represented in energy efficiency.

Imagine if you could put $25 under a couch cushion, and in 5 years go back and find $1,250. That’s the type of return on investment represented in efficiency.

While electric vehicles are a great investment due to their greatly reduced maintenance and fuel costs, it pales in comparison to greening your home through energy and water efficiency. It is quite simply the fastest, most effective way to cut our pollution while saving money at the same time.

In this article, we’ll outline some of the best DIY home efficiency upgrades you can do.

Faucets: We start with faucets because they do something about the “energy–water nexus.” Basically, the energy–water nexus is a concept that says that providing people with water takes energy. Moving water to your tap takes energy. Heating water takes energy. Disposing of wastewater takes energy. Treating sewer water takes energy. On most water bills, there’s a line item for an electricity surcharge — this is added to your water bill to help your water utility pay its energy bill. So saving water means saving energy, too.

So, upgrade your faucets to high efficiency fixtures. It’s pretty easy — many times it’s just the aerator that needs to change. High efficiency aerators reduce the amount of water used from the residential building code standard of 2.2 gallons per minute down to 1.0 or even half a gallon of water a minute. Our estimates are that these simple devices, which cost about $4, can save an average household $50 or more per year. Here’s an article on how to upgrade your sinks with high efficiency aerators. You can also upgrade your kitchen sink with a high efficiency swivel aerator!

Lighting: Dude, can we ban incandescent bulbs already? When we started talking about banning incandescent lightbulbs more than a decade ago, the replacements were … sub-par. LED lights have come a long way. They now come in all colors, shapes, sizes, base types, filament types, and across the color spectrum. Their prices, just like the prices of other disruptive clean technologies like solar, EVs, wind, etc., have dropped precipitously. The average LED will use 80–90% less electricity than an incandescent to produce the same amount of light. LEDs last upwards of 15,000–25,000 hours of use, meaning ~25 years. In that time, you’ll have had to buy and replace 20+ incandescent lightbulbs (not to mention the cost of the electricity to run them) for one LED. Check out this article on the true cost of LEDs (this analysis is from a few years ago, when LEDs were actually 4–5× higher than today, but it already showed an incredible ROI).

Electronics: Using an advanced power strip protects your devices from electrical surges. Plus, it saves electricity. How? Well you plug a TV into the control switch on the APS, and then when you turn off the TV, it automatically cuts the power to several other outlets on the strip, which you can put your Xbox and Blu-ray and speakers on. So, if you forget to turn those off, the APS does it for you. It also eliminates vampire power to those devices. Here’s an article on how to set up an APS to save energy. The other device you might want to use is a good old-fashioned timer. These simple devices can turn something off on a regular basis (think Christmas lights). But you can set up a timer on your wifi, and turn it off from 2 AM to 6 AM every night, saving 4 hours of electricity (not to mention EMFs). Here’s an article about how to install and set up a timer for max energy savings.

Showers: We know, we know … Seinfeld. Kramer’s hair. No … it’s just not that way anymore. Just like lights, high efficiency shower devices have come a long way. Nowadays, a high efficiency showerhead means a luxurious shower with massaging option that also saves up to $250 per year. It’s an easy swap most people can do. Here’s an article on how to change out a showerhead, another on how to install a flow valve (small device that allows you to turn the water to a trickle while you soap up without losing the right temp), and another on how to install a thermostatic pull tab device (which shuts the water once it gets hot, allowing you to not waste any hot water while you wait for the shower to warm up).


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Written By

Scott Cooney (twitter: scottcooney) is a serial eco-entrepreneur hellbent on making the world a better place for all its residents. After starting and selling two mission driven companies, Scott started a third and lost his shirt. After that, he bought a new shirt at Goodwill and started this media company and once it was making enough, he was just smart enough to hire someone smarter than him to run it. He then started Pono Home, a service that greens homes, which has, by the end of 2020, performed efficiency retrofits on more than 13,000 homes and small businesses, saving customers more than $3.3 million a year on their utilities. Previously, Scott was an adjunct professor of Sustainability in the MBA program at the University of Hawai'i, green business startup coach, and author of Build a Green Small Business: Profitable Ways to Become an Ecopreneur (McGraw-Hill), and Green Living Ideas.

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