Guest post by Melissa Lynne, freelance writer for Systrum Energy, a third party energy supplier serving New Jersey.
For the average American household, monthly utility bills represent a significant chunk of the family budget, usually 5 – 10 percent of monthly expenses. Since utilities are such a big chunk of your expenses, there are probably a number of ways that you can effectively cut your home energy costs each month. While many people may see “going green” as an additional expense, there are a number of green practices that can help you slash your monthly bills.
At this point, we all know how to set the thermostat higher when we sleep or leave the house. We know that we can turn the water heater down a little bit. We know that compact fluorescent bulbs use 75 percent less energy than traditional bulbs. If you are already using some of these responsible practices, you’re on the right track. However, there are a number of unconventional, but effective, ways that you can cut your home energy costs.
Plant Trees as Winter Windbreaks and Summer Shade
Planting trees around your home can bring significant energy savings each month. The US Forest Service showed that having just three trees around your home can cut air conditioning costs by nearly 25 percent annually. Windbreak trees reduce heating costs by lowering the wind chill around your home in the winter and can help keep snow from piling up around your house. In the summer, trees can cut down on sunlight and reduce your air conditioning needs.
Consider an Artificial Lawn
When most people think of artificial turf, they think of the cheap plastic grass that appeared a decade ago. A decade ago, that turf would hold water and deny air and moisture to the ground beneath, choking out nearby trees and other plants. Today, artificial turf is much different; now, it’s made of space-age fabrics that can breathe and let water pass freely. While the thought of an artificial turf may make you cringe, consider this: the typical grass lawn soaks up 6,000-10,000 gallons of water each year to stay green.
Consider a Third-Party Energy Supplier
While it’s possible to negotiate discounts and rebates for new appliances, trying to cut your costs through your utility company can be like trying to squeeze money from a stone. Switching to a third-party electricity supplier like Systrum Energy can save you up to 20 percent on electricity and natural gas costs. Third-party utility companies work with your local utility to build a structured discount, giving you a lower rate for the same energy you’re getting.
Use Gray Water for Certain Tasks
Gray water is the runoff from your sinks and showers, and many homeowners have begun to use it to flush toilets, irrigate the lawn and even do the laundry. While it can significantly reduce your water use, you will need a system to divert it from drains and to treat the water for contaminants. Gray water can be a terrific replacement for lawn irrigation, since it will require minimal treatment and significantly recycles your water.
Assess Your Water Rates
Even if you don’t redirect your water to your lawn, there are a number of little changes you can make to drastically reduce your water usage. Installing low-flow aerators on all your faucets and showerheads you can cut water flow by up to 75 percent per minute. Using a save-a-flush in your toilet cistern (usually available for free from your water company) can save more than 2,600 gallons of water each year.
Editor’s note: We welcome guest posts like the one above. Please contact Katie@greenlivingpdx.com if you would like to submit an article for consideration.