Outlet plug in energy efficient home

Smart homes. Smart cars. Smart strips. Going green is effortless today, but energy efficient choices aren’t just about saving the planet. With these ten easy-peasy steps, you’ll also be adding hard cold cash to your wallet from energy savings throughout your home. Choose one or choose them all. Remember, protecting the earth while saving money is just plain, well – smart!

1. Use Energy Star Appliances

If your old appliances are working fine, you may still want to consider upgrading to Energy-Star-certified new models. That’s because your old machines may be wasting energy and water every time you use them. That can add up in your utility bills, but also in the cost to the environment. Visit the Energy Star website to find certified models. You can also learn about tax credits and rebates that will make upgrading even more affordable.

2. Use a Programmable Thermostat

The average household spends more than $2,000 a year on energy bills according to Energy Star. Wanna save about a third off you energy bill while also helping the planet? A few settings can equal savings—$180 a year, in fact, if homeowners properly set their programmable thermostats and maintain those settings. You can calculate the savings using the Programmable Thermostat Calculator. This handy tool was designed by the Department of Energy and the EPA to give you a lifecycle cost estimate.

hand on thermostat control
Image courtesy of Nest

3. Use Energy Efficient Window Shades

Don’t throw your money out the window! According to the U.S. Department of Energy, 10 to 25 percent of heating and cooling costs are lost through windows. Look for an energy-efficient shade like the Duette Architella from Hunter Douglas. They have a unique honey-comb-within-honeycomb design that can reduce heat loss by 50 percent. More air pockets mean greater insulation than traditional honeycomb shades. Considering automatic shades?

4. Use a Dual Flush Toilet

Standard toilets use nearly 3 gallons of water with every flush. Switching to a dual flush toilet can save 67 percent of that water. These eco-friendly toilets have two buttons that give you the power to choose exactly how big a flush you need. Since most trips to the bathroom don’t require a powerful flush, the water savings is dramatic.

5. Use a Front-Loading Washing Machine

It’s important to replace old top loaders with Energy-Star-certified new front loaders as soon as possible. Although they’re generally more expensive, front-loading models circulate clothes in a shallower pool of water, using less water and heat, and saving money in the long run. And by using a washer with the Energy Star certification, you use on average 20 percent less energy and 35 percent less water than basic washers that aren’t Energy Star certified, according to the Natural Resources Defense Council. That can translate into savings of around $60 a month on your utility bills.

6. Use Cold or Warm Water When Washing Clothes

The next step to greening your laundry is to change your washer’s temperature settings. Simply switching from washing in hot to warm can cut your energy use by half.

7. Use a Dryer with Moisture Sensor

Dryers are the second biggest energy hog in your home, according the California Energy Commission, so it’s important to make the most of whatever energy saving features they offer. Look for models that have a moisture sensor in the drum, as opposed to in the exhaust vent. A drum sensor will shut off a little sooner, saving slightly more energy. Speaking of dryers, wool dryer balls are a great way to green your dryer routine and save money in the process.

Rheem Prestige EcoSense Hybrid Heat Pump
The Rheem Prestige EcoSense Hybrid Heat Pump 50-gallon water heater has an EF of 2.45, making it almost 3x as efficient as a standard electric water heater.

8. Use a High-Efficient Gas or Tankless Water Heater

Tankless water heaters heat only the water you’re using when you’re using it instead of wasting energy to heat up more water than you need at any given time. Since heating water accounts for a third of your total energy bill, it’s a good idea to switch to a more efficient water heater. The government estimates that tankless water heaters can save homeowners between 45 and 60 percent of water heating energy and up to $1,800 over its lifetime when compared to standard, minimum-efficiency heaters. Note that new standards, National Appliance Energy Conservation Act (NAECA), in effect as of April 2015, requires all water heaters to be more efficient (read more: New Efficiency Standards Heat Up Tank Vs. Tankless Water Heater Debate).

9. Use Fireplace Inserts or a Late-Model Wood Stove

Wood-burning fireplaces without inserts and older model wood stoves may feel warm and cozy when you’re in front of them, but they can actually take away more heat from your home than they contribute. Take a few steps back from the fireplace and you’ll see what I mean. Plus, these cozy fires are major sources of pollution. Simply upgrading to an EPA-certified insert or a newer model wood stove can reduce your heating bills by nearly 40 percent and clean up your fireplace pollution by about 70 percent. If just 20 families made the switch to cleaner and more efficient fireplaces, there would be a ton less particulate matter pollution released into the air each year.

10. Hang Dry Half Your Clothes

Since dryers consume so much energy, line drying or hanging your clothes on a rack is a wonderful alternative option. Dryers cost about $85 annually to run. By making the switch to line drying your clothes, you can save $40 a year; even if you hang just half of your laundry!

Sorry Kermit, but being green really is easy! Got a tip to share (or a favorite from above)? Share them in the comments section below.

By Lisa Beres

Lisa Beres is a healthy home authority, Baubiologist, published author, professional speaker and Telly award-winning media personality who teaches busy people how to eliminate toxins from their home with simple, step-by-step solutions to improve their health. With her husband, Ron, she is the co-founder of The Healthy Home Dream Team and the 30-day online program Change Your Home. Change Your Health. She is the author of the children’s book My Body My House and co-author of Just Green It!: Simple Swaps to Save Your Health and the Planet, Learn to Create a Healthy Home! Green Nest Creating Healthy Homes and The 9 to 5 Greened: 10 Steps to a Healthy Office. Lisa’s TV appearances include "The Rachael Ray Show," "Nightly News with Brian Williams," "TODAY," "The Doctors," "Fox & Friends," "Chelsea Lately" and "The Suzanne Somers Show."