After three flat years, carbon dioxide emissions rose again in 2017, showing that the earth’s struggles with climate change will only continue. While this news discouraged those who believed we might have finally hit peak levels, there’s plenty to be hopeful about. Now is the time for individuals to do what they can to reduce their impact, through actions big and small. In the week leading up to Earth Day, Earth911 tackles five different areas in which you can make a difference. Today’s topic: home energy use.

Why Home Energy Use Matters

Americans are plugging in more appliances than ever and, consequently, home energy use is at an all-time high. The U.S. uses more than 20 percent of the world’s energy, yet accounts for only about 5 percent of its population. If everyone consumed energy at U.S. rates, we would require five planets to stay afloat.

Reducing energy consumption at home not only shrinks your personal carbon footprint, it saves money on your monthly bill.

What You Can Do

You can start by determining your home energy use by conducting a quick energy audit. Consider your personal electricity use, too.

While unplugging your fridge isn’t a feasible option, unplugging your other electronics when not in use is. “Energy vampires” are devices that suck energy — and add to your bill — even when powered off. In your kitchen alone, keeping gadgets like your coffee maker and toaster plugged in could add an extra $20 to your bill each year.

Try using a power strip to make turning off multiple devices as simple as the flick of a switch.

Energy Star is an EPA-backed program that certifies energy-efficient electronics ranging from washing machines to light fixtures. The certification is widely known and covers thousands of brands, making eco-friendly electronics easy to find. Just check for the Energy Star label next time you shop for appliances.

To maximize energy efficiency while heating and cooling your home, make sure to seal all air gaps and inspect the insulation. Shutting off your thermostat as you head out the door or climb into bed is a great way to reduce your energy consumption, too.

Going solar is the ultimate way to be energy efficient at home. While the initial installation cost is high, solar panels pay for themselves after a few years and are incredibly green investments.

The Future of Home Energy

Many energy providers offer green programs that allow customers to source their home’s energy from renewables — like wind and solar power. While it might cost a bit more, it’s an easy solution to eco-friendly home energy.

Looking ahead, energy experts are shifting focus to what’s in your walls.

Technical advances in insulation are improving home energy efficiency significantly. In partnership with the Department of Energy, the Building Technologies Office has developed a new generation of windows and building envelope technologies with great potential to reduce home energy consumption.

The new technology includes innovative materials twice as energy efficient as the insulation on today’s market, temperature-controlling vinyl siding and airtight windows. They have the power to cut your home energy use in half.

By Lauren Murphy

Lauren has a B.S. in environmental science, a crafting addiction, and a love for all things Pacific Northwest. She writes from her cozy downtown apartment tucked in the very northwestern corner of the continental U.S. Lauren spends her time writing and focusing on a healthy, simple and sustainable lifestyle.