Some green living guides seem to start with a long list of expensive things: update your appliances, replace all your windows, get new insulation. All of those things are smart moves for the environment and they'll save you money in the long term, but what if you don't have the available cash? Can you still go green? Absolutely, and we've got some suggestions on how to do it without breaking the bank -- and in some cases, without spending any money at all.
Hanging clothes to dry saves you big bucks on the drier, whether it's gas or electric. Consider a drying rack in the living room or kitchen if you live in a space where you can't set up a clothesline outside (or where the weather gets hostile in the cooler months). Be aware that indoor drying can contribute to respiratory problems as well as mold and mildew unless you run a dehumidifier, because all the moisture in the air has to go somewhere.
Running a dehumidifier while you dry will not only help clothes dry faster: it will also be better for your home, and it will save money on heating bills. Costs for monthly operation vary depending on the size you use (make sure to get the right size for the room) and you can often find used dehumidifiers at low cost by visiting thrift stores or checking online listings.
Wrap your pipes
Hot water pipes are very efficient at transferring heat, as you may have noticed if you've ever stood next to one. Unfortunately, that's not a desirable trait if you're trying to save energy. Insulate your pipes to keep that heat where it should be, and you'll cut costs on heating water and moving hot water throughout your home. That wrapping will also prevent scalds and burns in the event someone bumps into the plumbing.
Plant a tree
This is a long-term investment, but if you have the space and you plan to be around for a while, you should seriously consider it. Pick a deciduous tree so it will provide lots of leafy shade in the spring and summer to cool your home (cutting heating costs) while dropping leaves in the winter to allow plenty of light to reach the house during darker months. Planting trees is also good for the environment on a larger scale, and it will make your yard that much nicer.
Plan on around five years before the tree really starts working for you. And be aware that you may be able to get a free tree through a community tree-planting program!
Aerate your faucets
Aerators are super inexpensive and easy to install, but they offer big savings. You'll use less water and cut costs when your water runs through an aerator, because it'll be broken up into droplets that go further than a regular stream of water would. Installing them will only take a minute, and they'll generate savings for a lifetime.
Weatherstripping for all
Replacing windows can be great, but so can installing better weatherstripping to stabilize the temperature inside your house and eliminate drafts. Weatherstripping is much less expensive than new windows, although it will require some time to install. If you don't want to do the job yourself, a handyman is ideally suited to the task, although the services of a pro will drive your costs up a bit.
Landscape for the rain
Rain gardens are an innovative way to take advantage of the rain, rather than watching it get wasted down the drain. Yes, you could install a rain capturing system to save it and use the water in irrigation and other tasks, but you could also just route your drainage to a specific area of the yard filled with water-loving plants that flourish in the wet conditions.
As the water hits the soil, it will irrigate the plants and slowly filter through, allowing it to return to the groundwater rather than turning into runoff. That's good news for the planet and for you!
Green up the cleaning closet
Some of the best cleaners, as we know, actually come from the pantry shelves. You don't need expensive and sometimes harsh specialized cleaners when you have vinegar, baking soda, lemons, and other ingredients around. Go to town on cleaning day with natural and gentle ingredients that are both inexpensive and environmentally-friendly.
Use an on-demand recirculating pump
This project requires a bit more money and you might want to call on your San Francisco Bay Area plumber for help with installation if you're not confident with plumbing tasks, but it's worth it. Recirculating pumps solve a problem many of us bemoan while we watch cool water pour uselessly down the drain as we wait for the water to heat up: they recapture that water and route it right back to the hot water heater.
These pumps save water, which equals savings on your water bills and more efficiency for those in drought areas concerned about water wastage. Plus, they're very simple to install!
Katie Marks writes for Networx.com.