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Slide Show | April 2012

10 Energy-Efficient Moves to Do in a Weekend

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For homeowners, it doesn't take much to help make the planet a little greener. In fact, you can start right at home. From replacing your light bulbs to installing insulating window treatments, most projects are fairly simple to do and range in price from $10 to $250.

Here's our round-up of got 10 energy-efficient do-it-yourself projects to try out over the weekend.


10 Energy-Efficient Moves to Do in a Weekend

Replace Your Showerhead

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Estimated time: 15 minutes

Estimated cost: $10 to $60

Install a new WaterSense-labeled showerhead, and you could save more than 2,300 gallons of water annually, according to the Environmental Protection Agency. Using less hot water will cut your energy bills, and your local utilities may provide a rebate, too. EPA vouches that models labeled WaterSense still provide a satisfying shower.

Your showerhead is a water-waster if it fills a gallon bucket in 20 seconds. To find out how much water and money you could save in your home with water-saving improvements, use the calculator at EPA.gov.

Replace Your Showerhead

Add Aerators to Your Faucets

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Estimated time: About 5 minutes per faucet

Estimated cost: $2 to $10

You can save another 500 gallons of water annually simply by replacing a standard aerator, which delivers more than 2.5 gallons per minute, with a low-flow one, with a flow of 0.5 to 1 gallon per minute. The low-flow aerators will cut water and energy usage while maintaining adequate water pressure.

Unsure whether your faucets are water wasters? Put a quart container under the sink faucet and let 'er flow. If the container fills in less than five seconds, get busy. In the kitchen you might want greater flow, say 2 to 4 gallons per minute, for filling a pot or the sink.

Add Aerators to Your Faucets

Install a Water-Efficient Toilet

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Estimated time: One hour

Estimated cost: $200 or more

EPA estimates that a family of four that replaces a home's older toilets with WaterSense-labeled models will, on average, can save more than $90 annually on their water bill and $2,000 over the toilet's lifetime.

Concerned about performance? Read the rave reviews of the American Standard Cadet 3 H2Option Siphonic Dual Flush toilet ($211) at Home Depot. For example, " . . . it flushes cleans." For how to install tips Ron Hazelton can help. If you still don't feel comfortable, you can always hire a contractor for about $150.

Install a Water-Efficient Toilet

Switch to CFLs

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Estimated time: 15 minutes

Estimated cost: $2 to $15 for specialty bulbs

As the days get shorter, you’ll keep on the lights longer. Now’s a good time to switch from traditional incandescent light bulbs to compact fluorescent bulbs (CFLs). Energy-Star qualified CFLs use 75% less energy and last up to 10 times longer than incandescents.

Start with your five most frequently used fixtures and you can save more than $65 annually. Don’t forget about your hardest-to-reach locations, too. Don’t want to climb a ladder? Use the Bayco 11-foot Light Bulb Changer ($20).

Switch to CFLs

Install a Programmable Thermostat

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Estimated time: A half hour

Estimated cost: $25 to $250

With a programmable thermostat you can preset temperatures for your home that will automatically reduce heating and cooling when you don’t need it as much. Energy Star says an average household can save about $180 annually on their energy bills by properly setting their programmable thermostat and maintaining those settings.

This is a low-voltage wiring installation that will involve 2 to 10 wires. If you don’t feel comfortable following the instructions, a heating-and-air-conditioning contractor will probably charge you $75 to $150 for installation.

Install a Programmable Thermostat

Build or Install an Insulated Attic Hatch

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Estimated time: Several hours

Estimated cost: $30 if DIY; $30 to $240 for ready-made models

If your attic entry is uninsulated your home gains heat in summer and loses it in winter, jacking up your energy bills. For do-it-yourself instructions, read Attic Access Insulation and Air Sealing.

You also have your choice of several, ready-made products. Check out: Battic Door Home Energy Conservation Products, The Energy Guardian Kits, the Attic Tent and the Draft Cap.

Build or Install an Insulated Attic Hatch

Stop Chimney Drafts

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Estimated time: 15 minutes

Estimated cost: $55 for ready-made draftstopper

Even with the damper closed, in winter your home’s heated air goes up the chimney and in summer hot outdoor air comes down. When you’re not using it your fireplace, plug the flue with a chimney balloon like the Draftstopper from Battic Door Energy Conservation Products.

For a really cheap alternative, you can make one out of an old seat cushion or a pillow placed in a heavy plastic bag. Stuff the cushion into the flue and tie a long tail to it, so you don’t forget about it the next time you make a fire.

Stop Chimney Drafts

Drain Sediment From Your Water Heater

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Estimated time: 15 minutes

Estimated cost: $0

To ensure your water heater’s performance and longevity, drain it annually to get rid of accumulated sediment -- sand, minerals or other non-soluble stuff that settles at the bottom of the tank. A good tip-off that you need to do this? The heater sounds like a coffee pot, making bubbling or burping noises.

The basic strategy: Attach a garden hose to the drain valve at the bottom of the rank and run it outdoors or to a utility tub.

Drain Sediment From Your Water Heater

Replace Your Washing Machine Hoses

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Estimated time: 10 minutes

Estimated cost: $10 to $20

Washing machine hoses don’t last forever, regardless of the material they’re made from—reinforced rubber of stainless-steel reinforced (even those touted as "burst-proof"). A broken one can deluge your home with hundreds of gallons of water per hour, and your homeowners insurance probably won’t cover the flood.

Check the hoses frequently for rusting, bulging, cracking, fraying and leaks--signs that you should replace the hoses now. Otherwise, State Farm recommends that you replace them every three to five years. While you’re at it, check the hoses leading to water heaters, dishwashers and refrigerator ice-makers.

Replace Your Washing Machine Hoses

Add Insulating Window Treatments

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Estimated time: One hour for drapes; half hour per blind

Estimated cost: $10 to $200 and up

You can increase your comfort and cut your energy bills this winter with thermal window coverings. Duette Architella honeycomb shades, by Hunter Douglas (from $202 per blind), more than doubles the insulating value of a double-paned, low E window (when "inside mounted" and fully recessed within the window casement).

Other options: Country Curtains sells foam-backed thermal curtains and insulated liners that you can hang behind your existing curtains with heavy-duty double rods that hold curtain and liner.

Add Insulating Window Treatments

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