When you’re looking at ways to be more environmentally conscious, and lower your carbon footprint, you’ve probably come across the idea of energy conservation. Energy conservation, or efficient energy usage isn’t a single thing. There are energy efficient appliances, lights, heating, even building materials. But conserving energy covers a lot of different habits, big and small.

The reason reducing your energy helps the environment is by decreasing power plant emissions. That can mean harvesting your own clean energy, recycling and conserving water, or keeping an eye on your thermostat. But little steps like that are just the beginning. You’d be amazed at just how many ways you can cut down on energy consumption at home, once you really start thinking about it. Best of all, anything that cuts down on your energy, is going to cut down on your energy bill, too. And that’s good news for you, and the planet.

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  1. Install a Storm Door

We lose a lot of heat in the summer, and cool air in the winter especially with an air conditioning unit. Central air uses less energy to run, and the best portable AC units can run on battery, but it’s still eating up a lot of energy. An energy-efficient door can help you keep air and heat in the house. But a storm door has a protective coating that can help reduce your energy loss by up to 50%, according to the US Department of Energy. They’re affordable, at $75 to start, and can last between 25 to 50 years.

While you’re looking at storm drawers, be sure to look at getting your home re insulated, especially if it’s more than 30 years old, and keep windows sealed properly. These are all great ways to keep the outside temperature from getting inside, one way or another. Winter or summer, that’s going to keep your thermostat even, and save you money.

  1. Choose Alternative Energy

Solar panels are surprisingly cheap now, and it’s easy to find portable solar chargers for keeping your small devices charged, without having to plug into an outlet. Adding a few solar panels and switching out your tablet charger for something solar powered are two relatively simple ways to generate more clean energy to use, instead of the fossil fuel burned during your regular energy consumption.

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If you’re overwhelmed by the prospect of solar panels and how best to generate your own power, there are plenty of companies which can help you retrofit your home to be more environmentally friendly. Adjustments can be made even to older homes to keep them ecofriendly.

  1. Switch Your Lightbulbs

This is by far one of the simplest and least expensive items on our list. LED lighting is a far more energy-efficient and environmentally friendly way of lighting your home then traditional incandescent bulbs. They last hundreds of times longer than incandescent bulbs, so they cost less to replace, and less are produced. They’re safe to use outside in all weather, and don’t carry the risk of shock. Best of all, unlike traditional bulbs, there are no toxic materials used in production. They are clean, and totally recyclable, making them the best possible light source for a green home. Save yourself money, save the environment, and get a more efficient form of lighting, and all you have to do is swap the bulb out? Sounds perfect to me!

  1. Conserve Water

Conserving water comes high on the list of environmental concerns, right along with energy conservation. With a few changes and swaps to your fixtures and water tank, you can drastically cut down your water consumption. Choose a tankless hot water system to heat and cool your water much cheaper, using much less energy.

Install low-flow fixtures in your showers and bathtubs. There are also low-flow toilets, but simply placing a brick in your toilet tank will help. This method means getting the same amount of flush pressure, while displacing enough water that it won’t pass through the toilet. Switching to showers instead of baths, and turning off your tap when you brush your teeth, are also good ways to cut down on water consumption, and can save you about $170 a year.

  1. Tune Up Your HVAC

Central heating and air are a lot more energy efficient then using smaller AC or heating units. But that’s when they’re working. Clogged filters can mean your HVAC system going full out to only run at half capacity, which has a huge impact on your heating and energy bills. Regular maintenance and checks with a pro can lower your regular power consumption by as much as 15%. And that’s not including what you’ll save on repairs if you have regularly scheduled tune-ups!

  1. Unplug

It’s important to conserve energy by unplugging and powering down your appliances. Yes, that means everything. If you’re not in a room, turn off the lights, and the AC, if you have it. If you’re not using something, power down and unplug. Whether electronics appliances, these things eat up energy even when they’re idle or sleeping, so make sure to power down completely. Take your chargers out of the wall. Use a laptop with a battery pack instead of your big desktop. These are great ways to cut down on energy consumption annually.

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  1. Downsizing

The Tiny House movement is gaining some traction. Mostly due to Youtube, Pinterest and Instagram, everyone’s staring at the adorable tiny spaces, and daydreaming about the freedom of owning a home again, living on a little, and being unencumbered by the stuff we accumulate in every day life. The tiny house movement isn’t for everyone, but that doesn’t mean you should dismiss it outright. There’s a lot to be said for getting a smaller space, which is cheaper and easier to heat.

Even a concentrated decluttering effort is a great place to start. Donate and recycle as much as possible, but try not to upcycle or reuse, and don’t save something that you think you might “do something” with later. You’d be amazing how much a decluttering will show you about how much stuff you accumulate. That’s for no other reason than that you have space to fill.

If you’re looking at ways to cut down your impact on the environment, you’ll usually find something about conserving energy. But what does it mean to be energy efficient? Starting with turning the lights off and switching your appliances to standby, or unplugging them all together, is a great first step. But it’s only a step. There are dozens of ways to be energy efficient at home, from small changes like LED light bulbs, to renovations. As well solar panels, dark roofs, and insulation, to making the big move to downsizing to a smaller place. Finally, you should feel free to choose the methods that work best for your home and family. Every little bit helps with energy conservation. Big step or small, we’re all doing our part to help the planet.