07/29/2015 06:11 pm ET Updated Dec 06, 2017

6 Quick and Easy Ways to Go Green

Going green at home doesn’t have to be difficult or expensive. There are many ways to improve efficiency without spending a fortune. Here are some quick and easy ways to increase energy efficiency while decreasing your monthly utility bills:

#1 Perform a home energy audit.

Perform an energy audit to identify all of the energy-wasting areas in your home. You can hire a home energy auditor for about $220 to $530. An auditor will usually find more than one way to save energy in your home, saving you as much as 30 percent or more on your monthly utility bill. The savings add up quickly whether you decide to invest in some or all of the recommended changes.

Photo courtesy of Electrical Plus, LLC in West Chester, PA

#2 Upgrade your light bulbs.

Switching out your light bulbs with their CFL or LED alternatives is another low-cost way to save energy. CFLs convert most of the energy they use. Altogether, they use 75 percent less energy and last 10 times longer. You will save about $90 over the lifetime of every bulb you install as compared to a fluorescent or incandescent bulb.

#3 Replace shower heads.

Saving energy -- and money -- doesn’t have to mean sacrificing the length or enjoyment of your showers. Low-flow showerheads save almost 2 gallons of water per minute, meaning a family of four can save about $90 per year on water and gas or $140 per year on electric.

Photo courtesy of Mancusi Builders, LLC in Hampstead, NH

#4 Invest in Energy Star appliances.

If you have to replace old appliances, opt for appliances with the Energy Star label. Sponsored and approved by the U.S. Department of Energy and the EPA, Energy Star guarantees the energy efficiency of appliances and other products that use, on average, about 30 percent less energy than non-efficient alternatives. An Energy Star rated appliance can save you as much as $600 per year. Plus, you can get tax credits for investing in these appliances -- more money in your pocket, right?

Photo courtesy of Air Temp Air Conditioning, Inc. in Port Saint Lucie, FL

#5 Install a programmable thermostat.

Most homeowners spend about $2,500 on energy bills related to their HVAC systems. A professionally installed, programmable thermostat costs between $110 and $260; installing one yourself will cost $50 to $100. Either way, wiring a programmable thermostat into your HVAC system can save you up to $200 per year by shaving 2 to 5 percent off your heating and cooling bill for up to 80 hours a day. Those savings add up -- especially when the A/C turns on while you’re away from the house, or when the heater turns on during the night.

Photo courtesy of Insul-Pros Insulation in Olympia, WA

#6 Add more insulation.

Insulation provides a lot of benefits to your home, the most important of which is preventing leaks. Insulation in your walls and attics prevents air from leaking out, which can spell an extra 20 or 30 percent in energy loss to your home. Add more insulation to your attic if you can, especially if your walls are particularly hard to get to and reinforce. You can invest in various types of insulation; each offers its own benefits and drawbacks. Talk to an insulation contractor about the best type for your home.

Other Tips for Going Green

There are many other ways to affordably go green at home. To keep your energy bills low and help the environment, you can:
  • Replace disposable bags with reusable ones.
  • Wash clothes in cold water instead of hot.
  • Turn off lights when you leave a room.
  • Unplug unused electronics and appliances.
For more tips on going green at home, check out this article from Wall Street Cheat Sheet. If you have more ideas on ways to save the environment and be eco-friendly at home, please share them in the comments!