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Tips to save money and reduce your environmental footprint

December 8, 2010

Courtesy of ARA Content

Are you afraid to turn up the heat in your house this winter because you consider your electric bill—and your carbon footprint—to be big enough?

Saving money and reducing your carbon and water footprints are worthy goals you can spend many years striving to achieve. But here are a few ideas to help you get started reducing your energy bill and being eco-friendly.

→ In the laundry room, consider using a dryer that steam cleans your laundry, so you don’t have to take it to the dry cleaners. The benefits can add up quickly each week. You can save time doing your laundry when you want, and money by not paying for dry cleaning or for the gas used for a trip to the dry cleaners. You’ll also benefit the environment by using water to steam clean your clothes, and avoiding some of the chemicals dry cleaning companies often use.

→ Start making your own electricity in your utility room. Replace your furnace or boiler with ECR International’s freewatt heating system, which uses micro-CHP technology to generate heat and electricity for your home. This system works for natural gas fuel sources, and can generate up to half of your typical home’s annual electric needs through the engine generator, according to ECR. It basically burns the same amount of fuel as your current furnace, but generates additional electricity through the process to power other areas of your home.

“We wanted to spend as little money annually as possible on our fuel bills,” says Amy O’Connor of Swampscott, Mass., who uses a freewatt natural gas energy system in her colonial home. “We’ve seen incredible electrical savings, and it’s really a joy to turn our heat on every year because once the heat comes on—and it’s heat that we would be using anyway—we start to generate our own electricity and we see fantastic electrical savings every year. We knew when we purchased it that we were going to be happy with having a new heating system that was gas, but also having something that would lessen our carbon footprint. But really, at the end of the day, it was about saving thousands of dollars on an annual basis.”

The freewatt plus model, also available in propane, provides you with backup power that keeps your electricity on, even when the grid around you goes black. Additionally, you can add a water heater to the freewatt plus system to produce added electricity. You may be able to sell electricity back to your utility company if it has net metering.

→ Keep your runoff clean. Landscape your property so the rainwater that lands on it leaves as clean as when it fell from the sky. If your home will support it, you can develop a green roof to reduce your watershed amount. A smaller project you can work on around your home includes installing rain gardens with deep-rooted native plants that will allow the rainwater—and snow melt—to seep naturally into the ground, instead of rushing off into the stormwater system. Collecting rainwater in barrels at the bottom of your drain spouts will also help you save on water usage because you can reuse that water for your plants in drier times.

You can accomplish your goals to save money and reduce your environmental footprint at home with just a little effort and energy. And as the temperature drops this winter—set the temperature where you want it, because being green doesn’t mean you have to be cold.

From the Dec. 8-14, 2010 issue

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