Smarter Living: Energy

Lawrence Berkeley Labs double paned windows

Photo: Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratories

It may seem hard to believe but each of us is responsible for over 20 tons of heat-trapping pollution being emitted into the atmosphere each year.  However, changes in our home and daily life can trim tons off of our personal output and save us money along the way. With Smarter Living, you can be the biggest loser on your block (and we mean this in the best way possible). In our 12-step plan, we'll show you how to save and show you how to get help—including financial help when there are upfront costs to consider.

We focus on the household because some of the biggest savings you can make come from insulating, sealing, upgrading your furnace and appliances—all choices that will improve your home’s efficiency and save you money in the long run. And with Congress considering incentives for home-efficiency improvements, as well as services and incentives that states and municipalities are offering, there should be many opportunities for rebates, loans and other ways to defray upfront costs and get help when you need it.

So why 10 tons? And why 12 steps? Because 10 tons is a realistic sum for a household to shed, and some of the steps will involve an investment of time and resources and it's good to spread these out over a few months or a year. Also, this plan will go beyond the household to look at ways your transportation, eating and other habits can be tweaked to reduce your emissions. Changing habits doesn't happen overnight!

Start with our first step: a home energy audit.

12 Step Overview

Each month, we will take you through a new step, with a concrete plan, cost reduction strategies and alternatives if you’ve already taken a given action or it doesn’t apply to your situation.

  1. Conduct a home energy audit
  2. Seal and insulate your home
  3. Upgrade your furnace
  4. Improve your commute
  5. Cool your home for less
  6. Trim out beef and pork
  7. Treat water right
  8. Skip one flight
  9. Reduce waste
  10. Improve appliances
  11. Make your electronics more efficient
  12. Build on Your Gains

Tax Deductions, Rebates and Assistance Programs

There are many options out there to help pay for home improvements and efficiency upgrades. Check these out ahead of time and you might find you'll be able to accomplish more than you thought possible.

Utilities: Check with your energy provider for rebates and assistance programs

State Incentives: The Alliance to Save Energy provides state-by-state listings of incentives

Federal Government: See the Tax Incentives Assistance Project for information about home-improvements and energy-efficient upgrades that qualify for federal income tax deductions. Depending on your income, you may qualify for a free audit and other weatherization services through the Weatherization Assistance Program. This service is also available to renters.

last revised 4/12/2011

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