What Are Energy Star Appliances?

What would life be like without appliances? Our reliance on our dishwashers, laundry machines, etc. makes them an integral part of our homes. They keep the house clean and ensure that the well-oiled machine that is your home life continues to run smoothly. Fortunately, Energy Star appliances are more sustainable than others and can save you money on your utility bills.

What are Energy Star appliances?

Energy Star products use less energy than other home appliances. Because they are more energy efficient, they help to protect the environment by reducing harmful emissions. These products adhere to strict guidelines set forth by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and U.S. Department of Energy. Over the lifespan of these home appliances, you can save significantly on energy costs.

You’ll find the Energy Star badge on common home appliances such as refrigerators and dishwashers, but over the years, the program has expanded to other systems throughout the home including HVAC systems, water heaters, TV sets, and more.


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These appliances accomplish improvements in sustainability through various product features. Here are just a few examples of their efficiency gains compared to non-certified appliances, courtesy of the Energy Star Appliances Brochure

  • Certified refrigerators are about 15% more energy-efficient
  • Certified freezers use about 10% less energy
  • Certified dehumidifiers use 15% less energy (roughly $175 lifetime savings)
  • Certified air cleaners are 40% more energy-efficient (roughly $25 annual utility bills savings)
  • Certified dishwashers are 10% more energy-efficient and 20% more water-efficient (average 1,900 gallons of water savings over product lifetime) 
  • On average, certified laundry machines can cut energy costs by one-third and water costs by more than half

To truly make improvements in your energy output, it’s helpful to establish a baseline. By sorting through your utility bills, you’ll gain an understanding of how your household’s energy output is distributed, allowing you to identify areas for improvement. Using these special appliances is just one way to accomplish more sustainable living at home. By combining these products with other eco-friendly practices, you’ll see your energy expenses decrease while feeling a sense of pride that you’re doing your part to protect the environment.

To maximize your appliances, it’s important to keep them clean. Read the following blog post on appliance cleaning tips to keep them highly efficient for their entire life cycle.

7 Tips for Cleaning Your Appliances


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7 Tips for Sustainable Living at Home

There’s always room for improvement in a household’s quest to go green. From how you use your appliances to the way you consume and dispose of food, every lifestyle choice you make at home presents an opportunity to be more eco-friendly. Adopting more sustainable practices has obvious environmental benefits and helps to improve quality of life, but it can also increase your home value and in some cases may generate extra cash.

7 Tips for Sustainable Living at Home

1. Create a Sustainable Kitchen

The kitchen is responsible for a decent portion of your home’s energy output. Choosing energy-efficient appliances can help to improve your household’s sustainability by using less energy. Reusable materials go a long way in the kitchen as well. Even seemingly small changes like switching from single use to reusable grocery bags and eliminating paper towels can make an impact. Using natural cleaning products will keep your kitchen cleaner longer while improving your home’s air quality, and being mindful about water usage can save on utility bills.

2. Plant an Herb Garden

To further improve your home’s sustainability, consider planting an herb garden. This helps to cut down on repeatedly buying spices and seasonings at the grocery store while cultivating a natural ambience in your home. (And they’re fun to cook with, too!) Do indoor plants need sunlight? Of course, so be sure to position your indoor garden in an area where your plants have direct access. Once you’ve picked out a spot, decide which herbs you’d like to grow. Some of the most common herbs are easy to grow and will pair well with whatever’s on the menu—basil, thyme, cilantro, parsley, oregano, etc.

3. Tips for a More Energy Efficient Home

The first step in becoming more energy efficient at home is understanding your energy output. Once you understand your household’s habits, you can identify which cutbacks will help you chart a more sustainable path forward. Energy-efficient lightbulbs can help you save on utility bills. Because they use less energy that standard lightbulbs, they typically last longer as well. Make sure your home is properly insulated and your windows’ caulking and weatherstripping is in good condition. Air leaks and poor insulation waste energy and will cause spikes in your utility bills.


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4. Reduce Waste at Home

Every household produces some sort of waste, but it’s how that waste is treated that makes all the difference for the environment. Clean your recycling to make it easier to process and do your best to only buy what you plan to eat. Start a compost bin for extra food scraps or consider other agricultural solutions for disposing of it. Consider buying items like shampoo, conditioner, moisturizers, and the like in bulk to cut down on packaging waste. Reusable glass containers or jars will help you portion out meals and provide a useful way to store bulk items like rice and beans.

5. Use Solar Energy

Yes, making the switch to solar energy comes with significant upfront costs. But an investment in solar is not just an investment in the health of the planet, it can increase your home value as well. The energy savings you’ll generate in the long-term will depend on your household’s level of consumption and the power generated by your solar panels. And if you’re generating more power than you’re consuming, you may be able to sell the surplus energy back to the grid. For more information on solar-based incentives and tax breaks by state, visit DSIRE (Database of State Incentives for Renewables & Efficiency®).


A worker installs a solar panel on the rooftop of a sustainable home as the sun sets behind him.

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6. Sustainable Gardening Best Practices

Even for the green thumbs, there’s opportunity to go greener at home. A garden is only as healthy as its soil. Mulching is vital to soil health and helps to reduce weed growth. Animal manure also has the power to enrich garden soil, both as a fertilizer and conditioner. Organic weed killers made with natural ingredients will maintain your garden’s health while keeping unwanted weeds at bay. Apply this same organic mindset to dealing with slugs as well. Certain types of slug bait may possess certain chemicals that do more harm than good, especially if you have farm animals on your property like chickens or goats.

7. Sustainable Laundry Room Tips

Before you begin your next cycle in the laundry room, consider some methods of reducing energy. Because the heating of water is responsible for a majority of the energy generated by doing laundry, using cold water can help you save on energy costs. Cold water is also gentler on clothing. Clean the dryer vent and filter regularly to keep it unclogged and running efficiently. Consider hang-drying when possible, and in warmer months, air dry your clothes to save a dryer cycle.

For more information on sustainable living, helpful advice on home upgrades, plus tips on DIY home projects and more, visit the Living section of our blog.

Windermere Blog – Living


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Preparing Your Garage for an Electric Vehicle

Many have made the switch from gas-powered to electric vehicles (EVs). They help to make a household more sustainable by reducing its carbon footprint, cut down on gas costs, and present a variety of technological solutions for modern home life. With more EVs being produced by a greater number of auto manufacturers than ever before, their driving range is constantly improving; most models can travel hundreds of miles with a full charge. As a homeowner, there’s a specific to-do list you’ll want to complete before welcoming an EV into your home.

Preparing Your Garage for an Electric Vehicle

By giving your garage a simple makeover, you’ll be set up for success as an electric vehicle owner. An EV is nothing without a charged battery, so your home charging station should take precedence when reorganizing the space. As EVs continue to grow in popularity, more remote charging stations are popping up across the country. However, it is advised not to rely solely on remote charging. Having a charging station at home is simply more convenient and will ensure that your vehicle is never far from the power it needs.


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Setting Up a Charging Station

To charge your vehicle, you’ll need the proper electrical setup. You’ll have two options: either a 120- or 240-volt amp outlet.

Though 240-volt outlets are more expensive and require a more involved installation process that includes applying for and obtaining a permit, they charge faster than 120-volt outlets. 240-volt outlets also put added strain on a property’s electrical supply, so you may need to hook up a new service line to accommodate for the added voltage.

It is common for garages to already have a 120-volt outlet installed, so no additional installation work may be needed if you decide to go that route. Electrical installation is usually outside the realm of DIY home projects, so be sure to talk to a local licensed electrician for advice.

  • Follow manufacturer instructions for installing your EV charger. In general, it’s preferable to have the charger three to four feet off the ground and no more than four feet from the outlet.
  • Cold temperatures can adversely affect charging times, so it’s important to properly insulate your garage. Insulate as necessary before purchasing your EV so everything is squared away by the time your vehicle arrives.
  • Keep the charging station easily accessible by clearing out any other items or clutter in the area.

Security Measures

An EV charger is a valuable item, which is all the more reason to make sure your garage is protected. If your home is already well equipped from a safety and security standpoint, you’ll want to extend coverage to your garage to protect your new investment. Home security cameras and alarm systems will help to ensure that, at the very least, you’ll be notified of a break-in.

For more information on sustainable living, tips on organizing your home, cleaning hacks, and more, visit the Living section of our blog:

Windermere Blog – Living


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5 Ways to Incorporate Nature into Your Home

Home décor often focuses heavily on the latest and greatest trends. But even the most well decorated home can feel like it’s missing a natural element. Here are five simple ways you can incorporate nature into your home to make it feel more connected to the environment it inhabits.

5 Ways to Incorporate Nature into Your Home

1. Natural Light

Natural light has the power to breathe new life into your home. Place your furniture in your living room and/or dining room to make your get-togethers feel more connected to the outdoors and orient your workspace in your home office near a window to stay productive throughout the workday. By finding ways to let the sunshine in, your home will feel refreshed and lighter. Fortunately, this doesn’t require a heavy investment. Try sheer curtains or new blinds wherever your home’s large windows are. This will help to balance the light in the larger spaces around your home, so you don’t have to rely on artificial light sources.


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2. Hardwood Floors / Wood Accents

To truly feel a connection to nature throughout your home, you’ve got to work from the ground up. Making the switch to hardwood floors will significantly impact the look and feel of your home, given the large surface area of such a project. A job of this scale is likely to require the help of a professional, and you may have to find a temporary housing solution while the remodel is being carried out. But you don’t have to go to great lengths to incorporate wood into your home.

Wood accents can deliver much of the same feeling. Experiment with different combinations of driftwood, bamboo, sculptures, and signage throughout various rooms to keep your home thematically consistent.


A living room with hardwood floors and various wood accents.

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3. Organic Materials

Materials like stone, marble, and fabrics will not only help to incorporate nature into your home but will make it feel relaxing and cozy as well. A small collection of rocks or stone pebbles with trickling water in the bathroom work every time to evoke a natural tranquility. Stone or marble tile designs and/or backsplashes help to ground a space by providing an earthy foundation. Natural fibers like wool, cotton, and linen can be sprinkled throughout a home to deliver warmth and comfort while reinforcing a natural theme.


A modern bathroom with a marble backsplash.

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4. Decorating with Houseplants

Sometimes you don’t have to replicate nature to make your home feel more natural. You’ll be amazed at how refreshed the spaces feel by decorating with houseplants. However, there are certain rules you’ll want to follow when creating your own personal indoor ecosystem. Research the needs of each plant variety you’re interested in buying before making your final purchases. This will allow you to orient them appropriately throughout your home based on their sunlight needs. Plants that can survive with less sunlight are well suited for the darker corners of your home. If you’re not home often to tend to your plants, consider low maintenance varieties like succulents. Houseplants will add color to your home and improve the air quality while they’re at it. 


A man sprays water on the leaves of his houseplants.

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5. Decorate with Earth Tones

All the aforementioned ways of incorporating nature into your home—natural light, wood accents, organic materials, houseplants—have a signature color palette. Once you’ve decided how these categories can fit into your home, you can decorate around them with complimentary colors.

Fortunately, you won’t be limited for choice. Earth tones run from darker, rich colors like brown and rust to lighter, vibrant colors like light green and sunlight yellow. The use of these colors can be carried out in your remaining accent pieces, such as towels, carpets, pillows, and more.


A living room decorated with earth tones.

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A Quick Guide to Urban Farming

Urban farming can be a fun way to produce your own nutritious and sustainable food supply for your household while learning about self-sufficiency and gardening. Though urban farming likely won’t replace your household’s entire food intake, it is an environmentally friendly complement that can help lower your reliance upon commercial grocery stores over time.

A Quick Guide to Urban Farming

What is urban farming?

Urban farming or urban agriculture comes in many forms. Whether it’s a backyard or rooftop garden, a community agricultural space, or a small balcony plot, urban farming is the practice of cultivating food by those who live in cities or densely populated areas. Typically using raised garden beds to house produce, urban farming promotes sustainability, health, and a connection to nature. Whether you’re looking to grow a few simple fruits and vegetables or seek to cultivate a flourishing garden, here’s how you can get started.

Plot Out Your Garden

Whether you have a spacious backyard waiting to be tilled into gardening heaven or a smaller, unused section of your flower beds, how much space you’re working with will determine the arrangement of your urban farm. Research the crops you intend to plant and how much space they require, then take measurements in your gardening space before buying materials. Your raised gardening beds should be anywhere from six to thirty-six inches deep. Keeping them less than four feet wide will make it easier to reach across when watering, weeding, and planting.

Planting Your Garden

Once you’ve plotted out your garden space, there are a series of decisions to make about your garden; namely which crops you want to grow, how you’ll pot other plants and flowers, whether you’re going to start from seeds or seedlings, and deciding between manual and automatic watering. If you’re starting from seeds, know that the growing process will take longer, whereas seedlings can help to speed things up. Creating an automatic watering system requires an upfront investment, but you’ll save time, and you won’t have worry about under-watering or dehydrating your garden.


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Raising Chickens and Keeping Bees

Keeping animals on your property presents new opportunities for sustenance, but it also introduces new challenges. Two animals urban farmers often choose to raise are chickens and bees, which take up a lot less space that other livestock. Before starting either venture, check your local zoning laws.

If you intend to raise chickens, you’ll need to build a coop first. The size of your chicken coop will depend on whether your chickens are able to forage outside the coop or not. If you have the space to let the chickens out, allow two to three square feet per bird in the coop. If the chickens must stay in the coop, you’ll want to make sure they have plenty of space, so it’s recommended to allow five to ten square feet per bird.


A group of chickens in a backyard coop.

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The key features of a chicken coop include roosts, nest boxes, dust baths, lighting, and protection from local predators. Search online or locally for pre-made chicken coops that fit your property’s needs or make it a DIY project. A commercial poultry feed will provide your chickens with the basic nutrients they need, but keep in mind that many foods outside of their normal diet can alter egg flavor and have adverse health effects. So, if you’re thinking about incorporating table scraps into their diet, make sure those foods agree with their systems before doing so.

To keep bees at home, start by reaching out to local beekeeping associations to inquire about purchasing bees and when you can expect your colony to arrive. Once you have a timeline set, you can go about gathering supplies. There are two common hive systems used for keeping bees: a Langstroth hive; which is a system of stacked rectangular boxes with removable frames, and a top-bar hive; which is a series of horizontally connected boxes. Gear up by purchasing protective beekeeping clothing, tools, and feeding supplies. After you introduce your bees to their new hive, continually monitor their behavior and tend to their seasonal needs. Spring is generally the best time of year to start a hive, since it gives bees plenty of time to build up their colony and produce and store honey before winter arrives.

For more information on sustainable gardening practices, read our blog post below:

10 Tips for Sustainable Gardening

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5 Ways to Create a Sustainable Kitchen

In many ways, the kitchen is the heart of a home. All the time spent making delicious food, sharing recipes, and enjoying meals with loved ones gives it a central role in home life. A consequence of the time spent in the kitchen is the creation of waste. But by adopting more sustainable practices in the kitchen, you can reduce waste and make your home more eco-friendly. Here are five ways you can create a sustainable kitchen.

5 Ways to Create a Sustainable Kitchen

1. Cut Down on Food Waste

It’s no secret that a certain portion of food always seems to go to waste, but how can you avoid throwing away perfectly edible food items? It starts with being intentional about your grocery shopping. This helps to prevent overbuying and will give you a better chance of cutting down your food waste. Food preservation is key, as well. Invest in high-quality, reusable containers to prevent food from rotting, wilting, or expiring before you intend to cook it.

2. Choose Energy-Efficient Appliances

Kitchen appliances generate a significant amount of power. By using an energy-efficient refrigerator, freezer, and/or dishwasher, you can reduce the overall energy consumption of your household. When deciding on which appliance to purchase, the most sustainable choice you can make is the one you plan on sticking with for a long time. When deciding on a gas versus an electric range, know the pros and cons of each option before making a final decision.


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3. Reusable Materials

Getting more uses out of the items in your kitchen will help make your household more environmentally conscious. Reusable kitchen towels are an eco-friendly replacement for paper towels when you’re cooking, wiping down your counters, or doing dishes. Using reusable grocery bags is an effective way to transport groceries sustainably. It will also help keep your kitchen organized by avoiding a plastic or paper bag pile-up under your sink. This line of reusable thinking in the kitchen can even extend to design. If you’re looking to give your kitchen a makeover while keeping sustainability in mind, consider incorporating reclaimed wood, sustainably-sourced countertops, or natural materials like bamboo. 

4. Use Natural or Organic Cleaning Products

Creating a sustainable kitchen isn’t just about reducing food waste and choosing reusable materials. By using organic and/or natural cleaning products, you can ensure that your cleaning practices are sustainable as well. Using natural cleaners, like baking soda and vinegar, can also create less waste when you repurpose jars and bottles to create your preferred solution. Buy ingredients in bulk, then re-purpose old spray bottles and use towels instead of paper products to clean. Certain conventional cleaning products with synthetic chemicals can negatively impact the air quality in your home, which can have harmful effects on your health, especially if you have respiratory sensitivities.

5. Be Mindful About Water Usage

Neglecting to monitor your water usage is a slippery slope. Not only will using too much water increase the overall waste output of your home, but it will also increase your water bill. Be mindful about using only the required amount of water for cooking, do your best to avoid leaving the faucet running, and if there is a drip, fix it as quickly as you can. Using too much water can also strain your home’s water systems, putting your pipes at risk of bursting. Tempering your water usage can help to prevent water damage and the high costs that come with it.

Going zero waste doesn’t have to be expensive. Try first to extend the life of the things you already have like plastic bottles and textiles. For more information on how you can adopt sustainable practices at home, read our guide to going low-to-zero waste:

A Guide to Going Low-to-Zero Waste

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Gas Appliances vs. Electric Appliances

Appliances are broken down into two main categories: gas- and electric-powered. You may be more familiar with one or the other based on personal experience, but when it comes time to choose appliances for your home, you’ll likely be weighing a variety of factors including the conversion costs, operation costs, safety, sustainability, and more. The following breakdown of the differences between gas and electric appliances can help inform your decision about what is ultimately best for your home.

What is the difference between gas and electricity?

Homes with natural gas are powered by a series of pipeline connections. The gas lines flowing from the property lead out to and connect with a larger pipeline farther away. Homes can also be powered by propane gas, which is stored in a tank on the property.

Electric power flows from generators to substations and eventually to individual homes, carried by transmission and distribution lines. In short, gas can power a variety of appliances in your home, but it won’t power your lights or electronics, whereas electricity can do both.

What is the difference between gas appliances and electric appliances?

The costs of gas and electric appliances vary region-to-region, both in upfront and operation costs. Having said that, gas is the more efficient heating fuel, and using gas appliances could save you up to 30 percent on your utility bill (consumeraffairs.com). Keep in mind that gas furnaces tend to be noisier but will usually heat up your home quicker, while electric furnaces are quieter but may take more time to warm your home.

So, what do you do if you want to convert your home from one fuel to the other? To switch from electric to gas, you’ll need to route gas lines, purchase the new appliances, and install them. Switching from gas to electric will require installing an electric line and capping the gas line(s). Each of these conversion methods will require an investment, so be sure to budget for these costs before you switch.

Gas and electric have their own unique safety hazards. With gas, you’ll need to take a couple extra steps to protect your home’s air quality. You’ll want to make sure you have a good ventilation system and that your carbon monoxide alarm is functioning properly to alert you of any potential poisoning from the furnace or the appliances themselves. With electric appliances, you won’t run the risk of a gas leak, but if the appliance’s wiring is faulty or neglectfully maintained, it could start a fire.


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Gas vs. Electric Range

The range tends to be the focal point of the gas-versus-electric debate for many homeowners. While some prefer the quick-heating power of an open-flame gas stove, others view an electric stove as safer for their household and therefore better. While some enjoy the even-heating quality of an electric oven, others prefer gas ovens with traditional coil burners. Electric stoves are usually easier to maintain; especially glass tops since you only have to clean one smooth surface.

Gas vs. Electric – Dryer & Fireplace

In general, gas dryers can heat up faster than electric dryers, which means they are more efficient and can save you money on your energy bills. However, gas dryers tend to be more expensive than their electric counterparts.

Electric fireplaces are usually cheaper to install but may not be as effective as gas fireplaces for heating larger spaces. And apart from all the financials, some people simply enjoy the feeling of a natural flame (gas) coming from the hearth, while the electric heating element appeals to others.

At the end of the day, choosing between gas and electric appliances depends on your situation. Saving on energy bills may be your number one priority, or perhaps you can’t stand the idea of not cooking on an open flame. Whatever your choice, it’s helpful to know the pros and cons of each option.

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8 Tips for a More Energy Efficient Home

Whether they are motivated by rising energy costs or a desire to cultivate a more sustainable home, homeowners are constantly searching for ways they can go green, reduce their home’s energy waste, and save money in the process. Here are some simple methods for a more energy-efficient home.


1. Determine Your Energy Output

A natural first step in your energy-efficient journey is to get a gauge of how much energy your home is currently using and where it is being used. Analyze your recent bills to get a picture of your home’s energy consumption and the habits that are tied to that level of usage. From there, you can determine what kinds of cutbacks can be made to save energy. You might also consider hiring a professional energy auditor to fully inspect your home’s energy practices and identify where there’s room for improvement.


2. Laundry Room Best Practices

Adjusting your methods in the laundry room is an easy way to make an impact on your home’s energy output. When it’s sunny, air-dry your clothes to save energy. Most of the energy consumption generated by doing laundry comes from the heating of the water, so use cold water when possible. Wait until you have a full load before running the washer to maximize your laundry room’s efficiency.


3. Install Energy-Efficient Lighting

Replacing incandescent lights with newer, more energy-efficient options is a productive step towards reducing your home’s energy waste. A change of lightbulbs is a relatively cheap solution compared to more expensive energy-saving methods like replacing appliances. Because energy-efficient lightbulbs use less energy than standard bulbs, they commonly last much longer as well.


4. Check Your Windows

Excessive air conditioning and heating are often the culprits behind wasteful energy practices. Weatherstripping and caulking your windows help to regulate the flow of air, keeping your home warmer in the colder months and cooler in the hotter months. Old, drafty windows let in air that can increase your home’s energy usage, regardless of the season. The upfront investment in purchasing new windows will pay off in the long run and will help to reduce energy waste.


5. Check Your HVAC Unit

A fine-tuned HVAC system is critical to making your home as energy efficient as it can be. Maintenance of your HVAC unit periodically to make sure it’s running in tip–top shape and to avoid replacements, which can be quite expensive. The cleaner your HVAC filters, the more efficiently they can run. The filters should be swapped out a maximum of every three months, more often if you use it year-round or if you have pets at home.


6. Insulate Your Home

A well-insulated home can deliver significant savings on heating and cooling costs. Walls and windows are common areas where air can escape, but so are pipes and ducts. Wrapping all these areas in insulation will pave the way for saving energy throughout the house.


7. Turn Down Your Thermostat

Turning down your thermostat is an effective method of reducing energy consumption. Even lowering it by one degree will lower your furnace’s energy output and can make a difference in your home’s overall energy efficiency. Remember to clean your furnace filter often. A clean filter will allow your home’s heating system to run more efficiently and cost-effectively.


8. Set Energy Efficiency Goals

Once you’ve begun to implement some of these strategies to make your home more energy-efficient, you’ll discover new ways to reduce your home’s energy waste while saving money. Set goals for your home’s overall energy output in a given month or set a target number you’d like to see on your next energy bill. Track your home’s progress in energy efficiency and the savings you’ve generated over time to see the difference you’ve made.

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