eco friendly home

Eco-friendly home: Energy, Lights, and Reusables.

This is a series of articles on how to make your home more eco-friendly room by room, read the other articles here:
How can I make my home eco-friendly? KITCHEN
How can I make my home eco-friendly? BATHROOM
Get rid of stuff in an eco-friendly way
Eco-friendly home: Bedroom, Home office, Miscellaneous

If you are on a budget, I also have a list of 20 actions that you can take that will save the plant and save you money at the same time.

We have already discussed the kitchen and the bathroom, which are certainly the two places where most changes can be done in order to become more eco-friendly. There are some actions and changes that will apply to the whole house. Let’s talk about those areas, including energy usage and saving, lighting, and reusable items.


Energy savings

We use a lot of energy in our homes, and many times we could be using much less of it, keeping the same standards of living. Some of these actions will require a big upfront investment, that will pay for itself in years to come. You will not take this big of a decision lightly, you will need to do research, compare different options and systems and prices. Some of the proposed solutions are small actions that everyone can adopt.

Add a solar energy system

Solar energy is the most abundant energy resource on earth, but we are just not using it enough yet. It is the one truly renewable and sustainable source of energy. You will be using clean energy and save on your electricity over time. There is a bigger investment upfront, that will be recovered over time with energy savings. Fortunately, all the clean energy is on the surge, so the prices are going down every year. 

There are three main types of solar energy systems: on-grid, off-grid and hybrid system.

On-grid solar system

The on-grid systems don’t use batteries to store the energy. They produce energy during the sunlight hours of the day. During the night or rain, you are using the energy from the residential system. If your production during the day exceeds your needs, you can sell this energy back to the system and further lower your bill. This is called net-metering.

The upfront cost is the lowest of the three systems. This system will lower your bill, but you will still be dependent on the grid.

The hybrid system

The hybrid system is still connected to the traditional electrical grid but also uses battery-backup to store excess energy produced for later use. This system enables you to sell the excess energy back to the grid, and you can also use the energy from the grid when your needs excess the production, and the batteries aren’t charged.

The hybrid systems have the best of the two worlds, but they also have disadvantages. The charging and discharging of the batteries lowers the efficiency of the system, and the system is also more complex to design and construct, so it is more expensive.

The off-grid system

The off-grid system is completely independent of the residential system and produces the energy during the sunny hours and stores the excess in batteries to use while not producing. These systems are used in areas with no traditional electric power grid, or when people want to be completely independent. You would probably also want to have an emergency generator.

There is so much to be said about solar, and you must do thorough research on what are the available options for you. To get you started, watch this short video from the U.S. Department of Energy on Simplifying the “Going-Solar” Process:

Add Solar Water Heating System

According to the US Department of Energy, heating costs make up to a little less than half of the utility bill in an average household. It is the most expensive part of your bill.

A solar water heating system can be used to create energy to heat the water in a tank on the top of your roof. It is a stand-alone system and the installation is fairly easy. This system heats and maintains hot water on sunny and even cloudy days. Only during the days of heavy rain, the system isn’t able to heat the water.

There are two types of systems: active and passive. Active systems use a pump to circulate the water from the collector to the other parts of the system. Passive systems don’t use any pump, they are less expensive, last longer, but might be less efficient.

House insulation

Depending on your climate, if you live in a house without an insulation system or with less insulation than necessary, you are probably wasting a lot of energy in heating in the winter and cooling down in the summer. Good insulation will save you energy in cold and in hot weather as it will keep the inside temperature stable. 

Unless your house was constructed with energy-efficiency in mind, your house can probably use an upgrade. Even though this big investment, it will have a huge impact on your energy-saving and it will pay for itself in a few years. 

There are many options to do this, please, do the research to pick the best system for your specific climate conditions. Some of the most eco-friendly options are shredded and recycled used denim and cotton made into a material similar to fiberglass. Icynene is a spray foam made out of castor oil that once sprayed on the surface will expand 100 times. Thermacork made of oak tree bark, it is natural, sustainable, recyclable, and biodegradable.

Updating or changing windows

According to heat gain and heat loss through windows are responsible for 25%–30% of residential heating and cooling energy use. You can improve your energy expenditure just by changing single-pane windows to double-pane energy-efficient windows. 

If you are not willing to change your windows completely, you can definitely update them to improve your energy efficiency.

First, check if there are any air leaks and fix them. Second, you can look into adding special films on the windows to increase efficiency. Lastly, you can only change some windows in your house or just update the frames, instead of the whole window. There are many options, pick whatever is the best in your situation.

Energy-saving actions and habits

To reduce your use of energy, in some cases all it takes is to be more mindful of your daily habits. Adopt these actions and over time, it will make a difference:

  • Turn off the lights when not using them (when leaving the room, etc.)
  • Completely turn off or even unplug the appliances you are not using. This may include your computer, TV, sound system, and others. Many people will leave chargers plugged in all day, they will still use energy even though they are not charging anything at the moment.
  • When buying a new appliance, check for energy efficiency and decide for the most energy-efficient appliance. The appliances that use the most energy in the house are the water heater, the fridge, and washing machine and dryer. 
  • Renew your fridge seals regularly
  • Run your dishwasher and washing machine on full loads. Many smaller loads will increase your energy and water spendings.
  • Line-dry your clothes. This will also protect your clothes as dryers tend to damage your clothes. 


Switch to LED lights

If you haven’t done this yet, you should definitely switch all your lights to the light-emitting diode (LED) lights. They are the most energy-efficient lights out there. They use up to 75% less energy than a typical light bulb. You will definitely notice this on your electricity bill.

LEDs will last longer, up to 50.000 hours, that is almost 6 years (24/7) that the light can be on. This is 50 times longer than a typical light bulb.

Use natural lighting

Whenever possible, use the natural daylight, instead of turning the lights on. Of course, this will depend on how your house or apartment is built. However, sometimes small changes around the house could make a difference.

Move your desk closer to the window, add more mirrors that will reflect the light, change the color of your walls, and ceilings to white.

Reusable vs. Single-use items

Nowadays, it is very normal to use single-use items: paper napkins, paper towels, single-use cups, cutlery, water bottles, you name it. This was not the case decades ago. Buying something to use once and throw away would seem crazy at those times. Everything was used for years, and many items had multiple purposes. 

Cloth napkins, kitchen towels, placemats and handkerchiefs

eco-friendly hand made gift: fabric napkins

Let’s promote a comeback of reusable items! In my home, we use cloth napkins at the table. I made them on my sewing machine, I made 2 pairs per person and painted our initials on each one. We also have guest napkins. I made this one day and we will use them for years to come. 

We only use cloth kitchen towels to dry or clean stuff. We have many of them that we mostly received as house warming gifts. I have special ones for cleaning surfaces and others for drying the dishes or using as a towel while cooking.

You can also start using cloth handkerchiefs, you wash them and reuse them over and over again. This was a standard method when I was a child. Everyone always carried one in their bag.

I also made reversible cloth placemats, instead of having them in another material. Textile will last for decades. We wash them every once in a while, and they are as good as new.

To pick the most eco-friendly fabrics for any reusable textile item, read this article.

Textile shopping bag

Always carry a reusable textile shopping bag with you. The thin plastic bags are almost never recycled. The paper bag can be recycled but is usually not suitable for more than one use. Energy must be extended to make the bag, and then to recycle it. Quality textile shopping bags will last an extremely long time without needing to be replaced. 

Avoid the shopping bags made of polypropylene. The material deteriorates much faster than textiles. There is much effort in production, and they are not recycled. For the lowest impact possible, pick a textile such as linen, hemp, or organic cotton, and reuse the bag for as long as possible. 

Zero-waste home: reuse old Tshirts to make produce bags

To read more about eco-friendly fabrics, read my article where I explain everything about the production, use of chemicals, social impacts, etc. related to fabrics.

Water filter

Instead of buying bottled water, invest in a good water filter, over time this will help avoid many bottles being produced, recycled, or sent to landfill or ocean. It will also save you money on buying the water.

Read the other articles from this series here:
How can I make my home eco-friendly? KITCHEN
How can I make my home eco-friendly? BATHROOM
Get rid of stuff in an eco-friendly way
Eco-friendly home: Bedroom, Home office, Miscellaneous

I am not using any affiliate links, everything I recommend is because I like it and think it is useful. Feel free to search for different options in the same products category.