(ARA) - Think going green will cost too much or take too much time? You might be surprised at how much time, energy and money you can save by making a few changes in your home to make it more energy efficient. And don't worry that it will be too much work because some new high tech tools are making it easier than ever.
Green living expert Megan McLendon is the executive producer at www.doyourpart.com, and she recommends several options for making a powerful impact.
Take stock of the situation
Do you really know how much energy you use to run your household? Think about everything you run or turn on during the day. Consider your heating and cooling systems, appliances and electronics. The average single-family household racks up more than $2,000 in energy bills each year. Home electricity monitors make it easy to see how much energy you use and what you spend on it. A device called The Energy Detective can monitor the energy your home consumes in real time and the exact amount it's costing you. You can chart 10 years' worth of data and even review your information remotely. The basic model costs around $200. Then, there are free ways to help you see what's using the most energy at home and help you target those hot spots. MyEnergy.com compiles information directly from your utility companies and is able to compare your usage to that of some of your neighbors. You can also earn reward points for using less energy.
Hit the energy hogs
Now, that you know how much energy you're really using at home, it's time to hit those energy hogs hard. Start with making your heating and cooling systems more efficient. So-called "smart" thermostats are now available and are easy to use. The Nest thermostat is one such device that actually learns from your family's behavior. Soon after installation, it will automatically begin to lower or increase the temperature when you go to bed or leave the house. It even allows you to look at its daily energy use and access the thermostat from your computer or smartphone.
There are also other intuitive devices to help you reduce your energy consumption at home. A power strip for sale by Belkin will shut down power going to a series of electronics by simply turning off one of the components. This is a great solution for home offices and entertainment centers. And here's another smart tip: For those items at home which run off batteries, invest in reusable ones. They will cost a little more than regular batteries but more than make up for that cost in the long run. A gadget that will easily help you make the switch is the Energizer Universal Charger. This device will charge AA, AAA, C, D, and 9V batteries, so you also reduce clutter by only having one charger for all of your battery charging needs.
Put it all together
Once you have the information you need, you can easily put it all together to analyze. EnergyHub has a product that works as a command center for your home. You can access all your energy information in one place so you can control your thermostat, lights and appliances from a central home location or remotely. General Electric is also rolling out a hub system called the Nucleus that does the same thing and is compatible with smart meters.
Knowledge is power. When you know how much energy your home is using, it's easier to come up with strategies to lower your energy usage and lower your utility bills. It's another important way to do your part without wasting your energy.