The living room is where you do the most of your, well, living, so it makes sense that it's also a room that accounts for a great deal of your energy usage. With energy-hungry appliances like the TV, stereo and related audiovisual components, not to mention lamps and other lighting, this room can really up your energy consumption.
Take these steps to conserve energy and other utilities in this room while making sure it's still an inviting hub for your family to gather.
- Keep the temperature steady: Luckily, you can do so without necessarily turning up the heat (or in summer, the air conditioning). Invest in thermal blinds or drapes, which will keep the heat in and reduce drafts. During the day, when the sun's shining, open the blinds to let the sunlight warm rooms naturally.
- Turn it off: Quick: How many pieces of electronic equipment do you have in your media center? Chances are, you have a television set, stereo, DVD player, video game player, and still more. Turn off your electronics when they're not in use, and unplug completely things you don't use very often, like (maybe) video game consoles. Shut down electronics components when not in use, and unplug those that are not used very often. Even when they're turned off, many of these devices will still draw a current and waste electricity, so to make things easy, plug electronics into two power strips: One strip for items that can be shut down when not in use, and one for items that need to stay on constantly (such as items with digital clocks or satellite boxes and DVRs), which you can just turn off when you're going to be away from home for several days. A smart power strip can do it all; it'll automatically turn off peripherals when the main device (like a TV) is powered off, and some smart power strips have several outlets specifically for devices that need to always stay on.
- Be savvy with your fireplace: Make sure your fireplace is as energy efficient as possible. Turn off the pilot light on a gas fireplace when you're not going to use it for a long period of time. If you have a wood fireplace, buy locally sourced, dry hardwood, or consider some of the new, green, synthetic logs made of waste products like coffee grounds and cardboard, as well as plant-based binders, rather than the petroleum that was previously used. These synthetic logs release less carbon monoxide, formaldehyde, and other pollutants into the air than wood might. When you light your fireplace, be sure to turn down the thermostat, because heat will escape through the flue. If you're in the market for a fireplace, be sure to consider the most eco-responsible options, particularly those that are high-efficiency and EPA-certified, meaning they meet EPA smoke emission standards. Finally, even when you make smart choices with the type of fireplace you have and the fuel you use, it's still a good idea to only light a fire occasionally or on special occasions — every fire will produce emissions, and fires are generally an inefficient way to heat a house.
- Lighten up: Be energy efficient about how you light your room. During the day, open those curtains and let natural light illuminate the room. Replace light bulbs with compact fluorescent or LED bulbs, and consider ENERGY STAR light fixtures (which also includes floor and table lamps), which use one-fourth the energy of traditional lighting — that can add up to a significant savings, especially when you consider that lighting can account for up to 15 percent of your home energy bill. Dimmers can also reduce energy use (but first, make sure that your light bulbs are dimmable); along with motion sensors and timers, they can make sure that your lights are on only when you need them.
- Add a plant... or two: A few houseplants not only add a warm element to a room, they also clean the air with far less energy usage than an air purifier. Try plants like English ivy, Gerbera daisy, and bamboo palm, all of which have been found to absorb pollutants.
How do you green your living room? Share your ideas in the comments section.