9. Smart Thermostats

Imagine having a personal assistant who made sure you had hot water just in time for your morning shower, warmed or cooled your house to the perfect temperature at the end of every day and monitored the cost of energy to make sure you only ran your power-gobbling appliances when gas and electricity were at their cheapest, non-peak rates. Thanks to a new generation of "smart" thermostats, this level of control is increasingly available to tech-savvy homeowners.
  • Thermostats have become much more than temperature-activated switches for heating and cooling systems. Many models can now monitor factors such as the energy use of individual appliances, the cost of energy at a given time of day and the functionality of appliances. Some of the more advanced models are able to contact you via e-mail if something goes wrong with an appliance, and they can be adjusted from your office computer or mobile device.

These thermostats can run appliances when it's least expensive to do so. And when no one's home, they can easily turn off energy-hungry appliances, such as water heaters, and program them to restart in time to provide hot water in the evening.
No matter how efficient your appliances are, you can save even more energy with this precise, instantaneous level of control.

10: Energy Star: Efficient Appliances

Illustration of eco-friendly washing machine
When your old appliances wear out, consider replacing them with newer, more eco-friendly models.
The first step to making an energy-conscious appliance purchase involves learning how efficiency is measured for that appliance. Knowing what an appliance's ratings mean can help you shop smarter and faster.
Likewise, make sure you know what size appliance you need. Buying an air conditioner that's too small will lead to hot summers and a constantly running appliance. But a too-large air conditioner might not adequately remove humidity in your home and will waste energy when it's running [source: Energy Star].
Once you've found your new appliance, check to see if there are ways you can save energy through better installation. 
  • Can your water heater be moved to shorten the length of your hot water pipes? 
  • Are your air conditioning ducts properly sealed and insulated? Now is the time to address these issues and maximize your energy savings.

New, efficient appliances aren't always cheap. But evaluating your needs and researching your options can help you strike a balance between price and performance that will improve your home's eco-friendliness, regardless of your budget.