Making your home more eco-friendly doesn’t have to break the bank. In fact, many fix-ups are cheap and simple to do and cost less than dinner and a movie. Here are nine inexpensive (or free!) ways to green your home.

Eco Tip #1: Reduce your phantom load

When you turn off your television, it’s not using any power, right? Wrong. In fact, some TVs — and many other plugged-in electric devices — use power even when they’re turned off. About five to 10 per cent of a home’s electricity consumption is used for this “phantom load” according to Natural Resources Canada. To reduce this waste, plug multiple devices into a power bar, and use the bar’s master switch to cut and restore power. This works particularly well for chargers for cell phones and electronic devices, which are common phantom load draws. For entertainment systems, use a “smart strip” that shuts off power to some devices while leaving others, such as a personal video recorder, powered on. And when you’re looking to buy appliances and electronics, look for EnergyStar products, which use less electricity in standby mode.

Eco Tip #2: Use a programmable thermostat

In the summer, turning up the thermostat on your air conditioner when you leave the house is a simple but effective way to reduce your energy consumption. Set it at 25°C or higher: each degree below 26°C raises energy consumption by about three to five per cent, according to Natural Resources Canada. Similarly, in winter months, turning down your thermostat in the evening will save electricity and money. For every degree you lower your thermostat for a minimum of eight hours, you save up to two per cent on your heating bill, according to SaskEnergy. No matter what the season, a programmable thermostat is a handy and inexpensive way to stay on top of your energy bills. Some start at just $40.

Eco Tip #3: Monitor your energy

Individual energy monitors, also known as wattmeters, help you measure how much electricity your appliances or other electric devices are using. Want to know just how much power that old freezer in the basement uses on an hourly, daily, monthly or even yearly basis? Plug the monitor into the wall and then plug the freezer into the monitor. The LCD screen displays energy consumption by the kilowatt-hour. Energy monitors vary in price, but some can be found for as little as $25. Some libraries even carry home energy monitors for you to sign out. 

Eco Tip #4: Fix your leaks             

Repairing a leaky faucet may be low on your to-do list, especially if it’s just a slow drip. But a faucet that leaks one drip per second wastes 10,000 litres per year, and a toilet that runs after flushing can waste up to 200,000 litres in a year, according to Environment Canada. To figure out if your toilet is leaking, put a few drops of food colouring in the tank. If the colour shows up in the bowl a few minutes later, you have a leak. Most leaks can be fixed easily and inexpensively. Ask your local hardware store for advice.

Eco Tip #5: Use rechargeable batteries

From flashlights to kids’ toys, homeowners go through a lot of batteries. Batteries contain toxic metals and corrosive acids, and even though all provinces have programs to collect and dispose of them, far too many still end up in the landfill. Rechargeable batteries now come in every conceivable size, including coin batteries, are long-lasting and can be used over and over again. One place to stick with traditional batteries, though, is smoke detectors — so says the Insurance Bureau of Canada. Rechargeable batteries won't trigger the low-power warning alarm, and may leave you unprotected without knowing it.

Eco Tip #6: Draft-proof your home

When cool air seeps out of your house through leaks, your air conditioner has to work harder, which wastes energy. In the winter, losing heat in the same way means that your furnace uses more natural gas, harming the environment by adding unnecessary carbon dioxide emissions into the air. In fact, air leakage accounts for 20 to 45 per cent of the average loss of warm and cool air, according to Hydro One in Ontario. Weather-stripping and caulking are simple, do-it-yourself fixes for drafty windows and doors. Weather-stripping works well around doors and operable parts of windows, whereas caulking is the best choice for non-opening windows, door trim and electrical sockets. Your local hardware store can help you choose the right materials for the job.

Eco Tip #7: Choose — and use — window coverings wisely

Considering new curtains? Try to avoid those with toxic treatments, such as bleached cotton. Leaning more towards wood blinds or shutters? Look into bamboo or woods certified by the Forest Stewardship Council (FSC) of Canada, which guarantees that the wood comes from responsibly managed forests and verified recycled sources. How you use your window coverings is important, too. In warm weather, close curtains and blinds to block the sun. In the winter, open the coverings on windows that receive sunlight during the daytime.

Eco Tip #8: Garden strategically

Shade from trees keeps your home cooler in the summer. In colder months, trees and shrubs also help insulate against wind and heat loss. And if you opt for deciduous trees, which shed their leaves in autumn, you’ll maximize the sunlight that reaches your home during the cold months. You can also naturalize your landscaping to reduce water use and minimize environmental impact.

Eco Tip #9: Replace your furnace filter regularly

A dirty filter means your furnace has to work harder to circulate the air, greatly reducing its efficiency. Prolonged blockages lead to extra wear and tear on your furnace. Change your filter every one to three months during the heating season depending on the type you have.