How to Add Green Tech to Your Home

Small steps can lead to big strides for the planet

A boy holding a green home cutout to illustrate green tech in the home

courtneyk/Getty Images/E+ Collection

Want to help the planet? Even the most minor step toward green living can reduce your carbon footprint and protect the earth's resources. The most accessible place to start is inside your own home, where there are several ways to go green with your technology.

What Is Green Tech?

Green tech involves combining technology and science to create environmentally friendly products. The idea is by using products and services in the home to reduce energy consumption, waste, or adverse effects on the environment, we can all help the planet.

Small Adjustments = Big Differences

Going green in your home doesn't mean you have to spend a lot of money on new technology or make a large purchase of an entire solar system from your home. You start by making minor adjustments to the devices you already use and thinking differently about using technology in general.

For example, replace an older light switch in your home with a motion sensor switch to ensure lights aren't left on accidentally. Try adding a virtual assistant like Alexa or Siri to your home to help you spot and turn off devices that are sucking energy from the grid. Using LED lightbulbs will work, too, if you can't afford smart bulbs.

When it comes to thinking differently about how you use technology, think beyond your home to how the products you purchase are manufactured and how they impact the environment. For instance, use eco-friendly paints that don't use harmful chemicals during the production process to reduce greenhouse gases or add insulation to your home with a product like Icynene, made from castor oil in environmentally friendly plants.

Small changes like these, both inside and outside your home, can make significant differences. Below are several quick and easy ideas you can start using today.

Try Smart Energy Helpers

You can achieve a green home in many ways. Build one from scratch using sustainable building materials, seek out an apartment with natural lighting and composting facilities, or modify your current living situation to add more green tech to it in simple, cost-effective ways.

A bonus to using these energy helpers is they typically involve a smartphone app, which can help you track your energy usage for connected devices.

The Energy Dashboard in the Alexa app shows how much energy devices are using.

Use a Smart Thermostat

One of the quickest ways to reduce energy use in any home is to add a programmable or smart thermostat to it. Older thermostats use more energy than necessary because they require manual adjustments to distribute heat or cold effectively throughout the day.

By swapping out your current thermostat with one that you can pre-set for the day or adjust remotely with an app, you can better control the amount of energy used when you're not in the home.

Install Smart Light Bulbs

Another quick way to reduce energy use is to switch out all your lightbulbs to energy-efficient versions called smart bulbs and use a virtual assistant to control them. These bulbs tend to use about 7 to 9.5 watts of power yet provide the same amount of light a 60-watt incandescent bulb offers.

They are programmable by smartphone, which gives you the added flexibility to control these bulbs from anywhere. Forgot to turn off the lights? Just tap your phone to shut them down. Want to dim them to 2% to save energy? Another tap on the smartphone.

Add Smart Plugs Everywhere

Smart plugs are a great option, too, for controlling appliances in the home. These let you control energy vampires like televisions, cable boxes, coffee makers, or almost anything that plugs into a wall socket to work.

Devices like these use energy just by being plugged in, so using your phone or virtual assistant to turn the plugs on or off as needed helps stop energy drain in its tracks. You can program them, too, to turn on before you need them, so if you want to sleep in while the coffee maker starts bubbling, tell your phone, and it will turn the plug on and get the caffeine rolling.

You can purchase a smart power strip to manage multiple devices that work together, such as televisions, cable boxes, and gaming consoles which are all on the same outlet.

Ditch Cable and Start Streaming

Cable boxes and DVRs constantly drain energy, primarily because they have to stay plugged in to record those can't-miss shows you want to watch when you get home. However, streaming television and movies to your TV eliminates that issue since streaming services keep everything in the cloud for you to access on demand.

Get a Roku, Firestick, or Apple TV; find a service (or two) that gives you the programming you like best and ditch cable to save the planet.

Upcycle or Recycle Your Old Tech

Tech is everywhere in our homes, and when a device gets old, we tend to chuck it for a newer, better, faster version. It's okay to get the latest gadget, but why not reuse and repurpose the older devices instead of trashing them?

For example, you can upcycle your old computers and laptops by repurposing them into home security monitors. Got an old Android phone? Upcycle it into a remote control for your TV. Take an older iPad, too, and turn it into a high-tech recipe book.

The fun part of upcycling is your imagination is the only limit; people are finding fun and creative ways to keep older devices in use instead of filling up landfills.

If upcycling isn't your thing, you can still avoid the trash can. Several major retailers offer free recycling programs. For instance, you can recycle ink and toner cartridges at Staples or take advantage of Best Buy's recycling program, which accepts anything from cameras to video games.

Charge or Power Devices in Eco-Friendly Ways

Do you charge your phone or laptop from a wall outlet? Use a solar-powered charger instead; there are plenty on the market to suit any budget.

A solar cell phone charger from X-Dragon.

If you're a commuter, charge your phone or laptop with a car charger instead while you head to work.

Use PCs and power supply units that meet Energy Star requirements. You can find these by looking for the 80 Plus Silver logo.

It's not hard to start adding green tech to your home. The real trick is in deciding to take that first small step today. Once you start, you'll quickly see how convenient green tech can be and how easy it is to start using.

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