Green home improvements: Where to start

You've heard for years about the importance of going green, but with all the information you receive, it can be difficult to figure out where to begin. The good news is that making your home more energy efficient is not something that needs to be done all at once.

If you are ready to take action toward reducing your home's carbon footprint, here are a few easy energy saving ideas to get you started:

* Start by doing research on the Internet regarding which home improvements make sense for your home. The U.S. Department of Energy's Energy Yardstick is a great resource for determining which energy conservation techniques work best for homes in your area. You also can't go wrong with hiring an expert to conduct a home energy audit, as they will provide you with the best home energy saving tips and how to best accomplish them. Visit to see if your home will qualify for a discounted audit through a government program.

* If you are considering new appliances, from something as big as a new furnace to something as small as a DVD player, look for Energy Star appliances that are certified for using less-than-average amounts of energy. Many of today's new appliances follow these guidelines, so the eventual savings you gain from buying such an appliance will likely cover any added costs associated with choosing a more energy-efficient model.

* An easy, inexpensive and effective way to save energy is to make sure your home is properly sealed. If you receive an energy audit, it's very likely the auditor will list this as the first improvement to make, especially if you live in a colder climate. A day's worth of sealing and caulking will likely result in noticeable savings on your heating bill.

* Gradually replace incandescent light bulbs with compact fluorescent (CFL) or LED lights. That way you will use up existing bulbs and won't have to break the bank buying dozens of new light bulbs all at once.

* If there's one tried-and-true method for saving energy, it's using less. Doing the simple things like turning lights off when they aren't needed, unplugging idle appliances and putting on a sweater instead of turning up the thermostat can result in considerable energy savings.