Written by Realty Times Staff

Is your home killing the earth? Residential properties in the United States consume roughly 21 percent of the nation’s energy, according to the Center for Climate and Energy Solutions. Although your house commits a tiny fraction to the pie — so small you couldn’t see it on a chart — homeowners across the country are going green in 2016.

Even if one home going green won’t save the planet, you can’t deny the money you save by fitting your home to consume less energy annually. Homes equipped with solar panels, efficient appliances and ultra-insulated building materials can save hundreds on the electric bill. The following are a few ways you can start making your home greener and smarter:

Heating and Cooling

Do you ever think about the energy your home uses when you’re away at work for 40 hours per week? In the heat of the summer or cold of winter, your air conditioner and heater continue to churn even when no one is inside. Home automation is a cheap and easy way to make sure your home works for you, and it naturally takes advantage of energy savings when you’re away.

Nest, the most popular thermostat on the market, connects to your home’s Wi-Fi and is controlled by a smartphone app, so it knows the times you need climate control and the times you don’t. It learns your comings and goings, so it can ease up on energy consumption while you’re away, but have the house heated or cooled by the time you walk through the front door.

Smart Appliances

Appliances were once energy vultures. Something as simple as a load of laundry or baking a pie in a conventional oven would drain a significant percentage of a home’s energy. But now it’s 2016, and refrigerators are just as smart as TVs and laptops.

Have you seen a new fridge recently? Some of them come equipped with LED control panels and modern, energy-efficient lighting inside. Not only have appliances become tech toys, but they also use a fraction of the energy compared to 20th century appliances. Smart appliances like refrigerators range in the $2,000 to $3,000 range, but the quality and energy savings are vast and they simply look better in your home.

Solar and Power

Everyone knows that solar panels help lower electricity costs by using natural energy from the sun, but did you ever think about when a home consumes most of its energy?

At night.

Cooking, cleaning (laundry and dishwasher), TV, video games and lights are all used mostly at night for the average American — a time when solar panels are producing zero watts of energy. But Tesla CEO Elon Musk has a solution: a big battery for your home.

The Tesla Powerwall is 7 kWh DC battery that connects to your home’s electrical system (usually installed in the garage) and stores your solar energy during the day, so it can be used at night. In a single family home, this battery could bring your electric footprint down to net zero on the grid. And even if you don’t use solar panels, it works as a backup source if you ever lose power at night.