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These 5 big purchases can save energy — and money — at home

SCOTT DETROW, HOST:

Climate change can feel like a problem you can't do much about as an individual. Most solutions need to happen on a large scale. They're actions that countries and companies need to take. But there are ways to do your part. For example, you could look for ways to make more climate-friendly choices around your house. NPR's Jeff Brady covered this recently for NPR's Life Kit.

JEFF BRADY, BYLINE: Look around your home, and there are opportunities to reduce your greenhouse gas emissions. Joel Rosenberg from the group Rewiring America has this advice.

JOEL ROSENBERG: When it starts dying, get electrifying.

BRADY: Appliances wear out and need to be replaced. He says converting fossil-fuel-burning ones to electricity is one climate solution. That reduces climate warming emissions because the country's power grid is getting cleaner, with more renewable electricity like wind and solar power.

(SOUNDBITE OF GAS STOVE LIGHTING)

BRADY: In the kitchen, if you have a gas stove, Rosenberg suggests replacing it with an electric induction range. These use magnetism to heat pots and require less energy than older electric ranges. You can try out this technology with a much cheaper induction hot plate that sits on the counter. Some cost less than $100. The biggest energy user in most homes is heating and air conditioning. Rosenberg suggests a heat pump, which delivers more than three times the heat for the same amount of electricity as a traditional electric furnace, and they work in reverse, as an air conditioner, too. Rosenberg says installing one can get expensive.

ROSENBERG: The low end, you might be able to get away with, you know, five grand, and on the high end, it might be 50 grand.

BRADY: The cost depends on your current setup. If you have radiators and a contractor has to install new ductwork in your home, that gets expensive. Some water heaters use heat pump technology, too. Shanika Whitehurst from Consumer Reports says these also require more money upfront. They cost about twice as much as traditional gas or electric water heaters.

SHANIKA WHITEHURST: But if you look across all of the years of ownership for it, it levels itself out maybe after about two, three years of use.

BRADY: That's because all the energy saved cuts your utility bill. There are heat pump clothes dryers now, too. They don't need a vent outdoors and recycle hot air. They do take longer to dry clothes, and these dryers cost twice as much. Another option is to look for the Energy Star label for a dryer or any other appliance. This program from the Environmental Protection Agency and Department of Energy ensures you're getting the most efficient models available. The government estimates that if all Americans switched to Energy Star dryers, that would collectively save $1.5 billion a year in energy costs and about the same pollution as 2 million cars. Whitehurst says there's a simpler and cheaper alternative for drying clothes - air drying.

WHITEHURST: Growing up, you know, my mom, we had a clothesline outside, and it's like - it's one of the ones you always forget about.

BRADY: But what do you do if you just bought a new appliance, and maybe it's gas or not the most efficient model? Rosenberg says making more climate-friendly choices is a learning process. Don't beat yourself up.

ROSENBERG: Nobody should feel guilty about making this decision in the past, before you knew. What we are strongly in favor of is that you try to commit to not buying any more fossil fuel appliances.

BRADY: He says, just feel good about the decisions you make in the future.

Jeff Brady, NPR news.

(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC) Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

NPR transcripts are created on a rush deadline by an NPR contractor. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Accuracy and availability may vary. The authoritative record of NPR’s programming is the audio record.

Jeff Brady is a National Desk Correspondent based in Philadelphia, where he covers energy issues and climate change. Brady helped establish NPR's environment and energy collaborative which brings together NPR and Member station reporters from across the country to cover the big stories involving the natural world.