Earth Day is our annual reminder that we all must live a more sustainable lifestyle.

Wildlife needs our help. Waterways need our help. Plants need our help. And certainly, our children and grandchildren need our help.

Earth Day, which is April 22, is driving awareness and action that simple behavioral changes can help address concerns like climate change, pollution, deforestation and natural resources.

The easiest way to change the world starts in our homes. Below are 10 DIY projects that can save on utility costs while also protecting our environment and preserving valuable resources:

Replace light bulbs with LEDs

The U.S. Department of Energy notes that replacing your home’s five most frequently used light fixtures with Energy Star-rated bulbs can save $75 each year in utility costs. LEDs (Light Emitting Diodes) are the most common, but CFLs (Compact Fluorescent Lamps) and Halogen Incandescent bulbs are also energy efficient. Energy Star-rated bulbs use up to 80% less energy than traditional bulbs and can last up to 25 times longer.

Change air filter

Air filters in A/C systems are designed to capture dust, bacteria, viruses and allergens before air is recycled through the air handler unit and pushed through ducts back into the home. Manufacturers generally suggest changing the air filter every 30 to 90 days. Dirty or clogged air filters reduce air flow into the A/C unit, reducing its efficiency, raising energy costs and contributing to system malfunctions.

Install programmable thermostat

Air conditioning is a necessity in Florida, helping us stay cool and comfortable. Well-maintained A/C systems also regulate humidity and heat, two factors that contribute to mold and mildew growth. The “right” temperature is up for debate, but FPL recommends setting the thermostat to 82 degrees when away from home. That might be a little too warm while you’re home, especially while sleeping. Programmable thermostats are now the norm, and newer Wi-Fi systems can be controlled through a smart phone.

Repair plumbing leaks

According to the U.S. Department of the Interior, a leaky faucet with a continuous drip – once every second – will waste 2,083 gallons of water each year. Faucets and handles themselves aren’t usually the problem; it’s the cartridge or seals within the plumbing fixture. Toilets leak at a much faster rate. A toilet that runs continuously can waste up to 4,800 gallons per day – that’s more than 1.7 million gallons per year! Smaller leaks are often undetected because they are concealed within the tank. Faulty flappers and valves are among the most common problems.

Additional DIY projects include:

  • Replacing an aging hot water heater with an energy-efficient model
  • Installing low-flow shower heads and faucets
  • Caulking or weatherstripping windows to seal air leaks
  • Attaching door sweeps to prevent heat gain

DIYers have varied skill sets, but a little elbow grease goes a long way in trimming utility costs and protecting our environment for generations to come.

– By Scott Hamblen, Chief Merchandising Office for Sunshine Ace Hardware