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Easy ways to save on energy bills

Of course, you want your home to be cool and comfortable during the dog days of summer.

But you also want to save on energy bills.

Energy-smart day-to-day living is easier than you might think. 

Save money on utility bills year-round with these simple steps.

Heating and Cooling

If your home's heating or cooling unit is more than 15 years old, you might want to replace it with one of today's energy-efficient, energy star models to save on energy bills.

The energy star appliances, which are better insulated and have motors that require less maintenance, pay for themselves in energy costs, frequently in as little as three to five years.

If you're not ready to make such a large purchase right now, you can wrap insulation around the water heater to save on energy costs.

But first, check your ductwork for dirt streaks, especially near the seams.

A streak indicates an air leak, which needs to be sealed with metal-backed duct tape before you add the insulating jacket.

If the water heater ductwork appears to have been insulated and you think it might contain asbestos, make sure you have a professional test it before you begin.

If asbestos is present, have it wrapped with duct-pipe insulation to protect you and your family from exposure to asbestos. 

In the meantime, a sure way to save on winter utility bills is to open the drapes during the day and let the sunshine in and to draw them at night to keep the heat from radiating out.

Set the thermostat at 68 degrees F (20 degrees C) or lower during the day, and set it at 55 degrees F (13 degrees C) at night or when you're away.

For every degree you lower your thermostat, you'll save 3 to 5 percent on your monthly heating bill. 

Also consider installing a programmable thermostat with a built-in timer.

While you can easily adjust the thermostat yourself to comfortable temperatures, it's more efficient to have a programmable thermostat that does it for you automatically.

To save money while keeping your home cool in summer, draw the drapes and close the windows to keep hot air and the sun's burning rays out. Set the thermostat at 78 degrees F (26 degrees C) or higher when you're at home.

Don't place your air-conditioning thermostat near lamps, appliances, or in direct sunlight. Heat in these areas is sensed by the thermostat and could cause the air conditioner to run longer than necessary, increasing energy costs.

Save on Energy Bills by Lightening Up

Since energy for lighting accounts for some 10 percent of your electric bill, you can save money by lightening up on your wattage.

save on energy billsIf you're using 100-watt bulbs where 60-watt bulbs would do, consider replacing them.

If you're using 100-watt bulbs where 60-watt bulbs would do, consider replacing them.

Or, switch to fluorescent bulbs that screw into standard sockets to save money.

Lighten up on your interior decorating, too: Pale colors for walls, draperies, rugs, and upholstery reflect light and can reduce the number of lamps needed to light a room adequately.

Outdoors, replace incandescent lighting with high-pressure sodium or outdoor fluorescent bulbs for additional savings on your energy bill.

Or try solar-powered pathway lamps (with batteries that store photovoltaic energy for nighttime use) or high-efficiency sodium lamps for security lighting.

Cooking Up Savings

It's quite easy to cook up energy savings in the kitchen.

  • If you keep range-top burners and reflectors clean, they'll better reflect the heat and require less energy for cooking.
  • If you cook with electricity, turn off burners several minutes before the end of the allotted cooking time to save on your energy bill. The burners will stay hot long enough to finish the job without using any more electricity.
  • When you have a choice between using the range top and the oven, go with the former to save energy.
  • If you do use the oven, open it sparingly; each time you open it, heat escapes and the oven will use even more energy to maintain the cooking temperature.
  • Use a pressure cooker and a microwave oven whenever possible; both save energy.
  • When you're boiling water, keep a lid on the pot; water boils faster when you use a top to hold in the heat.

Lowering Your Washer's Energy Use

Try these simple changes to lower your laundry-related utility bills. 

  • Keep your water heater set 120 degrees F. Every 10-degree reduction in water heater temperature will cut the cost of washing clothes by up to 1 percent.
  • Really dirty duds? Use the presoak or soak cycle. You'll avoid two washings and save energy.
  • Don't use too much detergent. Over-sudsing causes your machine to work harder and use more energy.
  • Don't overwash clothes. Delicate clothes don't need as long a wash cycle as dirty play clothes. 
  • If your washing machine is more than 10 years old, it's time to replace it with an Energy Star rated appliance. Many of the newer machines use up to half the water and two-thirds less energy. Your pocketbook will thank you.

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