Making a few easy changes around the house can mean substantial savings. Here are six simple fixes we found courtesy of Real Simple.
1. Seal sneaky leaks. Seal electrical outlets in the exterior walls of your house. Foam insulating gaskets act as a barrier so conditioned air stays in, rather than leaking out. Just unscrew the outlet cover, install the gasket, and replace the cover.
2. Go with the flow. Install a high-performance showerhead. This uses 1½ gallons of water per minute rather than 2½ gallons. By switching, a family of four (each person taking daily 10-minute showers) could save about $88 a year on water and energy costs with gas water heating and $135 a year with electric, according to figures from the DOE Federal Energy Management Program.
3. Swap out bulbs. Replace incandescent bulbs with CFLs (compact fluorescent lightbulbs). A $10 CFL uses about a quarter of the wattage of an incandescent bulb, which amounts to more than $30 in savings per replaced bulb over the lifetime of the CFL.
4. Wash clothes in cold water. You may already know that this saves energy, but do you know how much? "Up to 90 percent of the cost of washing clothes comes from heating the water, so use hot water only for very dirty clothes," says Adam Gottlieb of the California Energy Commission. Another tip: "Match the water level to the amount of clothes, or wait to wash full loads," suggests Clement. "The water savings can be enormous."
5. Close (or open) your blinds. Leave blinds down on south- and west-facing windows on hot summer days to keep your space cool. "This prevents the sun from warming your home and making your cooling system work harder," says Clement. "In winter, leave blinds up to allow the sun to help heat your home."
6. Upgrade your heating (and cooling) system. Install (and properly program) a programmable thermostat. A programmable thermostat costs $50 to $80, is easy to install, and can save about $180 a year. You can shave 2 percent off your heating (or cooling) bill for each degree you lower (or raise) the thermostat for at least eight hours a day while you're away from home or asleep.
For more ways to cut your energy bill, click here.