Tips to lower your energy bill

Energy costs are a large part of everyone's budget today. Here are some tips to help you save energy and money.

Energy costs are a large part of everyone's budget today. It isn't likely that energy costs will go down in the future, so to save your budget, you should reduce the amount of energy your household uses. Here are some tips to help you save energy and money.

Keep your thermostat at 78 degrees or above in the summer and at 68 degrees or below in the winter. For each degree you lower your thermostat for at least 8 hours, you have a one percent savings in energy.

Use a programmable thermostat to make it easier to raise the temperature in the summer or lower the temperature in the winter by 10 degrees while you are out of the house during the day, and to set it back to a more comfortable temperature an hour before you get home.

Buy energy efficient appliances when you have to replace your current appliances. Look for the Energy Star label on appliances. These appliances have been identified as being the most energy efficient on the market. They will also have a label stating the average costs of operating the appliance for a year, so you can compare different models and judge which one will be the most energy efficient.

Turn lights off when not in use. Replace your incandescent light bulbs with compact fluorescent bulbs. Compact fluorescent bulbs are much more energy efficient than incandescent bulbs and will last six to 10 times longer. If you replace just a quarter of your old bulbs with compact fluorescent bulbs, you will save up to 50 percent of your lighting costs.

If your attic is not already insulated, put down either fiberglass batting or blown-in insulation to save energy. If your house has less than six to seven inches of insulation in the attic, add more insulation until it is at that level. If there is no insulation in your walls, add blown-in insulation. Insulate your basement or crawlspace, too.

If your windows are old-fashioned single pane windows, replace them with energy efficient double or triple-paned windows. If you live in an area with hot summers and a lot of sunshine, use windows that have a reflective glazing so that not all the sunlight enters your home as heat in the summer. In cold climates, choose windows that are low-emmisivity. These have a gas between the panes of glass that helps prevent heat loss in the winter.

Seal all cracks and air leaks into your home by caulking and using weather-stripping. Doing this can save up to ten percent of your heating and cooling bill each year.

Turn down the thermostat on your hot water heater. Heating the water to 120 degrees is adequate for most household uses. Most dishwashers have a device that heats water to over 140 degrees, so it is not necessary to keep the hot water heater thermostat on that setting. Insulate your hot water heater with an insulating blanket made especially for that task. Install low-flow shower heads so that family members do not use as much hot water while showering. Use cold water to wash clothes whenever practical.

If you live in a hot area, plant deciduous trees on the south and west sides of your home to shade it during the summer. This can help save 20 to 25 percent of your home's heating and air conditioning bill during the year. If you live in an area with cold winters, especially one with many north winds, plant evergreens on the north side of your house to shelter it from the north winds and lower your heating costs.

Houses in hot areas should be painted a light color to reflect heat from the house. Choose light-colored roofing shingles to reflect heat also. Houses where the winters are cold should be painted a dark color, as that will help absorb 70 to 90 percent of the radiant heat from sunlight striking the house.

Beware of vampire appliances. These are appliances that can draw power even when turned off. Televisions, VCRs, stereos, and DVD players can all be vampire appliances, if they can be controlled by a remote control.

Turn your computer monitor off when not in use. Turning it off overnight or when not using your computer can save you up to $50 per year.

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