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5 simple ways to cut your energy bills

Published On: Nov 07 2011 11:03:18 PM CST
Updated On: Dec 13 2012 12:00:52 PM CST
electric plug with utility bill and cash money

iStock / Devonyu

We get it. You don't want to work too hard to save energy at your house. That's fine. But there are still some really, really easy things you can do today to trim that electric and/or gas bill that haunts your mailbox month in, month out.

After all, you don't exactly have to be Bob Vila to save a little bit of money while greening up your home.

Still, we'll take this in baby steps. First, we'll show you the super-simple stuff, and by the fifth tip -- it'll still be super-simple. Wouldn't want to tax you, after all.

OK, here goes. All you need to know in this first step is to turn things to the left, and then turn things to the right ...

compact fluorescent light bulb

No. 5: Change your bulbs

Welcome to the 21st Century. Welcome to the CFL! That's right, it's time to stop buying those old-fashioned incandescent bulbs. They served their purpose for generations, but the CFL is the way to go.

According to the U.S. Department of Energy, CFLs will save you about $30 or more in electricity costs over each bulb's lifetime.

They also produce about 75 percent less heat, which means they won't burn your pinkies when you try to unscrew one.

Every single hardware store (worth its salt) on the planet is stocked with CFLs. Visit www.energystar.gov to figure out the right bulbs for your fixtures.

Wasn't that easy? Good. It's going to stay easy. Our next tip involves turning off something once it reaches a certain cycle. Intrigued? Well, click on and all will be revealed ...

Kitchen dishwasher

No. 4: Air-dry dishwasher dishes

This is almost too easy. First of all, don't believe anyone who says washing dishes by hand is more energy efficient than using a dishwasher. Wrong. You use more water washing and rinsing a load of dishes by hand.

That doesn't mean the common dishwasher won't try to take a few bucks out of your wallet. When the device's heat cycle kicks in to dry the dishes, that's when you step in.

This is when you turn the thing off, and simply let the dishes air dry. Yep, good old-fashioned air is less expensive than electricity! If you have a few kids who have finished their homework and are looking for something constructive to do, instruct the monsters to take a dry towel to hasten the process.

Don't worry, the next tip isn't much more difficult than that. But it may require you to walk down a flight of stairs. But in the end, you may breathe easier ...

replacing furnace filter

No. 3: Replace furnace filter

This is so easy to forget to do. But changing your furnace filter is not only a no-brainer, but super, super easy. Just figure out where it is, lift out the old one and slip in a new one.

Furnace filters are also basically priced in three stages: cheap, not-so-cheap and moderately expensive. The cheap filters are about $1 and you change them every month without fail. If you forget, they'll clog up fast. The not-so-cheap filters should be changed every three months or so.

As for the moderately expensive filters, the experts say they're the way to go. You don't have to change them as often as the not-so-cheap filter, and they block a lot more dust and dirt. You'll find in the long run, your furnace won't have to work as hard to heat the house.

Work. Oh, that four-letter word. The next tip involves work. Sorry. But it's still super-easy ...

welcome doormat at front door of house

No. 2: Install a door sweep

Once upon a time, the bottom of a dunce's door had about 1/16th of an inch of light shining through. The dunce, not to be confused with the writer of this article, decided he would do something about it.

In the dunce's basement was weather stripping for the bottom of a door. In more common vernacular, a door sweep. The dunce, however, let it sit there for about 15 years before he touched it. He thought it would be really hard to install. What a dunce.

He took the slim strip of plastic out of its paper container and went upstairs. He went to the front door and measured. He cut the strip the proper length, removed the backing to reveal the adhesive strip -- and stuck it to the bottom of the door. The act took about 30 seconds, and the bottom of the door suddenly didn't have expensive hot air whistling outside!

When the dunces' bride heard about this, she said: "You waited 15 years to do something so simple? Why?"

Whatever. OK, time to deliver our fifth and final tip ... one that will electrify you ...

Programmable thermostat against blue sky

No. 1: Install a programmable thermostat

This one basically involves a screwdriver. But it's still really easy to do, and the payoff can be huge.

According the federal government, you can save as much as 10 percent a year on your heating/cooling bills by turning back your thermostat while you're at work and/or asleep.

The simple way to do this is to install a battery-powered programmable thermostat. Just turn the power off to where your old dial thermostat is located, unhook it and install the new one. It's just a few wires off, a few wires on. Not a big deal all.

When the new one is online, you can program it to any temperature for any time of the day or week. Wintertime and you're at work? No need to heat an empty house. Back off a few degrees. Summertime and you're at the beach for the day? Have the temp go up automatically. No need to keep it cool if you're not there.

You can also use the manual override without affecting the rest of the daily or weekly program. The other person in the house, for example, might want it set on 68 instead of 63. She's sick of winter, and wants a break for a few hours! No problem. But since you bought it -- and installed it-- you reserve the right to hike it down to 59 the second her eyes shut for the evening.

It's only fair!

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