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Easy ways to cut your energy costs

  • Story Highlights
  • There are some easy steps to cut your energy bills
  • Switch to compact fluorescent lights which use 70 percent less energy
  • Solar-powered outdoor lights are an energy-free option.
  • Turn off air conditioning, open windows on cool summer nights
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Real Simple

(Real Simple) -- Here are some simple tips for saving money, resources, and the planet.

Cut Heating and Cooling Costs

• Program your thermostat to turn heat down or air-conditioning up when you're out. If your furnace is more than 10 to 15 years old, or your boiler is more than 20 years old, replace it with a model approved by the federal government's Energy Star program (marked by rating stickers in stores). It will pay for itself in energy savings in 5 to 10 years.

• Seal your house: Close the fireplace damper; install a timer (available at hardware stores) on the bathroom exhaust fan; seal ductwork.

• Cool your home naturally: Open windows on cool summer nights. Use energy-saving compact fluorescent bulbs (they emit less heat). Hang washing out to dry, and grill food outside. Install window awnings. Plant deciduous trees on the east and west to shade your house and cool it by as much as 20 degrees.

• Install an Energy Star--certified ceiling fan (50 percent more efficient than others) and comfortably keep your home four degrees warmer in the summer.

• Consider switching to a natural-gas water heater (which uses less than half the energy of an electric one), and turn the setting down to 120 degrees.

Potential Savings: About $500 a year.

Green Point: If one household in 10 bought Energy Star--rated heating and cooling equipment, the change in greenhouse-gas emissions would be equivalent to taking 1.5 million cars off the road.

Cut Lighting Costs

• Replace regular incandescent bulbs and fixtures with Energy Star--qualified compact fluorescent lights (CFLs), available at most hardware stores. CFLs cast a warmer glow than the cold, harsh fluoros of old. They cost more than regular bulbs, but they use 70 percent less energy, last much longer (10,000 hours, compared with 750), and look just as good. Video Watch concerns about nation's power supply »

• Use task lighting. (You wouldn't refrigerate the whole house to keep your food cold, would you?) One exception: If you have a torchère-style halogen lamp anywhere, get rid of it. It probably runs a 300-watt bulb and heats up to about 970 degrees.

• Install dimmers on all bulbs to save energy and extend their life. Timers work well for front-door and security-related lights; sensors, which turn on lights only when needed, are ideal for outdoors. Solar-powered outdoor lights are an energy-free option.

• Don't underestimate the power of daylight. Use skylights and well-placed mirrors to reflect natural light and help reduce lighting costs.

Potential Savings: At least $90 a year.

Green Point: If every American home swapped just five incandescent bulb fixtures for Energy Star CFLs, it would keep 1 trillion pounds of greenhouse gases out of the air and save $6.5 billion in energy costs. E-mail to a friend E-mail to a friend


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