CNN  — 

The cost of natural gas was already rising fast as the world emerged from repeated Covid lockdowns and demand for energy soared. Now the war in Ukraine is pushing prices even higher.

In Europe, countries are planning to dramatically slash their reliance on Russian gas, and while the US doesn’t import much gas from Russia, it’s also feeling the pain of high prices, which are linked to global markets. It’s the same for the UK, which only relies on Russia for 3% of its gas.

Millions of people are set to shell out hundreds, possibly even thousands, of extra dollars just to keep their homes warm this year. But there are plenty of ways to keep bills down, and a lot of them will help tackle climate change, too, and help damp gas prices – which means less money for exporters like Russia.

Turn the thermostat down

Turning the heat down can have a big impact on energy bills.

This is one of the simplest things you can do to save on energy. The International Energy Agency (IEA) says the average building in Europe is set at 22 degrees Celsius (71.6°Fahrenheit) in the heating season. If all the buildings in the European Union turned down the heat by just 1° Celsius, for example, the bloc would need 10 billion cubic meters less gas per year.

That’s roughly the same amount of natural gas that New York City consumes in three months, or what Hungary or the Czech Republic consume over a year.

In the UK, homes can save £80 ($104) a year on their heating bills, according to experts from uSwitch, a UK energy comparison company.

This may be a small amount of money, but in terms of climate change, it’s 19 million tons of greenhouse gas emissions saved. To put that into perspective, that’s around the same as what 4.2 million American cars emit over a year, according to the US Environmental Protection Agency.

Lower temperatures indoors are something you can get used to. In Australia, for example, people are advised by the Climate Council to warm their homes to 18°-20°C. Sometimes Australians live in those temperatures simply because it’s hard to heat houses well there – many aren’t set up for the cold weather and insulation can be poor. Still, people manage.

In the US, the Department of Energy recommends people set their thermostats to 68° Fahrenheit (20°C), but the most popular average indoor temperature in American homes is 70°-75°F (around 21°-24°C). So there’s a lot of room to turn temperatures down.

“Having better control over our heating systems doesn’t cost anything to do, and it would immediately reduce our bills,” Will Rivers from the UK-based Carbon Trust, a group that provides solutions to the climate crisis, told CNN.

Fit some solar panels

Solar panels can provide power for all household appliances and heating.

Whether or not you can do this will depend on if you own your own property. Solar panels are more effective in houses with roofs, but some companies can install panels for apartments, too.

Solar energy is renewable, and its panels – also known as photovoltaics (PV) – are a good source of cheap energy in many countries. The panels capture the sun’s energy and convert it into electricity, which can be used to power appliances in homes directly or stored in a battery for later use. If some of that electricity is not used or stored, the excess power can typically be sold back to a central power grid. On a good run of sunny days, you could even make money from the energy you sell.

The panels do not need direct sunlight to work, so they can still be effective on cloudy days, as solar radiation is still present. However, the stronger the sun, the more electricity will be generated.

The Energy Saving Trust, a UK organization promoting energy efficiency, says a home solar PV system could cut electricity bills by up to 15-25% in the UK.

In the US, the average household could save $260 a month using solar panels and battery storage. That’s between $10,000 and $35,000 over 20 years, according to the energy market website EnergySage.

Solar panels are able to provide power to run a heat pump (more on that belo