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5 Ways to Save on Utility Bills

If your latest utility bill was shockingly high, it's not just a fluke. The energy bill for average single-family homes is about $2,200 a year, according to the ENERGY STAR® website. That includes the cost of running electronics and appliances as well as heating, cooling and lighting. By managing your utility use and making some small upgrades to your home, you can slash your bills by hundreds of dollars or more.

Cooling

If you live in an area with scorching-hot summers, it's hard to resist running the air conditioner all day long. That uses a large amount of energy though, so it's smart to find other ways to keep cool indoors.

Cover your home's windows with thick, opaque curtains that block out the sun's rays. When cooking, use the oven only in the morning or evening after the sun has set. Use ceiling fans and floor fans to keep rooms cool without air conditioning. Keep heat-emitting appliances, such as TVs or lamps, away from your thermostat so they don't make the thermostat "think" your home is hotter than it really is.

Replace your air-conditioning filter monthly if it's a fiberglass variety. If it's made of foam, wash it with cool water, let it dry and then reinstall it. Check windows and door seals for air leaks and seal any you find. When you're ready to upgrade to a new air conditioner, buy one with an inverter. Some inverter models, for example, offer an "economic" mode that saves up to 50 percent more energy than non-inverter air conditioners. Other models feature a nighttime mode that automatically adjusts temperature as you sleep, using up to 36 percent less energy compared to standard cooling modes.

Heating

A toasty-warm home is a great comfort during frosty winter nights, but that coziness comes at a price. Keep high electric bills at bay by installing a programmable thermostat. Set the thermostat to lower the temperature by about 10 degrees at night. You should also turn down the thermostat if you're planning to leave your home for more than four hours.

Appliances

Large appliances use large amounts of energy. If you're in the market for a new appliance, buy an ENERGY STAR-qualified model, many of which also have an "economy" setting for smaller jobs that require less power. For example, some dishwashers automatically stop the wash cycle when they detect clean dishes or detect the level of soil and use the appropriate cycle and water temperature for each load.

If you have space, consider purchasing a large-capacity washing machine. Washers with a 5.0 cubic foot capacity, for example, can launder up to 2.6 baskets of clothes per load. Look for a washer that has a silver-wash feature. These washers get clothes clean by spraying them with antibacterial nano-silver particles, letting you sanitize garments in cold water instead of hot.

Water

Water bills don't usually run as high as power bills, but that doesn't mean you shouldn't be mindful of your consumption. When bathing, skip tub baths and opt for showers instead. Don't leave the water running when rinsing produce, brushing your teeth or shaving.

When you're ready to buy a new washing machine, get a front-load model. Compared to top-load washers, front-load machines cost approximately $0.21 less to run per wash.

Consider installing a low-flush toilet or low-flow shower head. Low-flush toilets use just one to two gallons of water per flush, cutting water use by up to 50 percent.

Computer and TV Screens

A large computer monitor is great for watching movies or playing games on the computer, but it can also be an energy hog. When purchasing a monitor, look for one that has a motion sensor or light sensor to dim the monitor based on ambient lighting or when you're not at the computer. You can also opt for a preset energy-saving mode.

When buying a new TV, purchase a model that meets Energy Star 3.0 standards or higher. Some qualifying models use about 40 percent less energy than standard TVs of similar size. Most new TVs have a power-saving mode that lets you adjust the brightness manually. Some change brightness automatically depending on the surrounding light.

Photo Credits: Victor Houglin/Demand Media

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