Saving energy doesn’t always mean getting new appliances, installing insulation, or replacing windows. Even if you live in a brand new, super efficient home, there are plenty of ways to lower your energy bills and protect the environment.

1. Actually program the programmable thermostat! A lot of energy costs come from heating and cooling empty (or unused) spaces. Program the thermostat to warm or cool your home when you’re actually there, and to switch off when you’re away or asleep.

2. Use your appliances wisely. When it comes to doing laundry or washing dishes, using the washing machine and dishwasher properly will save energy. Stop using hot water whenever possible. Pack the right amount of clothing into the washer or dryer. Load the dishwasher as efficiently as possible. And run the machines at night.

3. Replace air filters monthly. Dirty filters restrict airflow, causing the HVAC system to run longer and use more energy. And check your vents. If they’re closed, open them! Closing vents will actually raise your energy costs.

4. Close the doors. Close attic, basement, garage and exterior doors to prevent drafts and keep in heat or A/C.

5. Unplug.  Any electronic gizmo that stays plugged in when not in use is sucking up your money. Do a nightly sweep to make sure all your electric devices are turned off before you go to bed. It may be a pain, but the savings from simply turning everything off can add up quickly.

6. See the light. Turn off lights you aren’t using. Replace incandescent light bulbs with compact fluorescents or LEDs. Use timers or smart light fixtures to control lighting.

7. Set the water heater at 120 degrees. Not only does heating your water too hot create the danger of scalding, it costs you cash. The EPA estimates that a heater set at 140 degrees or higher can waste $36 to $61 annually in standby heat losses to keep water at that temperature, and more than $400 to bring fresh water up to that temperature.

8. Take a shower instead of a bath. And install a low-flow aerator or flow restrictor on an existing showerhead.  By doing both, you’ll use less water.

9. Think before you cook. The stove or oven may not always be the best choice energy-wise. Crockpots or a microwave oven may be more energy efficient.

10. Help your refrigerator/freezer work more efficiently. Leave room in front of a refrigerator/freezer to allow cold air to circulate better. Since frozen food stays cold longer than air, it’s good to keep the freezer full, but not packed.

11. Soften those rays. Closing the curtains and lowering the blinds on the sunny side of your house will help keep you cooler on hot days.

12. Fix leaks. A leaky faucet or toilet can waste gallons of water a day. If something is leaking, get it fixed ASAP.

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