10 Free/Cheap Ways to Cut Hundreds of Dollars Off Your Home Energy Bills

Reduce your energy consumption (and help save our planet!) with these ten great tips.

Note: Shel Horowitz's book, Principled Profit: Marketing That Puts People First, contains a great deal of other information about the interplay of marketing and social change, and ways to move a business toward both environmental and economic sustainablity.

Saving energy is not only good for your wallet (and a lot better for your wallet than just a couple of years ago, as fuel prices soar), but also good for the earth. If every household did all the free and almost free things listed here, we'd save enough energy to start closing down the dangerous nuclear and coal plants.

This article is about the easy, free and almost free ways that all of us can use on our existing homes or apartments. If you're building from scratch, you can do far more. (See the Sustainable Business section of Down to Business magazine, and especially the article by Amory Lovins).

1. Get an energy audit from your local electric company. The power companies are under instructions to encourage conservation, so they typically do energy audits for free or for a $10 or $20 fee. They also usually supply you with all sorts of goodies that you'd otherwise have to buy: pipe wrap, outlet insulators, hot water heater blankets, and so forth.

2. If you have to mix cold water in to make your hot water usable, turn down the temperature setting until it comes out just right.

3. Put your hand over ana electrical outlet on an outside wall on a cold night and you'll feel the rush of frigid air! Insulate your electrical outlets and phone jacks on outside walls. If your energy auditor didn't give them to you, most hardware stores sell inexpensive foam outlet and phone jack insulation pads; just unscrew the face plate, slip the foam pad on, and put the face plate back. As for the outlets and phone jacks themselves, if they're not in use, slip in outlet protectors. You'll find these in the child safety section.

4. Caulk your windows. A $3 box of rope caulk will probably last two or three years--even longer if, come spring when you remove the caulk, you store it in an airtight plastic bag for reuse. Any place you feel a draft, fill the crack with rope caulk. If a window is really drafty, cover it from the inside with a single sheet of clear plastic.

5. Insulate your hot water pipes and cover your water heater--ONLY if it's the older, uninsulated kind--with a heater jacket.

6. Use less water! For instance, instead of running the hot water the whole time while washing dishes, fill a basin of soapy water, soak the dishes and sponge them off with the water OFF, then turn it back on to rinse. Hot water is one of the largest energy expenses, so every gallon you don't use is a gallon you don't have to heat.

7. Turn your dishwasher's dry cycle off and let the dishes air dry. (Tip: after an hour or so, turn the cups upside down so the water collected on the bottoms can dry.)

8. Dry clothes with a wooden drying rack or--on sunny days--a clothesline.

9. If you're using your oven, throw in other stuff that you can eat later. So while your casserole is cooking, you can also cook potatoes or winter squash with no additional energy cost.

10. Clean the coils behind your refrigerator. Vacuum them every four to six months. (You may have to unscrew a panel to get to them.). Your refrigerator will run cooler and quieter, last longer, and use less electricity.

Shel Horowitz, author of The Penny-Pinching Hedonist: How to Live Like Royalty with a Peasant's Pocketbook and four other books, offers over 500 money-saving, career-building, and life-enhancing articles at http://www.frugalfun.com, including many frugality articles at http://www.frugalfun.com/frugal.html. Visit his site to sign up for FREE Frugal Fun tips every month.

Note: Shel Horowitz's book, Principled Profit: Marketing That Puts People First, contains a great deal of other information about the interplay of marketing and social change, and ways to move a business toward both environmental and economic sustainablity.

More Easy Ways to Cut Your Utility Bill
By Richard Chapo

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