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4 Ways to Save on Your Utility Bills

In today's economy, it is important to cut home costs wherever possible. Utilities are a big part of the average family's budget, and an area where significant savings can be achieved. Just a few changes can make a big difference in your monthly electric, gas, and water bills. Here are some actions you can take to realize these savings.

1. Lighting: replace incandescent bulbs wherever possible with energy-saving bulbs. Lighting accounts for 20% of energy use in the typical home. Compact fluorescent bulbs (CFLs) use 75% less energy than incandescent bulbs, they last 10 times longer, and the purchase price is reasonable. LED lighting, using light emitting diodes, are even more energy-efficient, and can last up to 30 times longer than incandescent. However, prices for LED lights are still very high compared with CFLs.

2. Air conditioning: this can be a huge part of your electric bill if you live in a hot climate, or experience high summer temperatures. Installing a programmable thermostat and setting the temperature 10 degrees higher during times when the home is unoccupied can result in considerable savings. Change your filters frequently and clean your air ducts annually to allow maximum air flow. Also, consider window tinting or upgrading to double-pane windows to cut down on heat transfer. Make sure your weather-stripping and caulking are in good shape to prevent air leaks. Installing an exhaust fan in the attic and adding insulation can also reduce the demand on your air conditioning system.

3. Gas: natural gas is probably the most popular method of home heating. Many homes also have gas ranges for cooking. As noted above, a programmable thermostat and good weatherstripping and caulking will save on heating as well as air conditioning. When cooking with gas, turn off the oven and burners as soon as you are done with them.

4. Water: you have probably noticed that your water bills are much higher in the summer, when you water lawns, shrubs, and trees. A properly programmed automatic sprinkler system and a watering schedule that keeps your landscaping healthy without over-watering is the key to minimizing this cost. For year-round savings on water, install low-flow shower heads and toilets, and check fixtures for leaks. If you find a leak, repair it immediately. A leaky toilet can quickly add dollars to your water bill.

Keeping all these tips in mind, do a quick survey of your home and note the areas where you think you can achieve utility savings. Then make a plan and follow through.