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5 tips to help lower your bills and save the earth

written by: Stephanie Michael•edited by: Niki Fears•updated: 7/6/2010

Quick and easy tips you can use to help save money while greening your home. Sometimes its as easy as flipping the switch on your way out of a room other times its about motivating your family to participate in the greening of your home.

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    Go Green

    Going green in your home can sometimes mean major renovations and big investments but it doesn't always have to. There are many things that you and your family can do around the home that take less than five minutes and can save you $100's of dollars a year. Here are the top five tips for greening your home in five minutes or less.

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    Use energy efficient light bulbs in all your lamps.

    Buying energy efficient light bulbs can seem like a lot of money but they quickly pay for themselves in energy savings. Switching the bulbs out can be easy and quick if the whole whole family pitches in to replace a few in each room. Energy efficient bulbs might look funny but the savings they provide are nothing to be laughed at. In 2007 Americans saved 1.5 billion dollars by switching to Energy Star qualified light bulbs.

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    Turn off lights and unplug appliances.

    Once you have more efficient lights its important to only use them when you need them. Make sure you and everyone in your family are turning your lights off when you're not in the room or if natural sunlight is available. Also take a walk around your home to unplug any electronics you don't use daily. In my two bedroom two bath condo I found 18 things that were plugged in and only four of them were used daily. Computer and phone chargers that aren't currently being used as well as video game consoles, toasters and microwaves are all examples of electronics that can be unplugged in between uses. When you leave something plugged in it is still using energy, even when it is not on. You and your family can save an average of $45 a month by unplugging unused electronics.

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    Program your air conditioner

    If you can invest in a digital thermostat that you can program it to turn the air conditioner on and off while you are away. Most power companies offer free installation and a discount for using energy saving tools. Meaning that all you have to do is pay for the new thermostat. If you can't afford to change out your thermostat make it a habit to set the temperature a little higher than normal. There is no reason to keep your house ice cold when you and your family are away at work and school.

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    Start a compost heap and make going green a gameStart a compost heap in the back yard and make going green a game for the family. Getting everyone involved makes it easier to go green one step at a time.
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    Start a compost heap

    Composting can seem like something that will be difficult and dirty but it really doesn't have to be. Designate a place in your yard for the heap or buy a composting container. Start with potting soil or fertile topsoil if you have it and mix in organic waste from your kitchen. I keep a small bucket under my sink for food scraps and at the end of each day I walk it outside to the compost heap. If you want to quicken the composting time line add some earth worms to the mix. After its ready composted soil makes great fertilized soil for flower or vegetable gardens. I've even had a few neighbors offer to pay me to help them set up their own composting heap. So I get to help them recycle while making a few extra dollars for my time.

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    Have fun with it.

    The easiest way to get your family involved is to make it game. Make up a poster with each persons name on it and make a green X every time that person remembers to do something green. If mom makes sure to check all the lights in the house before leaving for the day she gets a green X. If young Billy plants a window herb garden for mom using some of the fresh compost he gets a green X. Whoever has the most marks at the end of the month wins. In my family this means that person gets to decide on a green activity we can do as a family, such as picnicking in the park.

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    Small changes add up

    By making small changes in your everyday life you'll soon find how quick and painless it can be to go green in your home. Make one or two changes and keep it up for about a month, it'll soon become habit for you and the rest of the household. Good luck going green!

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    Compact fluorescent lighting,