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Amp Up Insulation & Stop Air Leaks
Your home's insulation works year-round to keep warm air either in or out. If your home is poorly insulated, energy (and money) are literally flying right out the window. If an expensive whole-home insulation job or window replacements are out of your budget, there are some small steps you can take to help improve your home's insulation. If air leaks from any windows or doors in your home plug the leaks with caulk or weatherstripping. Install storm windows over single-pane windows during the cold months of the year. If your home has a fireplace be sure the flue damper is tightly closed when not in use.
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Replace Light Bulbs with Compact Florescents
According to the US government's Energy Star website, qualified compact florescent (CF) light bulbs "use about 75 percent less energy than standard incandescent bulbs and last up to 10 times longer." Each standard bulb replaced with a CF can save over $30 in energy costs over the lifetime of the bulb. Compact florescent light bulbs are now available to fit most light fixtures and are reasonably priced. Check with your energy company to see if they offer rebates on purchasing CF bulbs or can supply them to you at a discounted price.
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Keep the House at 68 degrees
Maintaining your home's temperature a couple of degrees cooler in the winter and warmer in the summer is a nearly un-noticeable way to save energy. Use fans to move air around the house if you have spots that are too warm or too cool. In the winter, turn the thermostat down even further at night and use extra blankets to keep you warm.
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Invest in Efficient Appliances
Modern appliances are amazingly efficient in their energy and water use. If you are shopping for a new washer, refrigerator, or other major appliance pay attention to the Energy Star rating on several models. Choose the most efficient model that suits your needs. Remember that a higher price tag on an ultra-efficient model can pay for the extra cost in energy savings. Equipping your home with Energy Star appliances can save $75 per year in energy costs over standard models, according to the Energy Star website.
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Go Passive Solar
The sun's rays are a powerful source of energy - use this energy to heat and light your home as much as possible. During winter, open your blinds or shades to allow direct sunlight into your home. In the summer be sure blinds or shades are down tight to keep heat out. Adding strategically-placed windows or installing solar tube lights can increase your home's passive solar gains.
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Wash in Cold Water
Save a significant amount of energy by always washing your clothes in cold water. Don't worry about your clothes not getting clean enough - warm water is not necessary to clean your clothes in the vast majority of circumstances. New laundry detergents with cold water formulas are probably just trying to cash in on an emerging green market. Your regular detergent will work just fine. Add a few drops of tea tree oil in your wash to naturally freshen your load.
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Conservation - House Rules!
Make it a house rule that family members need to be mindful of their energy use. Each member of the family should know to turn lights off when they leave the room, not linger in the shower, and throw on a sweater if they're cold. Being an "energy saver" could even be a child's designated job.