5 simple ways to save on your utility bills

You may not be able to reduce your mortgage payments, maintenance costs, or decorating expenses, but you can shave some unnecessary expenses from your utilities.
Living in a home can be expensive. In order to reduce the financial stress, try paring some dollars off your utility bills. Chances are you'll also be helping the environment.

5 simple ways to save on your utility bills

1. Unplug appliances

Whether you're using them or not, appliances that are plugged into a power source are using energy and costing money. If you want to reduce the amount of your electricity bill, unplug appliances when they are not being used. You can also just turn off the power bar they are plugged into between uses. Think about the video games, chargers, small appliances and tools and electronic gear that is rarely used; give those things a rest and shave some dollars off of your monthly bills.

2. Reduce wattage or go green

Switch to energy-saving light bulbs, reduce the wattage as much as possible and install dimmer switches where it makes sense. Most homes do not require high light levels. If a desk or work area needs task lighting, use a lamp rather than a full-room light source. Newer energy-efficient bulbs may be a bit more pricey to purchase, but they also last longer. Always turn off lights when you leave a room.

3. Heat and cool your space naturally

Open the blinds on the sunny side of the house to catch the sun's rays in the winter. Open your windows for cross ventilation on a cool summer evening. Install ceiling fans to circulate interior air both in summer and winter. Use your thermostat wisely, by installing a "setback" model, or manually adjust the setting when you're at work, at night when you're asleep and whenever you leave for a weekend. You'll be surprised at the difference it makes.

4. Upgrade appliances

One reason your bills might be so high is that your appliances are old and not as efficient as they should be. Newer models are designed for more efficient energy consumption, and often have optional settings to create even more savings. Paying the one-time cost to upgrade appliances could save you tons on bills in the long run.

5. Insulate your doors and windows

If you feel drafts in the winter, caulk or seal around doors, windows, light switches and plugs. A trip to the hardware store can be your ticket to savings. Add insulation in the attic, or to a basement if necessary. Cover your windows. Even a lightweight drapery can make a difference, or use solar film.

Reducing energy consumption one small step at a time is not only reflected in individual budgets, but is of global benefit as well, putting less strain on natural resources and contributing to a cleaner environment.

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