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18 Ways to Save on Your Utility Costs

Learn how to cut your energy bills and save the environment, too

Banish dust bunnies. Keeping your refrigerator's coils dust-free can save about 6 percent on its power consumption. Access varies by model; check the manual. And, of course, unplug the fridge before you do anything.

Unplug. Disconnect your cellphone and other electronic gadgets when they are fully charged, or you're just wasting energy. They draw power when they are plugged in, so don't let them soak up juice all night.

Be convectional. If you're buying an oven, consider a convection model. It can cut oven energy use by 20 percent because it continuously circulates heated air around the food, reducing both cooking temperature and time.

Don't vent. Use bathroom and kitchen vent fans sparingly in summer and winter — the fans cost money to run and blow your cooled or heated air outside, forcing your furnace or air conditioner to make up the difference.

Winter savings. Inflatable fireplace dampers keep your home's warm air from escaping through a fireplace with a leaky metal damper. Pay $50 to $200 once and save $50 to $200 every year.

Heat health. To conserve energy, turn off radiators or close heating and cooling vents in vacant rooms. Heavy drapes also lower energy bills.

Power down. If you have an electric water heater, install a switch so that it's on only when you need hot water. Or buy a timer to do the job automatically. Turning down the temperature on an electric or gas water heater will also save you money year-round.

B.Y.O.B. Supermarkets in some areas charge 5 cents a bag. Some big stores give credits if you bring your own bag. Target discounts 5 cents for each throwaway bag not used, while CVS issues a $1 coupon every fourth time a customer checks out with a 99-cent "Green Bag Tag" that's sold at the store.

Don't fill the kettle. When you boil water for a cup of tea, put in just the amount you need. You're wasting energy for anything extra.

You may also like: More ways to save energy at home. >>

Contributors: Arthur Dalglish, Sid Kirchheimer, Cathie Gandel, Joan Rattner Heilman, K.C. Summers, Jeff Yeager, Bob Calandra and AARP members like you.

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