If you want to save money—and the environment—try these easy suggestions from the experts.
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- Replace furnace filters regularly.
- In the winter, use light-colored loose-weave curtains on your windows to allow daylight to penetrate the room while preserving privacy and decorate with lighter colors that reflect daylight.
- Turn your lights off when you leave a room. Standard incandescent light bulbs should be turned off whenever they are not needed. Fluorescent lights should be turned off when you'll be away for at least 15 minutes.
- Shop at farmers’ markets. You’ll buy produce and other products that need a lot less fuel to wind up in your kitchen or home. Find lists of farmers’ markets across the country at http://apps.ams.usda.gov/FarmersMarkets and LocalHarvest.org.
- Install a programmable thermostat. In winter, reset it from 72 degrees to 65 degrees for eight hours a day—for instance, when no one is home or everyone is sleeping—to cut heating bills by up to 10 percent. When using air conditioning in the summer, set your thermostat as high as comfortably possible: the less the difference between indoor and outdoor temperatures, the lower your overall cooling bill. But year round, consider special health needs as you try to save energy. Make sure seniors, young children, and people with breathing problems are neither too hot nor too cold.
- Take your own bags when you go grocery shopping. Americans throw away 100 billion plastic grocery sacks a year, according to the Worldwatch Institute.
- Consider natural gas on-demand or tankless water heaters. Researchers have reported savings of up to 30 percent compared with standard natural gas storage tank water heaters.
- Install a low-flow showerhead to reduce water consumption by about half without giving up that beloved water pressure. Showers account for 22 percent of individual water use in North America.
- Wash clothes in cold water whenever possible according to manufacturers’ instructions. As much as 85 percent of the energy used to machine-wash clothes goes to heating the water.
- Plug all appliances into a power strip and unplug the strip at night and when appliances are not in use. “Vampire energy”—the power used by appliances when they’re turned off or in standby mode—consumers about 40 percent of the electricity used to power electronic devices.