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18 Ways to Save on Your Utility Costs

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

En español | A blanket solution. By insulating your electric water heater and its outgoing pipes, you can lower the temperature setting and save up to $200 a year. Pipe sleeves start at $2 for 12 feet, while heater blankets run about $20. Check with a plumber for safety.

See also: Affordable Utilities Now

Grill with sun. Investigate buying a solar cooker, which works by focusing the rays of the sun on food. Great for picnics.

Go solar. Advanced systems let you light your home and sell excess electricity to your power company. Simpler ones heat your home and water. All cut your energy costs but require major upfront investment with a seven- to 20-year payback. To reduce that expense, buy used equipment, collect tax credits and stick with simpler systems. Find more information at and

Go out green. Biodegradable coffins and other eco-friendly burial measures can cost half to two-thirds less than traditional burials. Get information and provider listings at

Auto-temperature. By installing a programmable thermostat, homeowners can save up to $180 a year in heating and cooling bills.

Compact fluorescent light bulb in grass 99 Ways to Save-18 Ways to Cut Utilities Costs

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Slash your energy bills easily by unplugging electronic devices when not in use.

Go fluorescent. Replace those energy-hog incandescent bulbs with compact fluorescent light (CFL) bulbs. According to the U.S. Department of Energy, replacing a 60-watt incandescent bulb with a comparable 15-watt CFL could save you $69 over the life of the new bulb — typically seven years.

Stop gushing. Turn the valves under the kitchen and bathroom sinks halfway off. When you open a faucet above, the water won't come gushing out, but there'll be plenty to wash dishes or brush teeth.

Hang out. Your electric clothes dryer is the biggest energy-gobbling appliance in your home after the refrigerator, costing about $85 a year to run. So hang clothes outside, or inside until they're almost dry, then pop them into the dryer.

A drip in time. Your AC system and dehumidifier pull water out of the air that's perfect for gardening or car washing. Some devices will route the water to your garden.

Next: Do a little dusting to save money. >>

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.