One of the most obvious areas where a homeowner can go “green” is in the use of energy in the home. The biggest energy hogs are heating, air conditioning, electrical appliances, lighting, and water usage. Here are some practical tips for saving energy and money at the same time.

1. Do an “energy audit” – A good place to start is with an informal energy “audit” to reveal where you are using the most energy and where you are wasting it. The average US home uses 31% of its energy consumption on heating, 12% on cooling, 12% on water heating, and 29% on appliances, lighting, and electronics such as TVs and computers. So these are obvious places you can cut back.

2. Insulate, insulate, insulate – If 43% of the energy used in our homes goes for heating and cooling this is the place to start. Insulation in your attic, outside walls and basement walls is critical. New products such as blown in insulation have made it easier to insulate previously difficult areas. But be careful to get professional advice before tackling a project like this yourself.

3. Seal doors and windows – Usually the worst areas of heat loss are windows and doors. Check for holes or cracks around your walls, ceilings, windows, doors, light and plumbing fixtures, switches, and electrical outlets. All of these can leak air into or out of your home. Have a professional take a look at your home and make some recommendations.

4. Turn the heat down – Wear warmer clothes and shoes in the winter so your house feels warmer. Then turn your thermostat down a few degrees. Set it to automatically lower the temperature at night. You’ll save a lot of energy and you’ll probably get fewer colds too.

5. Use less hot water – Be sure to have a highly efficient hot water heater. In some climates a tankless water heater may save energy, but research it thoroughly. Then study your hot water usage carefully. You may want to turn the temperature of your hot water heater down a bit. Consider replacing some appliances with more efficient ones. Use warm rather than hot water for washing clothes. Don’t use the dishwasher for partial loads, shower for shorter periods of time, and don’t let the hot water run when washing or shaving.

6. Turn off appliances and lights – When appliances are not being used they should be turned off or even unplugged (because many appliances use electricity even when they are not on). Set the energy saving features of your computer to shut down monitors and hard drives when not in use. Or turn your computers right off if not being used for an extended period of time.

7. Control your lighting – About 11% of the average home’s energy usage goes to lighting, so this is an obvious area for significant savings. Replacing old incandescent light bulbs with compact fluorescent light bulbs (CFLs) will save between 50 and 75% per bulb. And turning lights off when they are not required will (obviously) save even more.

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