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Save power and money with these 9 energy-saving ideas.

Whether you want to slash your energy usage to save the planet's resources, or you're just looking for ways to bring down your monthly bills, you'll want to check out these energy-saving tips to get you moving toward that goal. Conserving energy and energy efficiency enable us "to do more with less energy," says Chase Ezell, managing editor of Earth911. "Energy efficiency saves you money, improves the economy, is good for the environment ... and enhances quality of life."

Teaching kids early to take care of the planet and use less energy can create behaviors that last a lifetime. "If you and any nannies or babysitters adopt environmentally responsible practices in your home, your kids will absorb that information without much effort," says Erin Pruss, a senior marketing vice president at Recyclebank. "They hear it, they see it in use, they ask questions and they learn it."

Here are nine energy-saving tips every family should practice. These ways to save energy not only help the planet, but they may also put a little cash back into your family's pocket.
 

  1. Get With the Program
    A programmable thermostat is one of the easiest and most effective ways to immediately cut energy usage. You'll find one for as little as $20 at your local home improvement store, and it can cut as much as $180 a year off your bills. Just learn to program it properly to get the greatest benefit.
     
  2. Turn It Down
    After you get a programmable thermostat, another way to save energy would be to adjust your home's thermostat a few degrees. With each degree change -- up in the summer and down in the winter -- your family can save up to five percent on home heating and cooling costs.
     
  3. Follow the Star
    When it's time to replace appliances, choose products labeled Energy Star by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). Energy Star appliances use as much as 50 percent less energy or water than non-Energy Star appliances. While the upfront cost might be higher, the energy savings over the appliance's lifetime will more than offset your initial investment.
     
  4. Unplug
    Eliminate so-called "phantom" energy drains by unplugging appliances and electronics when not in use. According to the U.S. Department of Energy, 75 percent of electricity used by home electronics is consumed when the products are not in use.
     
  5. Check the Fridge
    Did you know that keeping your refrigerator and freezer too cold runs up your energy costs? Check your fridge owner's manual to find the best temperature. Or aim for about 37 to 40 degrees for the refrigerator and 5 degrees for the freezer. If you're using a separate freezer for long-term storage, set it for 0 degrees. (Check temperatures with an appliance thermometer.)
     
  6. A Bright Idea
    Lighting accounts for about 10 percent of home energy costs, according to Energy.gov. You can save up to 75 percent of that energy by replacing incandescent bulbs with compact fluorescent lamp (CFL) bulbs. They also last longer, saving money on replacements. Consider switching to more energy-efficient lighting options, such as CFL or even Light Emitting Diode (LED) lights.
     
  7. Let the Sunshine In
    When you can, take advantage of the sun, and let it work for you. Open your blinds or curtains on sunny days, and let the sunshine warm your home.
     
  8. Watch the Water
    Heating water requires a lot of energy. Save hot water and energy by taking short showers instead of baths. Also, don't forget to turn off the water while you brush your teeth to save the water and energy it requires to keep that water pumping through your house.
     
  9. Clean Those Vents
    It takes less energy to pump air through clean, unblocked vents. On average, 20 percent of the air that moves through the duct system of your home is lost due to leaks and poorly sealed connections, reports the EPA. The result is higher utility bills and difficulty keeping the house comfortable, no matter how you've set the thermostat. Take some time to clean out all those dusty air vents, and you'll see greater energy efficiency.


Feeling extra energy-conscious? Check out these 9 Eco-Friendly Products.

Kimberly DeMucha Kalil is a freelance journalist and software consultant living in Southern Arizona with her husband and two children.

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