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33 No-Nonsense Ways to Save Money by Saving Energy

Follow these easy money (and energy) saving tips from Stacy W. Johnson, host of Money Talks and author of Life or Debt 2010, and you’ll see a difference in your utility bills next month.

Energy Savings

  • Get a free energy audit. Many utility companies will come out to your house for free or at a nominal cost and tell you how to save money. If yours will, let ’em. And while they’re there, ask if they have any off-peak, load management, or other savings programs.
  • Here’s a bright idea. Compact fluorescent bulbs use 75 percent less energy than incandescent and can last 10 times longer. Use as many as you can. And for non-reading lights, lower the wattage of your bulbs.
  • Run your dishwasher less. One less time per week can save you $50 per year. And air-drying your dishes will also save.
  • Buy energy-efficient appliances. Those yellow energy guide stickers are important reading, especially if you’re shopping for a refrigerator, air conditioner, or furnace.
  • Change your filters. Keeping your furnace and air conditioning filters like new can save you up to 10 percent per month on costs. Don’t check them once a year, check them once a month.
  • Seal it up. Use a lighted candle to detect air leaks around doors and windows. Caulk is much cheaper than electricity.
  • Dial for dollars. Turning your thermostat dial up or down by just one degree can reduce your energy bill by up to 5 percent per month.
  • Use ceiling fans. Ceiling fans cost less than one-tenth of what air conditioners cost to run. In the winter, reverse the blade direction to force warm air down from the ceiling.
  • Insulate. Adding insulation can reduce cooling and heating costs by up to 20 percent. Some utility companies even offer rebates to help defray the cost, and the cost isn’t that much anyway. You can add insulation to a 1,500-square-foot home for about 200 bucks. Extra insulation in the attic can easily pay for itself in a few years.
  • Try a heat pump. While they may not be the perfect solution for all parts of the country, a heat pump can reduce your power bills by 40 percent.
  • Be careful with vent fans. Believe it or not, a kitchen or bath ventilation fan can completely empty a house of warm or cool air in about an hour. Use them, then turn them off.
  • Use your drapes. In the winter, open your south facing drapes during the day to capture heat, then close them at night to keep it in. Do the opposite in the summer.
  • Beware portable heaters. Using a portable heater costs close to nine cents per hour. So using one eight hours per day will cost about five bucks a week, or $20 per month.
  • Pay attention to the temperature. An indoor/outdoor thermometer can tell you when to open and close your windows and doors.
  • Close off rooms you’re not using, but be careful about closing vents. Closing too many vents can reduce the efficiency of your heating and cooling. This is especially true for heat pumps.
  • Be a stripper. Weather-strip all your doors and windows.
  • Cover yourself. An electric blanket only costs a little over a penny per hour to operate. Buy one cheap at a yard sale.
  • Go for the juice. A 220-volt air conditioner is cheaper to run than a 120-volt.
  • Use turbines. Turbine fans on the roof will let out summer heat, but be sure to cover them in the winter.
  • Stay out of hot water. You can buy a water heater blanket for about $15 that will save you about $50 per year. And while you’re at it, insulate the pipes as well. If you can set your water heater to only be used at certain times of the day and turned off at night, you can save $20 per month.
  • Don’t be a drip. Leaky faucets are a problem, but leaking hot water is an emergency. Hot water drips can cost you $25 per month!
  • Grow some savings. A tree planted on the south side of your house can provide shade in the summer. Don’t plant an evergreen, though; you want those leaves gone in the winter.
  • Turn off your furnace pilot light in the summer. You can also save by turning off your stove’s pilot light and using a lighter.
  • Use your fireplace. Wood is still usually cheaper than gas. But be sure to close your flue tightly when you’re not using it, and make sure the fit is snug. Caulk around the hearth. If you don’t use your fireplace at all, plug and seal your chimney flue.
  • Dress for success. Don’t try to stay dressed in shorts all winter long. Wear clothing appropriate to the season, and adjust your thermostat accordingly.
  • Put your water on restriction. Low-flow shower heads can save a family up to $200 per year by reducing water flow by up to 50 percent.
  • Water early. Try to water between six and eight a.m. That minimizes evaporation.
  • Don’t waste water. You don’t need to run the water while you’re shaving or brushing your teeth.
  • Save a load. Every load of laundry uses between 25 and 50 gallons of water. The same is true of your dishwasher. And you shouldn’t need to soak or prewash dishes unless the food is burned or otherwise stuck on. By the way, the amount of detergent you use for both clothes and dishwashing could probably be reduced. Try using three-quarters of the amount recommended.
  • Go out back and hang out. If you’ve got a decent sized family, hanging your clothes out to dry can save you $40 a month in electricity.
  • Be cool. Using cold water only can save you 90 percent of the cost of washing your clothes. Disconnect the hot water hose.
  • Refrigerator etiquette. If you’re buying a new refrigerator, remember that top-mounted freezers are cheaper to operate than side-by-sides, and don’t buy more refrigerator than you need. Automatic ice makers add about $200 to the initial cost of a refrigerator, cost about $50 a year to operate, and are the first thing to break. If your refrigerator is old, check the seal by putting a dollar bill in the door. If it falls out, replace the seal. Keep the cooling coils in the back clean. And avoid repeated opening of your refrigerator door. When you’re getting ready to cook or cleaning up after a meal, make it a game to see if you can open the refrigerator door only once.
  • Oven etiquette. Use energy-saving appliances like microwaves, pressure cookers, and toaster ovens instead of always using the oven or stove. You can buy ’em cheap at yard sales. Turn off your electric burner three minutes before the rice or pasta recipe calls for; it’ll stay hot that long. Same with your oven. And if you are going to bake in the oven, why not throw in an extra potato or two for tomorrow’s casserole?


Stacy W. Johnson, author of Life or Debt 2010: A New Path to Financial Freedom (Copyright © 2009 by Stacy Johnson), is a CPA and former stockbroker who for nearly 20 years has been the producer and host of the popular syndicated personal finance new series Money Talks. He is the recipient of multiple Emmy awards. Check out his website at




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