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Get tips on how to cut your energy bill

September 11, 2009 12:00:00 AM PDT
A new survey of more than 2,000 Americans by Consumer Reports National Research Center shows that nearly half of those polled don't make a habit of adjusting their thermostat overnight or when they leave the house. And that's just one thing you can do to start lowering your energy bill. Stacey Bergman is serious about cutting energy costs. She's replaced old appliances with more energy-efficient ones. She got a new hot water heater, too. And she's opted for more energy-efficient CFL's.

"Our bills have gone down," said Bergman.

Consumer Reports' Dan DiClerico says those are all good moves. But there's even more you can do to cut your energy bills.

"Roughly 50 percent of residential energy bills go towards heating and cooling," said DiClerico.

Consumer Reports says you can save about $550 a year in energy costs if you know where to look. First, focus on eliminating any leaks around doors, windows, and electrical outlets.

"You can check for air leaks with an incense stick," said DiClerico."First, turn on an exhaust fan in your home. Then, light the stick, and hold it up to any openings. If smoke starts to blow horizontally, you've got a leak."

A Consumer Reports' survey found only 12 percent of homeowners have added or upgraded their insulation in the last three years.

"A good place to start is in the attic. Look for missing insulation where heat can escape, including above the attic hatch door," said DiClerico.

Also, make sure your existing insulation is thick enough. For fiberglass or rock wool, you want at least 11 inches of insulation. For cellulose, you want eight inches or more. And don't forget to insulate your plumbing and ductwork, too.

"In our survey, only five percent of people insulated their heating and cooling ductwork," explains DiClerico. "Now it could cost you about $500 to hire someone to do your ducts, but you could end up saving $400 a year."

How and when you wash your laundry can add up to more energy savings, too. It turns out only 38 percent of people surveyed by Consumer Reports always wash their clothes in cold water. That can save you up to $60 a year. But 73 percent of people do wait to run a full load in the washing machine. That's another way to cut your costs.

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