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How to cut more than $1,500 from your utility bill

In today's challenging economy, homeowners are looking for a few extra bucks to help pay their monthly utility bills and other household expenses, but there's no need to resort to searching for spare change in the sofa cushions. You can find plenty of extra cash throughout the house by making some simple and smart energy-efficient home improvements.

"The average household spends approximately $2,200 every year on energy bills, but there are definite ways to save," says Bill Cunningham, an energy efficiency expert with home heating and cooling equipment manufacturer Lennox Industries. "In fact, homeowners who take the proper steps may be able to cut their annual energy bills by as much as half."

Cunningham points to the following areas of the home, and estimates just how much each of these 10 simple steps can add to your bottom line:

Climate control:

Get with the program. Install an ENERGY STAR-qualified programmable thermostat, and take the time to program it (the majority of consumers don't). When used properly, these thermostats can cut energy costs. Average savings: $180 per year.

Retire the failing furnace. Replace your furnace if it's more than 15 years old. Today's state-of-the-art furnaces, like the new Lennox SLP98V gas furnace introduced this year, can save hundreds of dollars each year in heating costs compared with older furnaces that are only 65 percent efficient. Average savings: $800 per year.

Water heating:

Dial it back. Lower the temperature on your hot water heater from 145 degrees to 120 degrees - the only place you'll notice the difference is on your utility bill. Average savings: $36 to $61 per year.

Go with the (low) flow. Replace your existing shower head with a new 2.5-gallon-per-minute (low-flow) version. The new water-efficient shower head, coupled with a shower of 10 minutes or less, will save 5 gallons of water over a typical bath as well as the electricity that's used to heat the water. Average savings: Up to $145 per year.

Let the laundry chill. To save hot water and the fuel that it takes to heat that water each year, wash your clothes in cold water. Be sure to choose a laundry detergent that is formulated for use in cold temperatures. Average savings: Between $24 and $40 per year.

Discontinue the drips. To keep your hard-earned money from literally going down the drain, be sure to repair kitchen and bathroom faucet leaks. Hot water leaking at a rate of one drip per second can waste up to 1,661 gallons of water annually, as well as the electricity or natural gas that heats the water. Average savings: $35 per year.


Make a light switch. Replace your five most frequently used incandescent light bulbs with compact fluorescent bulbs, which use less energy and can last up to 10 times longer. Also consider motion sensors for outdoor lighting and occupancy sensors indoors to automatically shut off lights when no one is in the room. Average savings: $65 per year.


Make a dent in the lint. Clean the lint trap in your clothes dryer before every load of laundry, which will help increase the drying efficiency of the machine. Average savings: $34 per year.

Stop the standby energy use. Unplug TVs and other digital devices when not in use, as "standby" energy consumption (particularly with plasma TVs) can add up and drive your energy bill higher. Average savings: $165 per year.

Whether you choose to tackle all these energy-efficient home improvements or just a few, Cunningham says there are real benefits to be had. "Not only can you save more than $1,500 a year with these improvements, you also will be helping protect the environment with each step because you'll be reducing your household energy usage and greenhouse gas emissions."

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