3 cheap ways to reduce utility bills without reducing comfort

Too often, energy-saving tips call for sacrifices in comfort or home upgrades that involve a large investment. But here are three suggestions that cost little more than your time:

1. Keep it clean
Nearly every appliance runs more efficiently if it’s clean. Dishwashers, furnaces, air conditioners, kitchen fans, and dehumidifiers all have filters that should be cleaned or replaced regularly so they don’t have to work so hard. Bathroom exhaust fans, clothes dryers, and their vents should be vacuumed so they will run better, too.

Flush the water heater once a year to remove mineral buildup and improve heating. Clean dust off your refrigerator’s condenser coils, and wash the stove’s reflector pans so heat is more efficiently aimed back at your cooking.

2. Go natural
Save on your utility bills during the summer by harnessing the power of nature. Open windows in the morning to take advantage of the cooler air, but make sure to shut them before outdoor temperatures rise above indoor temperatures. Close blinds or shades on sunny windows and avoid using lights that will add heat to the house unnecessarily.

Disable the dishwasher’s heated drying cycle, and hang laundry on the line. Reduce outdoor water use by installing rain barrels. Instead of a really short lawn, cut your grass to three inches with a mulching mower to keep moisture in the soil and reduce the need to water. This also helps reduce weeds by shading out weed seeds and will reduce your need for chemical applications.

3. Stop the leaks

Leaks add up to losses. The U.S. Geological Survey has a tool for calculating the gallons of water wasted each year based on the number and speed of dripping faucets. So if you were ever looking for motivation to stop those drops, this is it.

Air leaks around windows and doors increase summertime cooling costs too, so plug them with caulk or weather stripping.

Making these small energy-saving changes can reap big rewards.

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