1. Invest in energy-efficient windows, or at least purchase double-pane rather than single-pane windows to cut back on heat loss.
2. Replace your old furnace. “New gas furnaces are 20 percent to 30 percent more efficient than older versions,” says Dale Horton, from the National Center for Appropriate Technology in Butte, Montana. “If your furnace is more than 15 years old, you need to replace it, because you’re losing money and wasting energy.”
3. Add insulation—especially in your attic. “You can lower your heating and cooling bills substantially by adding insulation and filling holes in your attic space,” says Kitty Wang, an analyst with Energy and Resources Services at the Rocky Mountain Institute in Snowmass, Colorado. Consider adding insulation to your walls, too. For more details, visit www.eere.energy.gov/consumer/.
4. Use compact fluorescent lighting (CFL). CFL bulbs come in all shapes and sizes (you can even get some for dimming light fixtures). Although they do cost more, they’ll last more than twice as long as incandescent bulbs.
5. Buy Energy Star products. Appliances with the Energy Star label have the stamp of approval from the DOE and alternative-energy firms. Energy-efficient refrigerators, heaters, dishwashers, and clothes washers require less juice to run.
6. Turn off your electronics. “Get rid of ‘parasitic power,’” says Horton. “Turn off the little red lights and green dots indicating that your electronic devices are still sucking energy.” Think VCR and DVD players, computers, and kitchen appliances.
7. Hire an auditor to assess your home energy performance. You can contact your state energy department for details or search for an energy auditor in the Yellow Pages. Professional energy audits start at $150.