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Help your wallet—and the earth—by making your home more energy efficient. Even small tweaks can make a major dent in your monthly bills. And if you decide to do major improvements, you could earn government rebates of up to $3,000, thanks to President Obama's new Homestar program. Kathleen Kuhn, president of HouseMaster, one of the largest home inspection companies in North America, shares how homeowners can make DIY upgrades.
—Buy a programmable thermostat (available at hardware stores for less than $50). The average family spends 50 to 70 percent of its utility bill on cooling and heating, so the device will quickly pay for itself.
—Change the filters in your furnace and air conditioners regularly. They use more energy when clogged because of restricted airflow.
—People overlook the need for insulation in attics, especially during the summer. Heat rises to the attic and gets drawn back into the home, forcing air conditioners to work harder. In winter, heat rises and escapes through the roof.
—According to the Department of Energy, leaks in windows and doors are responsible for 5 to 30 percent of a home's energy loss. Drafts are often found around windows and doors; where you see cracks or weather stripping; or by plumbing or electrical fixtures near exterior walls. Seal leaks by caulking.
—Lowering the water temperature just 20 degrees can slash water-heating costs up to 10 percent. Buy a special insulating blanket for the water heater—Kuhn recommends Duck Brand—from any hardware store for $10 to $20.