You can save money by reducing the amount of energy your family uses. It will require changing both your habits and your house. But with government incentives for greening your home, now is a great time to do it.
By Dan Tynan
Appliances and electronics suck down 18 percent of household power on average, says the DOE. Here are a few ways to manage your appliance usage more intelligently:
Wash cold. Washing clothes in cold water instead of hot can save $60 or more annually, says Monique Tilford, coauthor of Your Money or Your Life (Penguin). To recoup even more, toss clothes in the dryer for 20 minutes to soften them up, then finish the job on a clothesline.
Air-dry your dishes. Wash only full loads and set to the no-heat-dry setting.
Kill the phantoms. Even when powered off, electronics like TV sets, computers, and cell phone chargers still draw "phantom" power—consuming up to 8 percent of an average home's electricity bill, says Kweller. Get a $50 power strip like Belkin's Conserve (belkin.com), which lets you instantly shut down up to six power-sucking devices via a wireless remote, while still providing juice to devices that need to run 24/7, like a DVR or fridge. (Side benefit: The ability to instantly kill the Xbox when the gamer finds himself unable to log off.)
Upgrade appliances. If your appliances are more than 10 years old, consider replacing them with more energy efficient models. Energy Star-rated washers use half as much water and electricity as traditional models; an Energy Star fridge draws at least 20 percent less power than a standard one. You might even qualify for manufacturer rebates or sales-tax exemptions; the Energy Star Web site has calculators that help you locate rebates and determine how much money each appliance can save you. Go to energystar.gov.