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Kiplinger's Money Power: Save energy and save money



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Families in a typical single-family home spend an average of $2,060 annually on energy, according to the Lawrence Berkley National Laboratory. These steps will help you slash your energy bills, and you might snag a rebate or other incentive (check dsireusa.org).

Install a smart thermostat: The first programmable thermostats promised energy savings, but homeowners didn’t fully tap their potential. Smart thermostats make it easier: They learn from your habits and automatically adjust temperature settings for highest efficiency.

The Nest 3rd Generation (works with Google Home and Amazon Echo, $249), ecobee4 (with built-in Alexa Voice Service, $249) and the ecobee3 lite (works with Amazon Echo, $169) have been certified by Energy Star. Independent studies show that the Nest thermostat will save an average of $130 to $145 a year.

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Pull the plug on energy vampires: U.S. households have, on average, 65 electronics and appliances plugged in, according to the Natural Resources Defense Council. Most of them consume electricity around the clock, even when they’re turned off. That’s costing households $165 a year, on average.

You can just pull the plug. Another approach: Use a smart power strip, which cuts power to electronics that slip into standby mode. The seven-outlet Smart Strip Power Strip and automatic switching surge protector ($25.75 at smarthomeusa.com; $33.95 for a 10-outlet strip) automatically turns outlets on or off when it detects whether an electronic device plugged into it is on, off or in standby mode.

Stop the leaks: If you can rattle a door or a window in its frame, or you can see light around it, your home is letting in hot air in the summer and drafts in the winter. To save 5 percent to 20 percent on your energy bills, weather-strip around doors and between the sashes of double-hung windows. Caulk other cracks and gaps.

Ditch the old fridge: About one-third of Americans have an old, inefficient refrigerator in their basement or garage. To see what you can save by retiring yours, use the “Flip Your Fridge” calculator at EnergyStar.gov. For example, if you got rid of a side-by-side model built in the early 2000s, you could save an average of $90 to $150 annually.Buy Energy Star: When it’s time to replace appliances, get an Energy Star-certified model. Your clothes washer and dryer gulp the most energy in your home. By replacing them with Energy Star models, you would use only about half as much energy and water, and the typical household could save an average of $113 annually compared with standard models.


Patricia Mertz Esswein is an associate editor at Kiplinger’s Personal Finance magazine.

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