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Save energy with these 5 tips

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Whether itís the dead of winter, a broiling summer, or you live in a comfortably moderate climate, your homeís energy efficiency is a big deal. You spend a lot of money to power heating and air conditioning and keep your home climate-controlled, and you donít want to see that go to waste. While big-ticket installations such as solar power and geothermal heating and cooling systems play a huge role in efficiency, donít underestimate the power of these everyday acts to dent those energy bills.

1. Stay on top of HVAC maintenance

More than any other act, this is the most important thing you can do to ensure comfortable temperatures and efficient energy use. Heating and air conditioning systems run for long periods, often with moving parts and complex elements. Wear and tear will eventually catch up with them, which is why a twice-yearly inspection is vital to catch problems before they escalate out of control. And be sure to replace filters on your manufacturerís schedule; a dirty $10 filter can force your system to work harder and add up energy bills.

2. Donít skip the fundamentals

Once youíve heated or cooled your home, you want it to stay that way, right? But air leaks can undermine the most efficient system. Every so often, and definitely at the change of seasons, inspect your doors, windows, and foundation or basement for potential air loss. Seal up whatever you can with weatherstripping or caulk. These steps will keep both hot and cold air where you want them.

3. Be flexible with temperature

Keeping a comfortable home is about more than just setting the thermostat to 70 and forgetting about it. At night, for instance, you can change the temperature by a few degrees and remain comfortable. Aim to balance a suitable temperature with minimal energy use. Programmable thermostats that allow you to time basic temperature changes cost less than $50 these days, and a smart thermostat that can react to changes or be controlled from your phone is less than $200.

4. Get an energy audit

If your energy bills are up and you donít know where to start, a professional energy audit can give you the roadmap to a more sustainable future. An auditor is valuable not just for the problem areas they spot, but their experience with solutions and methods you might not know about. An audit typically costs between $200 and $650 and takes the better part of a day. Afterward, you should receive a written report explaining findings, problem areas, and recommended solutions.

5. Use heavy window treatments

You lose a lot of heat and cold through windows. Consider putting up drapes that block this loss when temperatures are particularly extreme. These provide an extra layer of insulation that keeps cold or hot air on the right side of the window. The U.S. Department of Energy says this can reduce winter heat loss by 10% and summer heat gain by 33%.

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