Living Smart: 10 tips to save on your electric bill

McClatchy-Tribune Information Services

Do you suffer from sticker shock when you see your monthly electric bill? No matter what your financial situation, paying bills is about as much fun as a root canal. Read on for simple ways to lower your electric bill.

1. Close the curtains

During the summer, close curtains on the sunny side of your house during the day. Alternately, leave them open during a sunny day in the winter.

2. Donít forget annual heating and A/C maintenance

According to the U.S. Department of Energy, heating and cooling your home uses more energy than any other system, typically making up 54 percent of your electric bill. Ensure your systems are running at their highest efficiency by hiring highly rated heating and A/C technicians to perform annual cleanings and checkups. Also, be sure to change out your air filters.

3. Consider unplugging

You might think your appliances arenít using energy when theyíre turned off, but this isnít always the case. To avoid using whatís called vampire power, unplug devices when not in use. If the outlets arenít easily accessible, plug devices into a power strip that you can switch off and on when needed.

4. Upgrade outdated appliances

If your systems are old, consider updating to more energy efficient products. The energy savings and tax rebates available prove the investmentís worth.

5. Change your light bulbs

Switching to compact fluorescent or light-emitting diode bulbs provides drastic energy savings. In fact, LED bulbs are 80 percent more efficient than incandescent lighting, according to the U.S. Department of Energy.

6. Program your thermostat

Set your thermostat at a comfortable temperature in the winter and summer, but program it to raise and lower the temperature when youíre away from your home or sleeping to save on heating and cooling costs.

7. Keep your HVAC unit clear of debris

Shrubbery, branches or debris on or near the system can hinder its overall performance. However, an awning or tree over the unit provides shade, which cuts energy consumption.

8. Plant a tree

Not only are you helping save the planet, but the shade can provide relief on cooling costs.

9. Check for air leaks

Make sure no air is getting through the weather stripping around the windows, doors or attic. Seal any areas where you find leaks.

10. Turn down the heat

Lower your water heater base temperature to 120 degrees. Wash your clothes in cold or warm water when possible, and only wash when you have a full load. Turn off the heat dry option on your dishwasher.

Consult a highly rated, licensed electrician if you have questions about reducing your electric bill. You may also want to consider an energy efficiency home audit to see if additional home maintenance might be needed to save on future energy bills.