5 ways to save energy and money right now

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Boston scored a win over New York this week and it wasn’t on the baseball diamond. Instead, Beantown won top honors for its efforts to advance energy efficiency. New York took third place after Portland, Ore., in the rankings from the American Council for an Energy-Efficient Economy. While the report focuses on the actions of the nation’s 34 largest cities, citizens everywhere can do their part and save money too. Plugging leaks and insulating your home are two of the fastest ways to cut costs, according to EnergySavers.gov. Here are five easy ways to save, from the experts at Consumer Reports.

Change your lightbulbs
Replacing 15 incandescent lightbulbs with energy-saving bulbs can save you $50 per year and more than $600 in energy costs over the life of the bulbs, according to the Department of Energy. Standard incandescent lightbulbs do not meet the government’s tough energy-saving requirements and are being phased out. In Consumer Reports tests of dozens of LEDs and CFLs, 23 made our list of top lightbulb picks including seven that scored 99 out of 100.

Set your thermostat
Each degree you adjust the thermostat translates into 2 percent savings if the setback period covers your sleeping and working hours. Programmable thermostats can cut about $180 a year from your energy bill by automatically reducing your heating or cooling when you need it least. In our tests of programmable thermostats, we recommend 10 of the 30 in our labs, which range in price from $70 to $300. The three that were tops in our tests include the Venstar ColorTouch Series T5800, $170, the Honeywell Prestige HD YTHX9321R, $250, and the ecobee EB-STAT-02, $300.

Buy EnergyStar appliances
When you buy an appliance, there's the initial cost and then there’s the cost of running it over a period of many years. Appliances and electronics account for 20 percent of your energy bill so it's smart to look for EnergyStar models when replacing old ones, especially if they are 10 years old or older. Products that earn the EnergyStar use 10 to 15 percent less energy and water than standard models, so replacing your old refrigerator, washing machine, dishwasher, and other appliances with EnergyStar models can save you $900 over the lifetime of the products, says the Department of Energy.

Turn off the hot water tap
After heating your home, heating your water is the second-largest energy expense, typically accounting for about 20 percent of your utility bill. There are four ways to cut your water heating bills: use less hot water, turn down the thermostat on your water heater, insulate your water heater, or buy a new, more efficient model. You can also cut down on how much water you use by installing low-flow showerheads and toilets, repairing leaky faucets and only running your washer and dishwasher with a full load.

Unplug it
Many appliances and electronic devices consume electricity even when you’re not actively using them. All that vampire power can add up to 10 percent of your electricity bill. Unplugging or powering down your digital set-top boxes, video game consoles, DVD/VCR players and cordless power tool chargers, among other gadgets, can save you $120 dollars a year.

—Mary H.J. Farrell



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