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Do Your Part: Energy-efficient upgrades under $50

By Terri Bennett, McClatchy Newspapers –

Do you cringe when your utility bills arrive during these cold winter months? You can Do Your Part to save a lot of money when you make a few energy efficient upgrades. Don’t worry; you won’t have to shell out a lot of money to make a big difference. Here are my top seven upgrades for less than $50.

DIY Door Sweep

This is one of the quickest, cheapest, and easiest ways to save money instantly. A door sweep is something that attaches to the bottom of your door to keep the cold air out. For a couple bucks, you can attach a thin piece of rubber to the door base to do the trick. You can also find door sweeps that attach with screws or ones with self-stick adhesive.

Fireplace Fix

If your fireplace is more ornamental than functional, use a chimney plug to prevent warm air from rising right up and out of your house. These will usually cost you around $50 and take just minutes to install and inflate.

Lighten Up

Certain light bulbs can outlast traditional ones by 10 times and others can save you 75 percent in lighting costs. Some energy efficient options include CFLs, LEDs, and halogen bulbs. Be warned, not all will work efficiently in every fixture. Check out to see which bulb is best for every fixture in your home.

Program Your Thermostat

Investing in a programmable thermostat will help you slash your utility bills by roughly10 percent. You can use them to automatically adjust the temperature while you’re away so your heating system won’t run when you don’t need it to. You can also program it to lower the thermostat while you sleep.

Water Heater Blanket

This is one of the most inexpensive ways to make your conventional hot water heater run more efficiently. A hot water heater blanket will cost you around $20. It is super easy to put on and it helps keep the water inside the tank warm, which means the water heater won’t have to work as hard.

Power Strip Savings

Wasted power is becoming a big problem. Anything with a remote, continuous display or a charging cord all sip power even when they are not in use. That can add up to a 10 percent increase in your power bill for electricity you’re not even using. Some of our electronics need power to remember programmed settings (DVR, alarm clock, etc.). All of the others should be plugged into a power strip with an on/off switch. This is the only way to truly cut the power to the others that don’t need continuous power.

Go Old School

Clothes dryers are one of the biggest energy hogs in any home. And don’t be fooled by ones that claim to be energy efficient. Dryers can’t even be Energy Star certified because they all use about the same amount of energy. To slash your utility bills, line-dry your clothes. Even if you don’t have the room outside for a clothesline, there are plenty of new indoor drying rack options that will hold a complete load of clothes.

These small investments will bring big returns when it comes to your utility bills. Do Your Part and take a few minutes to make your house run more efficiently and economically.

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