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Taking Heat for the Big Bills? Some Tips on How to Save on Them

November 17, 2005
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Energy consumption is on the rise, and the depletion of fossil fuels has become a growing problem in the United States.

According to the United States Department of Energy, the U.S. uses almost a million dollars of electricity a minute, which is equivalent to approximately $525.6 billion each year. On a smaller scale, the average American family spends nearly $1,500 a year on utility bills alone, with 60 percent acquired from electricity bills.

The common phrase "reduce, reuse, recycle" has become synonymous with saving energy and resources, and the cold months of winter will be more enjoyable and affordable if families consider these quick and easy energy saving ideas.

To help combat excessive expenses, Mike Sullivan, director of education for Take Charge America - a nonprofit group helping consumers deal with budgets - provides the following quick and easy everyday tips for families to save energy:

• Monitor indoor water usage - Take showers instead of baths and turn off the faucet when brushing your teeth and doing dishes. If the dishwasher must be used, run full loads and adjust water-level settings to increase efficiency.

• Control computer settings - If the computer is not in use for more than five minutes, set it to hibernate or sleep mode to save energy.

• Avoid cooking in the oven - If possible, consider cooking and reheating meals in the microwave rather than in the oven. If the oven must be used, preheat it only when necessary, and while in use, avoid opening the oven door unless absolutely necessary.

• Wash full loads of laundry - Use cold water for both the wash and rinse cycles. Laundry can be air-dried and put into the dryer for the last five minutes to ensure softness and save energy. Over-drying clothes wastes energy and can accelerate wear and tear of our clothing.

• Enjoy the sunshine - Avoid using electric lights during the day; open a curtain or two to brighten a room and enjoy the natural light. Sunshine can also be an energy saver when passive solar heat can warm a room effectively, rather than using electric or gas heat.

• Curb aggressive driving habits - Rapid acceleration, extreme braking and speeding are not only unsafe practices, they can increase gas mileage greatly. With the current cost of gas, look for ways to reduce gas consumption, such as avoiding excessive idling and using cruise control whenever possible.

• Carpool - Commuting to work, school and home can be relatively inexpensive if you share the drive with fellow colleagues and coworkers. Public transportation, such as a train or bus, can be extremely convenient, and biking or walking are healthy choices that should be considered in this day and age.

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