Saving Energy Dollars

Winter usually signals an increase in home heating costs but experts say don't wait until the temperature registers zero to start saving.

Consumer Reports' Jim Nanni says there are plenty of things you can do to cut your home energy costs without spending any money at all.

Start in the laundry room. Ninety percent of the energy used by a washing machine is spent heating the water. Wash your clothes in cold water and save as much as 30 percent.

Another tip is to adjust the thermostat before you go to sleep or leave the house.

Nanni says, "For every degree that you lower your thermostat in the winter, or raise it in the summer, you'll save about three percent on your energy costs."

And setting the water heater at the "low" setting, or 120 degrees, means you'll spend less for hot water.

Even your computer can help you save. If you keep it on "standby" mode instead of leaving it on day and night, the computer will use 80 percent less electricity. You can save in the kitchen, too.

Nanni says, "Instead of rinsing your dishes, let the dishwasher do the work. You'll save about 20 gallons of water, as well as the energy needed to heat that water."

And Consumer Reports says you should opt for the microwave to heat your food. You could use as much as 80 percent less energy than it would take to use the oven instead.

Following these tips won't cost a thing and will add up to savings on your next energy bill.

For more helpful suggestions on cutting home heating costs look for Consumer Reports special publication Complete Guide to Reducing Energy Costs. Inside you'll find information on weatherproofing, adding insulation and shopping for energy efficient appliances.

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