If you pay any attention at all to what is going on in Washington D.C. (my wife hates watching the news and is blissfully unaware of anything that is going on), you know that President Bush recently signed a new Energy Bill. The energy bill mainly focuses on conserving energy and greater use of ethanol in the U.S. I think it's a good start, but I really wish the U.S. would get serious about developing alternative fuel sources, if only to break our reliance on oil from other countries.

But, I started thinking: why not enact our own personal "Energy Bill" at home? Each household can take measures to conserve energy and save money. I have enacted several myself:

Change Your Lightbulbs: I stopped buying regular incandescent light bulbs about three years ago. Now, all of my household lights have compact fluorescent bulbs. They use much less electricity, give off less heat (which will lower your cooling bill in the summer) and last much longer. This one move saved me about $20 on electricity costs each month.

Open Your Blinds: During the day, open your blinds and let the sunshine in. That extra heat from the sun will help warm your house and your furnace will run less often during the day.

Change your Filter: If you have a central air unit at home, make sure you change your air filter often. The filter package will tell you how often it should be changed. Make sure you mark it on the calendar. Clean filters will help your central air unit run more efficiently.

Buy Energy Star Efficient Appliances: Your appliances run all the time, especially your refrigerator. Check the Energy Star rating of new appliances before your buy, and get the most efficient appliance possible. It will save you plenty of money in the long run. Avoid buying older used appliances to save money. You'll just pay more in energy costs in the long run, wiping out any cost savings you might thought you had by buying a cheaper, used appliance.

Get an Energy Audit: Many utility companies will now come to your house and do an "energy audit"...identifying areas where you are wasting energy and costing yourself money. They will often do this for no or low cost.

Unplug: How many electric appliances and devices do you have plugged in to outlets that you don't use all that often? Take a look around your house and you might be surprised. I had a radio plugged in that I rarely listen to at home, yet it was always plugged in. These devices use "phantom power"...gobbling up electricity that you aren't even using. Unplug items that you don't use every day. You'll save energy and money.

Use Public Transportation: The town where I live has no public transportation to speak of, but when I'm traveling I will often take buses and trains, even if I have a rental car. It's often cheaper than buying gas for the rental, and in some areas I'd rather not deal with the traffic. Just think of how much gas you will save by not driving your car for just one day.

Bike it: When the weather warms up, I'm riding my mountain bike to work. I don't care if I don't look cool riding a bike while I'm wearing a suit. I'm not paying $3.00 a gallon for gas any more than I have to.

Only Run Full Loads: Fill your washer, dryer and dishwasher to capacity before using them. You'll use less energy, water and soap.

You can find more energy-saving tips at Power$mart.


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