Cooking, Laundry, Appliances and Lighting

Energy for all of these other end-uses can add up to a quarter of your total energy expenditures, so do take a look at what you have, but recognize that changes made to a system that only uses a small percentage of the home's total energy use won't save as much as changes made to one of the larger users like the heating and cooling system or the water heater. Start with the refrigerator and freezer if you have one. Check the door seals, temperature settings and for good airflow across the coils. If you have an extra old refrigerator as many people do stored in the garage or basement, consider getting rid of it. Old units are potentially huge energy wasters.

As for lighting, which can be 6 or 7 percent of the electric bill, your best bet is looking for places where you can substitute compact fluorescents for incandescent bulbs. And keep them off when not needed. With outdoor lights, if you aren't methodical about their use, controls like timers or photocells have quick paybacks.

One of the fastest growing categories of appliances in homes these days is in TVs, home entertainment equipment and computers. The Department of Energy reports 2 percent of a typical home's energy is for TVs, and related systems, and 2 percent goes for computers, monitors and peripherals. On these, there isn't much you can do with your current ones except keeping them off when not in use. But when purchasing new equipment, look for the most efficient models. The Energy Star® label, which identifies higher efficiency equipment, can be helpful.