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Bright ideas for a more energy-efficient home

Switching out regular incandescent light bulbs for LED (light-emitting diodes) bulbs saves on electricity and keeps your home cooler as they emit less heat. They also don’t need to be replaced as often.

Starting in spring in Texas, we all start feeling the heat. For tips on how you can save energy — and money— in the warmer months while keeping chill, read on.

1. UNPLUG STUFF

According to the U.S. Department of Energy, you can save up to $100 a year on your electric bill by simply unplugging chargers, TVs, computers, and other small appliances when you are not using them. Known as vampires or wall warts in the industry, chargers left in sockets continue to drain electricity as do TVs. They also give off heat when plugged in.

2. INSTALL LED LIGHTS

Light-emitting diodes, or LED lights, use 90 percent less electricity than compact florescent light bulbs or regular incandescent bulbs. They also generate less heat and last up to 25 times longer than regular bulbs. While they cost a little more, they are worth every penny in energy savings.

3. USE YOUR CEILING FANS

Ceiling fans can drop a room’s temperature by 4 degrees, which means you can turn up the thermostat on your energy-eating AC unit and still stay cool, according to energy.gov. During hot months, ceiling fans should run counter-clockwise to force air down. In the winter, turn the switch to rotate fans clockwise, keeping the speed low. This forces the warm air down and out toward the walls without producing a chill.

4. WASH CLOTHES COLD

Washing clothes in cold water can save up to $63 a year, according to the Alliance to Save Energy. Cold water actually works best for delicate fabrics and colors, so why not? Blood and sweat stains also respond better to cold water. For most other fabrics, cold water is usually fine. Use hot water when fabrics need to be sanitized.

5. CHANGE AC FILTERS OFTEN

Dirty filters make your system work harder because it slows air flow. Basic 1- to 3-inch filters should be changed every 30-60 days. The more cars driving around your home, the more often you should change the filters. Pets in the home also clog filters more quickly. For homes with more than one pet, filters should be changed every 30-45 days. Your air will be cleaner, cheaper, colder.

6. TURN DOWN THE WATER HEATER

After heating and cooling the air in your home, heating up your water takes the next biggest chunk out of your electric bill — up to 12 percent. The quickest, easiest, and cheapest way to reduce that amount is to turn down the temperature to 120 degrees. According to the Department of Energy, you save 3-5 percent for every 10 degrees you turn down the dial. That and shorter showers will take the heat off your bathroom as well.

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