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Save money with these energy efficiency tips

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(ARA) - Saving money is on everyone's mind this winter season. Between the holiday expenses, colder temperatures and tight budgets, finding ways to reduce costs can be a bit of a challenge. If you're looking for ways to save, look at your home, and see if you can improve on your energy efficiency - thereby keeping a few extra dollars in your pocket.

* Program the temperature. You already know that the lower you set the thermometer in winter, the less your furnace will work. Having the temperature set in the low 60s when out and about makes perfect sense. But when you are home, setting the temps a bit higher will help keep you comfortable. Instead of continuously running back and forth to the thermostat to constantly keep readjusting the temperature, install a programmable thermostat and preset the times you want the temps lower or higher.

* Clean your heating and cooling system. To help your furnace operate better, hire a qualified company to clean the ducts, blower, cooling coils and heat exchanger. To find someone certified contact NADCA - the HVAC Inspection, Maintenance and Restoration Association. NADCA recommends homeowners clean their heating and cooling systems annually, because dust and pollen build up on your ducts, and then recirculate through your home. This buildup of dirt prevents your furnace from efficiently running, making it work harder and run longer to maintain the temperature you set.

"A clean heating and cooling system helps to increase the airflow through your furnace, which in turn helps to make your home more comfortable," says Matt Mongiello, president of NADCA. "And when you combine a clean system with controlled temperatures, you'll notice the savings on your utility bills."

* Wash clothes in cold water. Every household processes about 400 loads of laundry per year, according to the California Energy Commission , making your washer one of the biggest water consuming products in your house. To help save on energy, wash your clothes only in cold water so you don't have to spend money using the water heater. And make sure you only process full loads to help conserve the number of loads you run and water you use. Additional energy savings can be found by line drying your clothes, or running them through the dryer for half the time, and then air drying them the rest of the time. Across most of the country, humidity levels tend to be lower during the winter months, which helps to speed up the clothes drying process.

* Unplug appliances. The amount of electricity consumed in your home often can easily be reduced by just unplugging and turning off items. According to Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratories, 5 percent of residential energy use in the U.S. is used when appliances are in the off position. Consider unplugging smaller appliances such as your microwave, cellphone charger, coffee maker and desktop computer which can continue to consume energy, even when you're not using them. If the appliance has a clock, or electrical display of some sort, electricity is needed to keep those items illuminated. If it's a hassle to unplug these items after each and every use, consider putting them on a power strip, so you can quickly and easily flip the switch on and off when you need to use the appliances.

Tightening down on your energy usage can help you save a couple of dollars here and there, and also keep you more comfortable in your home. So sit back and relax in your home and enjoy the winter season.

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