5 Clever Energy-Saving Tips You'll Wish You Knew Sooner

Make your home a little greener—the planet (and your electric bill) will thank you later.

Unlike your car payment or cable bill, your electric bill is one that can vary drastically from month to month. (And don't get us started on that monthly heating bill). Reducing the energy your home uses can bring the cost down and help the environment by reducing the fossil fuels it takes up and the carbon emissions it emits.

If you're looking for simple ways to save energy at home (even if it's to lower your electric bill), check out these energy-saving tips. Whether you're using gas or electricity to heat and cool your home, these tricks will help you save energy and cut electricity costs.

Energy-saving Tips

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Seal your home.

When it comes to adjusting the temperature in your home, experts recommend thinking of your house as an envelope. Jeff Starkey, vice president of Atlas Butler, a heating, cooling and plumbing company in Columbus, Ohio, recommends sealing all cracks to maintain your heat in the winter or your air conditioning in the summer. You could pay someone to do this task for you, but it will run about $250, Starkey says.

To save money, do some things yourself. "Add weather stripping to drafty doors and caulk drafty windows," says Zillow Lifestyle Expert Amanda Pendleton.

Experts can look for other culprits. "Ducts are also a common source of leaks, so have your contractor look for holes, tears, and other signs of leaking ducts and seal them," Pendleton says.

A contractor can also check on other common sources of leaks in your home, including your chimney, plumbing stack, and attic door.

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Make some upgrades.

If your heating or cooling system is outdated, invest in a replacement. "Since heating and cooling uses the most energy, look to replace your old system with high-performing equipment," Pendleton says. "And make sure you're getting the right size furnace or HVAC system for your home—too big or too small will waste energy."

Pendleton also suggests replacing your major appliances (such as the washer and dryer), with versions that include the Energy Star logo. "The US Department of Energy offers tax credits, rebates, and other savings which can help with the cost," she says. You can also make smaller changes by replacing your light bulbs with energy-efficient bulbs or upgrading to a programmable thermostat.

RELATED: Eco-Friendly Upgrades That Will Increase Your Home's Value

03 of 05

Change your habits.

Of course, there are simple habits you can change and small energy-saving tips you can try. Why not start by turning your lights off each time you leave the room?

You might also curb your family's TV or video game habits. Pendleton says that while the television itself isn't a major energy suck, all of the combined gadgets such as your gaming system or sound system can be.

Pendleton also suggests washing laundry in cold water when possible and cleaning the lint trap in your dryer for a quicker dry time. Unplug small appliances and close your chimney flue when they aren't in use.

Take showers instead of baths to reduce the amount of hot water needed. And scrape dishes clean instead of rinsing them before loading the dishwasher.

While cooking, Pendleton says to use the smaller burner for smaller pots and pans to ensure you aren't wasting additional heat.

Starkey also suggests lowering your temperature in the winter and upping it in the summer. Even a change of a few degrees can impact your bill and your energy usage.

A smart thermostat can help, too. Lower the temp while you're gone and set your smart thermostat to kick on about 30 minutes before you're due home, so the house is warm again for your arrival without unnecessarily heating it while no one's home.

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Monitor your usage.

All of these energy-saving tips might not matter much unless you can tell they're working. Monitor your usage by going over your monthly power and heat bills in detail.

Most utility companies will offer an energy audit to show you where your usage is going and how it might be lowered. If they don't, Pendleton suggests reaching out to your local or state government to find a good energy auditor. Check with the Residential Energy Services Network for a directory of auditors in your area.

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Consider a switch to solar.

Perhaps the best way to save energy is to make the switch to solar. While this method requires a hefty investment up front, Pendleton says it can be worth the switch if you plan to stay in your current home for a while.

"Not only can adding solar panels to a home save energy costs and help the environment, but Zillow research finds homes with solar panels sell for 2.6 percent more," Pendleton says.

RELATED: 8 Things You Can Do to Increase Fuel Efficiency and Save Money on Gas

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