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Cutting down on energy use is great for the environment. It can also save you big bucks. Alternative energy proponent IGS Energy suggests four green and easy ways to do both:

Minimize ‘phantom loads.’ The term ‘phantom load’ refers to the energy that an appliance or electronic device consumes when it is not actually turned on. According to the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE), some 75 percent of the electricity in an average home is used to power electronics while the products are off. A report from the University of California Berkeley says that phantom loads account for about six percent of all residential electricity consumption. You can eliminate phantom loads by unplugging appliances and electronics when you are not using them or by plugging them into a power strip and turning the strip off when they are not in use.

Upgrade your appliances. When shopping for new appliances, look for the Environmental Protection Agency’s Energy Star label. These appliances use less energy and water than their conventional counterparts. They may cost more than appliances without the Energy Star designation, but, in most cases, they will more than make up that additional cost through energy savings.

Change your lightbulbs. One of the least expensive and most effective changes you can make in your home is replacing your light bulbs with compact fluorescent light bulbs (CFL), which cost just a few dollars more and will save about $30 in energy costs over their lifetime. CFL bulbs use 75 percent less energy and last about 10 times longer than incandescent bulbs. Some people are concerned because CFLs contain mercury, but Energy Star says CFLs do not release any mercury when in use, and actually reduce mercury emissions because they lessen the need for electricity from power plants that emit mercury.

Install a programmable thermostat. These thermostats automatically adjust your home’s temperature to your schedule, keeping it comfortable only when you need it to be. If you don’t already adjust your thermostat throughout the day, a programmable thermostat could save you as much as 15 percent on heating and cooling costs.

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