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13 Clever Ways to Slash Your Home Energy Bills

From common sense tips to high-tech devices, it's never been easier to lower your energy bills—even when the temperature outside is extreme.

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Unplug unused devices

Energy vampires are plugged-in devices that draw electricity even when they're turned off or not being used, explains Jill Caponera, a consumer savings expert for Promocodes.com. This standby power is what keeps the clock ticking on your cable box, your Amazon Echo waiting for its next "Alexa" command, and your TV's settings in place. While that's unarguably convenient, it can cost the average U.S. household $100 per year, according to the U.S. Office of Energy Efficiency & Renewable Energy. You can eliminate these phantom loads simply by unplugging your devices. Caponera suggests using smart power strips that can be set to turn off at specific times of the day or during periods of inactivity.

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Get smart about your thermostat

Smart thermostats can help you lower your energy bills by automatically adjusting heating and cooling settings within a range of comfortable temperatures. Some, like the ecobee4, can also adjust your home's temperature based on whichever rooms are occupied. (Keeping rooms cool when there's nobody in them can be a huge waste of energy.) According to Caponera, the average smart thermostat will save you $180 per year on your energy bills and will analyze your energy usage with monthly breakdowns.

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Switch to energy-efficient LED lighting

Did you know that LED light bulbs can use up to 90 percent less energy than standard incandescents? Yes, they cost more upfront than ordinary bulbs, but in addition to saving you money on your electric bill, they last about 15 times longer so you won't have to spend money replacing them. Philips LED bulbs, for example, have an average lifespan of 25,000 hours. That means if you keep one on for three hours each day, you won't have to replace the bulb for nearly 20 years. Here are some more hidden home expenses that are draining your bank account.

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Turn off the lights

According to Energy Star, the cost to light your home accounts for about 20 percent of your electric bill, or an average of $200 per year. If you're guilty of always leaving the lights on, try a smart light switch like ecobee Switch+ that will automatically turn off your lights a few minutes after you leave a room. You can also use them to turn on your lights, so you don't have to come home to a completely dark house.

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Install a whole house fan

By turning off your air conditioning and using a whole house fan at night, you can save money on your energy bill in your sleep. "A whole house fan pulls in the cool night air from outside while pushing out the hot air that has been sitting in your home all day," explains Elizabeth Dodson, co-founder of HomeZada. You could pay slightly more than $1,000 for the whole house fan and installation, but you'll easily recoup that money with lowered energy bills, she says. Check out these 7 air conditioning tricks to feel cooler and spend less.

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Avoid the oven

When your air conditioning unit is working to cool your house, avoid using appliances that radiate excess heat. "Opt to cook with the microwave or stove top when possible," says Greer Ryan, a renewable energy and research specialist at the Center for Biological Diversity. Better yet, fire up the grill and cook outside.

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Use fans strategically

Fans keep you cool by creating a wind chill effect. "The movement of air over your skin evaporates moisture on your skin's surface. This pulls heat away from your body, creating a cooling effect for you," explains Andrew Keezer, COO of Rise. On days when it's too hot to simply open a window and turn on your ceiling fan, you can still save money by running it with your air conditioning. Pairing the two will allow you to set your thermostat approximately 4 degrees warmer than usual without reducing your comfort level—only your energy bills. Just remember that ceiling fans cool people, not rooms, so turn it off when you leave the room for even more savings.

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Mind your landscaping

Keezer also suggests planting leafy trees and tall shrubs on the south-facing side of your house to block some of the direct sunlight from the hot summer sun; even window boxes with flowers can help, too. And while you're outside, make sure that there aren't any bushes blocking air flow around your HVAC unit. It will have to work harder and longer to cool your house if overgrown shrubs are restricting the airflow. Here's smart advice for saving on every household bill.

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Upgrade your shades

When picking window treatments for your home, consider insulated cellular shades, which can increase energy savings by making your windows more efficient. The Department of Energy reports that these single-cell shades, also known as honeycomb shades, can reduce heat loss in the winter by at least 40 percent and prevent unwanted solar heat in the summer by up to 80 percent. "Even better, these shades can be automated, allowing them to be programmed to rise and fall at certain times of the day to support your energy savings," explains Brianna Goodwin, President of Ver-Tex Construction.

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Make your windows more efficient

If you have the money, replacing old windows with energy efficient ones is a worthwhile investment, as they also add value to your home. A lower-cost option is to install window film that blocks out the summer sun's heat, reducing demand on your cooling system, and helps keep warm indoor air from escaping during the winter. Find out 10 more ways to cut home heating costs that savvy homeowners should know.

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