As much as 85 percent of the energy used for washing clothes goes toward heating the water. Switching the setting from hot to warm (cold for your colors) will cut a load's energy use in half.
Quick fixes for your dryer: Clean the lint filter after every load to improve air circulation. Dry towels and heavier cottons separately from your lighter-weight clothes. Don't "over-dry" -- and if your machine has a moisture sensor (it automatically shuts off once the clothes are dry), use it.
Regularly defrost your manual-defrost refrigerators and freezers. Don't allow more than one-quarter of an inch of frost to build up. Frost buildup decreases energy efficiency.
Cover liquids and wrap foods stored in the refrigerator. Uncovered foods release moisture and make your fridge work harder.
Replace all standard light bulbs (incandescent) with compact fluorescent lamps (CFLs). CFLs are more expensive but last 6 to 10 times longer.
When shopping for appliances, think of any new purchase as having two price tags. The first and more obvious cost is the purchase price. The second? The cost of operating the appliance during its lifetime -- in other words, your monthly utility bill for that appliance (likely to last you for the next 10 to 20 years). On average, refrigerators last for 13 years, room air conditioners and dishwashers last for 11, and clothes washers last for about 9.
Conduct home energy audits. If you're handy or someone in your family is a contractor, you can perform your own home energy audit to pinpoint problem areas. Look for holes or cracks in your walls and ceilings and around windows, doors, electrical outlets, and lighting and plumbing fixtures, to make sure air isn't leaking into or out of your home. Caulk inside and out where necessary. Make sure all appliances and your heating and cooling systems are still working properly. Old, worn-out equipment that doesn't function properly can lead to higher bills. Also consider using light controls, like dimmers or timers, to reduce your family's lighting-energy use.
If you don't have the expertise for the job, you can also pay for a professional energy audit. An energy auditor should do a room-by-room examination of your home, as well as a thorough examination of past utility bills. To prepare for your appointment, make a list of any existing problems, such as condensation and uncomfortable or drafty rooms, and have a summary of your home's yearly energy bills available. Visit the Residential Energy Services Network (natresnet.org) to locate an auditor in your area.
Enter your zip code into the Rebate Finder on the Energy Star Web site (energystar.gov) to find out about rebates and other offers in your area.