This story is part of Tips for the homeCNET’s collection of practical tips for getting the most out of your home, inside and out.

Fall is here and when the temperature starts to drop, the price of electricity, natural gas and oil are expected to rise, say the experts. Heating costs alone are expected to jump more than 17% in the U.S. compared to last winter, outpacing inflation and hit the highest prices in more than 10 years, according to National Association of Energy Assistance Directors (PDF).

If these higher prices start to put a strain on your budget, you can start making changes to reduce the energy you use and lower your bill. Even small habits like turning off unused appliances, washing your clothes different way, cooking with certain appliances or setting the thermostat to the correct temperature it can save some money and make your home more efficient.

Here are seven steps you can take to start saving on electricity, gas, water — and cash. For more money saving tips see more at how to save money on your heating bill this winter, how to seal your home to save on billsand how much it will cost you to run a heater.

Get an electrical audit

Many electric companies offer a free audit, where they do a room-by-room inspection of your home and look at your electric bills to help you determine where you’re wasting energy. You can follow their recommendations to reduce your electricity bill.

Even if your electric company doesn’t provide this service, you can easily perform a DIY home energy audit using US Department of Energy instructions on the website.

Adjust your thermostat

One of the easiest ways to lower your electric bill is to adjust your thermostat. According to Ministry of Energy, you can save up to 10% on your heating and cooling costs by adjusting your thermostat 7 to 10 degrees for 8 hours a day. In other words, keep it a little warmer in the summer and a little cooler in the winter.

An easy way to do this is to adjust your thermostat when you are sleeping or away from home. If you have smart thermostatyou can pre-set your thermostat to adjust during these hours so you don’t forget.

Turn down your water heater

Many water heater manufacturers set their thermostats at 140 degrees Fahrenheit (60 C). But in reality, most households only need a maximum setting of 120 F. Setting your water heater to a lower temperature can save hundreds of dollars a year.

Adjusting the temperature of the water heater is quick and easy solution. The thermostat dial on your water heater is probably near the bottom of the tank on the electric or gas control valve. Be sure to check your owner’s manual for instructions on how to adjust it — and if you have questions, consult a professional technician.


Adjusting your water heater can save electricity and lower bills.

Taylor Martin/CNET

Unplug and unplug what you’re not using

By leaving things around your home on and off when you’re not using them, you’re driving up your electricity bill unnecessarily.

You can start by turning off the lights when you are not in the room or when it is bright enough outside to rely solely on natural light. Light bulbs consume 4 cents an hour for 40 watts (although the average American will probably pay more). This amount only increases with the wattage of the bulb. Although it doesn’t seem like much, it can certainly add up over time.

You can also save money by turning off appliances you don’t use. Phantom energy, the energy your appliances use when they’re on but not plugged in, can cost you on average $100 per year.

Use your dishwasher

It may sound counterintuitive to suggest using an appliance to save on your electric bill. And yes, there was a time when dishwashers used a lot more water than they do today. But on Ministry of Energy regulates how much water modern dishwashers can use. Any dishwasher manufactured after 2013 is limited to using 5 gallons of water. If it is a compact size dishwasher, it is limited to 3.5 gallons.

You might think that you surely use less than 5 gallons of water to wash your dishes by hand. But the US Geological Survey estimates that it takes anywhere 9 to 27 gallons water for hand washing multiple dishes. (If you’re curious, we also have a tip for how to load your dishwasher the right way.)

Take advantage of off-peak prices

Electricity usage is usually higher at certain times of the day and the year. First, demand is higher in winter and summer when people turn on heaters and air conditioners. It is higher both during the day and in the evening.

Some power companies offer time-of-use plans, increasing rates during peak hours and reducing them during off-peak hours. If you have one of these plans, you can save money by using large appliances like the dishwasher and washing machine early morning or late evening.

Change your air filters

Your air filter helps trap any dirt, dust, pet hair, and more, preventing them from entering your HVAC. When you don’t change your air filters regularly enough, this debris gets into your HVAC system and clogs it, reducing its efficiency. According to the Department of Energy, changing your filters on a schedule can reduce your air conditioner’s energy consumption anywhere from 5% to 15%. (Here’s how much you can save by changing your furnace filter, too.)

More ways to save on your bills

There are many steps, big and small, you can take to reduce your consumption and save money on your bills. The Ministry of Energy has an entire section of its website dedicated to providing tips to help you save energy. And while many of them come with a price tag, there are many more just like the ones on this list that you can make for free.

For more see ceiling fan trick that can help your house stay warmer this winter and how much it costs to use a gas fireplace.

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