If the total amount of your last energy bill was an unpleasant surprise, it may be time to consider trading in a few of the energy monsters in your home, such as a refrigerator that is as old as you are, for newer, more energy-efficient models. Many products that use less energy and save you money will have the Energy Star label. The Energy Star label verifies that the product meets certain standards of efficiency and is backed by the United States government.
Appliances such as your refrigerator, washing machine and dishwasher use about 17 percent of all the energy in your home, according to the U.S. Department of Energy. When you buy an appliance, you pay the initial cost for it as well as an ongoing cost to run it. Most of the time, an appliance that is Energy Star-rated will cost more up front, but will end up saving you money in the end as you pay less per year to operate it. When you go shopping for a new appliance, keep an eye out for the bright-yellow-and-black tags on the displays. These tags will tell you how much you're likely to pay in energy costs each year.
Water Heaters and Faucets
Running the water in your home, whether it's for a shower, to wash the dishes, or to wash your clothing, not only uses a lot of precious resource, it can also use a lot of energy if the water needs to be heated. If you choose to install an Energy Star-rated water heater, you can reduce your heating costs by half, according to the Department of Energy. At the sink or shower, low-flow faucets only let 2.5 gallons of water run per minute. A low-flow toilet uses only 1.6 gallons of water per flush, according to the National Resources Defense Council.
Buying a fuel-efficient car will help you save money on gas, since you'll use less of it. When you think of fuel efficiency, your first thought may be a hybrid car. Hydrids tend to get between 40 and 50 miles to the gallon, according to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, or EPA. If a new or used hybrid is out of your price range, you can find other fuel-efficient vehicles. Check the EPA's Fuel Economy website (see Resources), which lists mileage for most makes and models of car, as well the car's emissions ratings.
If you haven't switched your lightbulbs over from incandescent to compact fluorescent already, you really should. According to the Department of Energy, compact fluorescent lightbulbs, or CFLs, use 75 percent less energy than incandescent bulbs, which can safe you money monthly on your electric bill. Although they cost a bit more upfront, they also last up to 10 times longer, so you won't have to replace them nearly as much.