Looking to knock a few precious bucks off your monthly energy bill? While achieving optimum energy savings at home may seem like a daunting — and not to mention costly — process, embarking on a household energy-efficiency campaign will be beneficial in the long run. Improving energy-efficiency in your home doesn’t necessarily have to be a bank-busting endeavor involving major infrastructure overhauls. Below, you’ll find a few easy ways to save energy at home.

Gone with the old, in with new … and more efficient: While we certainly don’t recommend replacing an older yet perfectly healthy home appliance before the end of its functional life, when it does bite the dust, it’s worth looking into replacing it with a model boasting Energy Star certification. The annual energy bill of the typical single-family home falls in the $2,200 range with a whopping 13 percent of that figure being consumed by appliances (not including electronics or small appliances such as microwaves and coffee makers). Energy Star-qualified appliances help to boost energy (and financial) savings while reducing your household environmental footprint. For example, swapping out a pre-1994 washing machine with an Energy Star-rated model can save a family $110 in annual energy costs. according to the Natural Resources Defense Council. And before you buy, be sure to look into tax credits and rebates for energy-efficient appliances that may be available in your area.

Breaking out the caulk: Heating gobbles up a staggering 29 percent of annual household energy costs. Replacing or adding extra insulation and swapping out leaky doors and windows is the most effective way to seal up your home to keep warm air in and cold air out and, in turn, reap the cost-savings benefits of improved energy efficiency. Although tax credits and rebates are available for more extensive/expensive energy-saving weatherization projects, there are numerous low-cost, DIYer-friendly methods of zipping up your home for increased energy savings, including installing attic stair covers and foam outlet gaskets, breaking out the caulk gun, shrink-wrapping windows, or gussying up your water heater with a blanket. Installing a programmable thermostat is also key. Of course, the first step in pinpointing areas of household energy loss is conducting an energy audit either by hiring a trusted firm or by going the do-it-yourself route. And trust us, hiring professionals to do the deed isn’t nearly as intimidating or expensive as you may think.

Chilly savings: Along with household heating, cooling is responsible for a large chunk — about 17 percent — of annual household energy costs. The focus here, of course, is often on air conditioning. For optimum energy savings, an air conditioner should be in good working condition with clean filters and should be set between 75 to 78 degrees F. In fact, for every degree above 72 that you raise your thermostat, you can save 3 to 5 percent in energy costs. In addition to air conditioning, standard weatherization techniques employed to boost efficiency during the winter months such as sealing leaks and replacing windows with high-performance models can dramatically improve energy savings during the dog days of summer. Installing a fan, whether it’s of the portable, whole house or ceiling variety, is also key as it helps your air conditioner work more efficiently (ideally, a few strategically placed fans can eliminate air conditioning altogether). Additionally, avoiding the use of heat-generating appliances and electronics such as clothes dryers (time to give line-drying a try, folks!) and swapping out incandescent bulbs with LEDs or CFLs can make a world of difference, too.

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Matt Hickman ( @mattyhick ) writes about design, architecture and the intersection between the natural world and the built environment.

How to save energy with home improvements
Looking to knock a few precious bucks of your monthly energy bill? While achieving optimum energy savings at home may seem like a daunting – and not to mentio