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Save kilowatts, save cash

Experiencing sticker shock with this month's electrical bill? While kilowatt rates vary by vendor, a new increase is being seen across the many jurisdictions. Here are some Tightwad tips to cool down without overheating your pocketbook:

Go window shopping When it's too hot to be outdoors, leave your credit card at home and head to an air-conditioned mall. After a few laps around the perimeter, you'll have gotten some exercise while catching up on the latest fashion.

Leave the house Turn off the air conditioning, the TV and all those electricity hogs and enjoy some time in the great outdoors. If your kids spend their summer vacations playing video games, they're sucking up a lot of energy without expending any of their own. Sign them up for sports leagues, summer camps and other activities.

Turn off power strips Even if you've turned off the television, computer and other power drainers, those power strips are still sucking you dry. The same goes for rechargers, which may seem benign when not hooked up to your cell phone. The fact is, they're still drawing electricity when not in use. The standby power - aka phantom power - of unused appliances usually accounts for 5-10% of residential electricity costs.

Power down computers Running a computer and monitor 24/7 uses about 1,100 kilowatt hours annually, or roughly $100 a year. Save 60 percent to 80 percent by putting your computer in power-saving mode or turning it off completely.

Use powerless cleaning appliances Use a manual can opener instead of that space-hogging electrical opener, clean rugs with a carpet sweeper instead of a vacuum and dry laundry on a clothes line or rack instead of a power-hungry dryer.

Shut the curtains Turn off or turn down an air conditioner by keeping windows covered during the day. You'll minimize sun exposure while maximizing the cooler night air.

Batch wash dishes Wait until the dishwasher is completely full before running it. Avoid filling the machine with over-sized pots and pans as they're cheaper to wash by hand.

Lower the lighting bill CFL bulbs s are cheaper to run, generate less heat and last much longer. Switching out just one incandescent bulb for a CFL will save you $35 in energy costs - or up to 65% - over the projected 10-year life of the bulb.

Turn off the stove Pasta, veggies and other food cooked in water will continue to cook once the water is boiled. Turn the burner off half way through the cooking process and you'll reduce your energy use - just make sure you leave on the lid to hold in the heat.

Fill your freezer and fridge As with your dishwasher, these kitchen appliances operate more efficiently when full. You needn't overbuy at the supermarket, however. Instead, fill bottles and milk containers with water to take up the extra space.

Use a programmable thermostat Give your air conditioning system a break when no one is home.

Clean A/C filters Filters clog up with pollen, animal hair, dust and other "stuff". Cleaning or replacing your filter improves efficiency.


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