But hiring your own energy auditor is expensive. A few common sense measures could reap huge benefits. For example, lighting accounts for about a tenth of a residential electric bill. Lowering the wattage or replacing your incandescent light bulb with a compact fluorescent bulb (CFL) can save money over the long-term, according to the government-backed Energy Star program, which says its CFLs uses 75 percent less energy and lasts 10 times longer.
Need help with less obvious energy fixes?
The U.S. Department of Energy has a guide to explain simple energy savers around the home. There is also federal assistance for low-income families to help make their homes more energy efficient. And now there's David Findley's new book, "Do-It-Yourself Home Energy Audits: 140 Simple Solutions to Lower Energy Costs, Increase Your Home's Efficiency, and Save the Environment (McGraw-Hill)." This edition is part of the Green Guru Guides, a group of how-to books (published on acid-free, recycled post-consumer fiber) on living a more environmentally-sensitive life.
"Energy's a big problem for everyone," says Seth Leitman, editor of the Green Guru Guides. "People should understand, the more they save on energy, the more they're reducing their carbon footprint."
Here are some ideas from Findley's book, "Do-It-Yourself Home Energy Audits":
1. Weatherize your door. Invest in some door sealant.
2. Insulate your attic. Many attics in American homes today contain aging or an inadequate amount of insulation. Leitman says, "for every $100 you spend in insulation it saves about 1.8 tons of CO2 (carbon) emissions."
3. Check to see if your water pipes are insulated. This can cut down on the cost of heating the water that funnels to your dishwasher, washing machine or even shower.
4. Check to see if your energy-efficient appliances are the right size for your space. For example, buying a conditioner with a blower that's too large results in wasted energy. Too small, and it causes the air conditioner to work twice as hard – and costs more to generate.
5. Buy peel-off window coverings or shades to tint windows to help rooms stay cool in the summer and prevent warmer air from escaping during the winter.