Lowering Your Energy Costs

Summer is fast approaching, and for many Americans, with the heat comes a higher energy bill. Consumer Reporter Kelli Grant discusses some ways you can save.

Oil isn't the only fuel with sky-high prices. Natural gas and coal prices are spiking, too, which spells trouble for your electric bill this summer.

First, assess your price-jump risk. Ask your electric company what fuels it uses to generate power. The Energy Information Administration estimates most of us will see our bill jump by a little less than 3%. But if you live in an area that relies on oil, natural gas or coal, you may see bigger jumps, especially if we have a hotter-than-expected summer.

Also, adjust your plan. More electric companies are offering so-called time-of-use plans. You'll pay more to use electricity during peak daytime hours, and much lower rates in the early morning and late evening. If you're away most of the day, these plans can result in significant savings.

Maintain your equipment at home. Hire a contractor to inspect your central air conditioner. A worn-out filter or unsealed duct could make it 20% less efficient. On your own, clean the filters every month to keep things running smoothly.

Try switching to CFLs - compact flourescent lightbults. You've heard it before, but CFLs are the way to go. Not only do they use less energy than conventional bulbs, but they also produce less heat. That means your air conditioner won't have to work as hard.

Keep your eyes peeled for energy incentives. If you're in the market for a new appliance, plenty of utility companies and government entities are offering rebates. You could easily save $50 on the price of that new window air conditioner. It's also likely that Congress will extend last year's tax credit, so keep those requirements in mind if you're hoping to remodel.

By Kelli Grant