Simple fixes for energy-bill savings

You don't have to break the bank to save big on your energy bill, energy experts say.

Just ask Jennifer Mays of Kansas City, Mo. She earned valuable energy credits on electric and gas bills by doing a few simple tasks, such as adding more insulation to her home's attic and spraying expandable foam insulation in the gaps where her house meets its foundation.

Here are few more inexpensive ways to use less electricity in your home.

Install a programmable thermostat. This is an easy way to shave dollars off your bill, says Kim Winslow, manager of energy efficiency at Kansas City Power & Light.

Programmable thermostats keep you from changing your cooling and heating settings on a whim, she says. In the warm months, general guidelines call for a setting of 78 degrees or higher.

"For every degree you raise it in the summer, you can cut your energy consumption by 3 to 5 percent," Winslow says.

Replace incandescent light bulbs with fluorescent or LED bulbs. Compact fluorescent bulbs burn about 30,000 to 35,000 hours before they give out and use between 20 percent to 30 percent of the energy used by incandescent bulbs.

Unplug appliances when you are not using them. Don't worry about the biggies, such as the oven and microwave and washing machine. But everyday workhorses such as the coffee pot, printer and television consume energy even when they are not in use.

An easy way to solve this problem is by using power strips. Then, you can just turn off the strip when you go to work or to bed at night.

Check doors and windows for weatherstripping. Cracks around doors and windows can let cool air out and hot air in during the summer. Some experts estimate that you can reduce your utility bill by up to 30 percent just by plugging the gaps with weatherstripping.

Change the way you cook meals when it's hot outside. Using the oven heats up the kitchen. Try the microwave or slow cooker. Or fire up the grill outside.