bill shock

Are energy costs eating up your household budget? If so, here are some simple ways that you can start saving energy today without spending money on upgrades or equipment maintenance.

Turn things off. Just turn lights off when you're that last to leave a room and turn off devices when you're not using them. This is the simplest and most effective way to reduce energy waste.

Run full loads. Only run your dishwasher and clothes washer when they are full. Wash your clothes in cold water when you can to save on water heating costs.

Unplug unused electronics. Many electronic devices still use standby power even when you are not using them. Unplug power-draining devices that see little use, such as a TV in the guest room or extra battery chargers.

Adjust the thermostat. Adjust temperatures at night or when you're not at home to give your HVAC system a break. It may seem trivial, but changing the temperature by just a few degrees can save money and energy.

Take shorter showers. Long showers may feel great, but they can use thousands of gallons of water a year, as well as the energy to heat that water. Keep showers to 10 minutes or less. Also, turn off the tap while shaving or brushing your teeth.

Cook up energy savings. Cover pots and pans; food will cook more efficiently. Match pots and pans to the size of the burner, and make sure the burners are clean. Heat foods in the microwave if possible; it's more energy efficient than using the stovetop or range.

Get some help

If you're struggling to pay your energy bills, you may be eligible for payment assistance. The federal Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program (LIHEAP) offers financial assistance to income qualified households to help with paying energy bills.

Contact your state office for information about eligibility and how to apply.