7 tips to lower energy bills

At Bankrate we strive to help you make smarter financial decisions. While we adhere to strict , this post may contain references to products from our partners. Here’s an explanation for

I’m a little scared to peek at my gas and electric bill this month. I’ve been running the heat continuously, which means my utility bill will be sky-high.

In the spirit of lowering gas and electric costs, I thought I’d dig up a few tips that can help people lower their home energy bills.

1. Install storm windows

Storm windows offer an additional pane of glass affixed outside of your normal windows. These create an extra air pocket between the outdoors and your home. They add a supplemental level of insulation to your home, and are far cheaper than buying new windows.

2. Turn off your dishwasher’s heated-dry function

The heated-dry function makes your dishes dry faster, but most people aren’t impatiently watching the minutes tick by while they wait for their dishes to dry. So, let your dishes air dry.

3. Install CFLs

Compact florescent light bulbs, or CFLs, use far less energy than regular incandescent light bulbs. They cost marginally more upfront — at one hardware store, a four-pack of CFLs costs $11 — but they more than pay themselves off in the form of lower electricity bills.

4. Air-dry hair

Blow-drying your hair uses energy, but air-drying is free. If you shower daily and use the blow-dryer for 20 minutes after each shower, you can cut more than two hours of energy use per week by air-drying.

5. Unplug electronics

Anything that’s still plugged into your wall outlet will drain small amounts of energy, even if the appliance is turned off. When they are not in use, unplug appliances such as your toaster, blender and coffee grinder, as well as electronics such as your stereo and TV.

6. Hang your clothes to dry

Hanging clothes to dry is far more energy-efficient than balling wet clothes together and blasting them with high heat.

Line-drying outdoors is best, but in wintertime (or in areas with frequent rain) you can hang your clothes on an indoor drying rack.

7. Shut off vents to unused rooms

Close the air vents leading into any rooms in your house that are currently unused. There is no reason to heat or cool an empty space. Shut the door that separates the room from the rest of the house to reduce air flow.

Paula Pant blogs at AffordAnything.com about creating wealth and living life on your own terms. She’s traveled to nearly 30 countries, owns five rental units and works for herself. Follow Paula on Twitter @affordanything.