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Utility bills are tricky because there’s no price tag on your dishwasher that says how much it will cost to run it or on your stove or your sink faucet.

If there were, it would be so much easier to cut costs. You could decide if it was really worth the 35 cents to run the dishwasher even though it wasn’t full and you just wanted your favorite coffee mug. You could decide if the four hours in the oven for the big beef roast was worth the extra 20 cents or if you could just grill a couple steaks instead.

That’s not how utilities work. Even if it were, those small amounts might not deter some people. But, as Ben Franklin said, “if you watch your pennies, your dollars will take care of themselves.”

Simple things that amount more to lifestyle changes than they do to home renovations can go a long way toward saving you on your Colorado utility bills.

  1. Turn it off.

    Switch off lights when you leave a room. Your dad yelled at you to do it when you were a kid, now yell at your kids to do it. Turn off your computer, your TV, your radio. Don’t let electronics idle in standby mode, sucking energy, while they go unused. Turn them all the way off.

  2. Unplug it.

    Some things draw energy even when they’re not really on. This phenomenon is often called “phantom load,” and it can be a bit spooky if you let it add up on your bill. If your coffee maker has a lighted clock display and you don’t use the timer, just plug it in when you’re brewing. Unplug that VHS player you only use for family videos during the holidays. Unplug anything you don’t regularly use. Chances are it’s costing you.

  3. Heat and cool passively.

    During the summer, take advantage of our cool Colorado nights and open your windows. Throw a couple fans in them to force the cool air inside. Then close the windows in the morning and shut the curtains to keep the sun from heating the place up. In the winter, do the reverse, open blinds in the morning to let the intense Colorado sun naturally warm your house and close curtains at night to help keep heat from escaping.

  4. Be efficient.

    Only run full dishwashers and washing machines. If you need one thing and don’t have a full load for the machine, pick up a sponge and get your hands wet.

  5. Be sensible.

    If someone has told you that cold water boils faster than hot water — well, it’s time for that person to go back to kindergarten science class. If you can draw hot water from the faucet without running it a long time, fill your pot with hot water and always cover it. That will trap the heat in the pot and your water will be boiling in no time — even if you’re watching the pot.

    That saves energy. So does wearing weather-appropriate clothing. Bundle up in the winter so you don’t have to use as much heat and pack up your Christmas sweaters during the summer. You shouldn’t need to wear them inside your house in July.

  6. Stop the waste.

    Use caulk or plastic or even old towels to cover cracks where heat seeps out of your house in the winter. Fix leaky faucets right away. You would be amazed how much water you can waste with a tiny irritating dribble.

These are a few good pointers to get you by and get you saving. They won’t translate into thousands of dollars of savings right away, but they will over a matter of a few years. It’s a good way to save a little and to help you get started on some good habits while you wait for help from the Energy Resource Center. We offer free energy audits and winterization services for low- and middle-income families in El Paso, Elbert, Douglas, Fremont and Teller counties. We also provide the same services, for a fee, to those homeowners who aren’t income-qualified with proceeds going to help families in need of sustainable energy assistance.

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