Here are some tips to save on bills and energy consumption in your home:
If your home isn't well-insulated, other heat-saving steps won't make much of a difference, according to Rich Wenzel, who repairs and remodels homes using alternative energy.
The U.S. Department of Energy estimates that only 20 percent of the homes built before 1980 are well-insulated. Investing in proper insulation and sealing air leaks can save you 10 percent off your heating and cooling bill.
To keep your home warm, make sure that insulation is adequate in the attic, ceilings, walls, floors and crawl spaces.
2. Hot water tanks
One of the most economical steps you can take is purchasing an on-demand hot water heater, according to Asa Collier, owner of Lawrence's Blue Sky: Wind, Solar & Home.
Instead of keeping a tank of water heated at all times, the on-demand hot water heater has a flame that heats up a thin layer of water when you need it.
While more expensive than your conventional hot water tank, Collier estimates that it pays for itself in five years and saves about 50 percent off your hot water bill.
But that's not the only way to save on heating your hot water, which according to the Department of Energy, is the third-largest energy expense in your home. In recent years, solar hot water systems - where water is heated through solar panels installed on roofs or south facing areas - have become more economical and aesthetically pleasing.
An even cheaper investment is lowering the thermostat on the water heater to 120 degrees or insulating the hot water storage tank and pipes connecting to it. (Before undertaking this green-improvement project, be sure to get detailed instructions first.)
Windows can add a lot to the home. They can also add a lot to the heating bill - as in costs of 10 to 25 percent higher.
According the Department of Energy, almost half of all homes have single-pane windows. Replacing them with double-pane windows that have high performance glass can help cut costs.
For cheaper solutions, use thermal shades. Or during the winter months close curtains or shades at night and open them during the day. Do the opposite in the summer.
For regions like Kansas with seasonal weather, the Department of Energy recommends using windows with both high insulation values and a low solar heat gain co-efficiency. In other words, use windows that reflect the heat back into the room during the winter and reflects the incoming sunlight away from the windows during the summer.
More than 10 percent of your energy bill goes toward keeping your lights on. Plugging into new technologies can reduce that lighting bill by 50 to 70 percent, according to the Department of Energy.
The best bet is to switch out your standard incandescent light bulbs with tube fluorescent and compact fluorescent lights. While more expensive, fluorescent lamps use less energy and last four to 10 times longer than incandescent lights. Over time, they pay for themselves.
Other tips are to use task lighting, which lights up only areas you are using as opposed to entire rooms, and to install photocell or motion sensor lights outside, so they turn on only when someone is present.
And remember to always turn off the lights in rooms you are not using. Any time you leave the room for more than a few seconds, you save money and energy by turning off the lights.
When shopping for new appliances, the Department of Energy recommends consumers consider two price tags: the purchase price and the operating cost. Appliances - especially energy gobblers like refrigerators, washers and dryers - last 10 to 20 years. And while the first price tag is a one-time payment, the operating cost (the energy it takes to run it) is something you'll pay every month.
To help you make the decision, the federal government requires most appliances to display an EnergyGuide label, which tells you the annual energy consumption of the appliance. From there you can make comparisons.
If you are in the market for some major appliances, check out the Department of Energy's consumer's guide (http://apps1.eere.energy.gov/ consumer), which lists how much energy a range of appliances typically use and how much you could save with more efficient ones.
Also consider using alternative energy sources for some tasks. Air-drying clothes and hand-washing dishes are two examples of how free solar power and manpower can help reduce energy costs.