It's summer, the season when air conditioning usage goes up. You can't do much about how much energy costs, but you can control how much of it you use. One place to start is with a home energy audit. Do-it-yourselfers can try Energy Star's Home Energy Yardstick or, for a more in-depth look, the Home Energy Saver, developed by the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory, according to the Chicago Tribune.
For a more rigorous evaluation, hire an energy auditor to size up your home, inside and out, basement to attic, and run tests to measure the efficiency of your heating equipment and the leakiness of your home's exterior.
Replace appliances, when needed, with an Energy Star model. One-fourth of all American homes have an energy-sucking second refrigerator, usually retired from the kitchen to the garage or basement.
The Department of Energy estimates that the average U.S. household pays a hefty $1,900 annually in utility bills. The biggest slices are likely to be heating and cooling (about 40 percent) and water heating and lighting (each about 10 percent). With a few simple moves, you can reduce your annual costs by $250 to $300.