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Energy Audits, Tips Help Seniors Cut Utility Costs

According to the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE), the typical U.S. family spends about $1,900 a year on home utility bills. Unfortunately, a large portion of that energy is wasted.

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Energy costs have hit hard the pocketbooks of many Americans. According to the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE), the typical U.S. family spends about $1,900 a year on home utility bills. Unfortunately, a large portion of that energy is wasted.

Q. I'm a 78-year-old widower on a fixed income. My utility bills seem to be getting higher all the time. I can still afford to pay these expenses, but I'm wondering about ways that I can save energy around the house.

About one in five of the nation's energy dollars is spent in homes. In total, consumers spend $241 billion each year on energy for home use, according to the DOE. Energy efficiency improvements could cut this number by well over half.

Aside from reducing expenses, energy conservation is good for the health of homeowners. Americans spend 90 percent of their time indoors. The quality of indoor air is often worse than the air outside, according to the DOE. Moisture and gasses from building materials are some of the many invisible sources of indoor air pollution.

When done right, energy efficiency upgrades will also improve indoor air quality and make your home safer and more comfortable. The familiar causes of discomfort—humidity, drafts, cold windows in winter or hot windows in summer—are all lessened by improvements in energy efficiency, according to the DOE. It turns out that many efficient building components also enhance safety.

Your utility company may offer energy audits, which could help you identify where you could improve energy efficiency in the home. The U.S. Department of Energy has a booklet with instructions for conducting an energy audit. You can locate that by visiting

Also, talk with your utility company about these issues. Many have budget plans that can help you avoid unexpected increases.

There are simple ways that you can help reduce your bills as well. For instance, if your health allows, try to keep your thermostat set a little higher in the summer and lower in the winter. In addition, don't cook on hot days or do your laundry during the warmest times of the day. Close curtains and shades to block the sun's heat.

If you are in good health and looking for a part-time income to help pay expenses, why not consider a job as a CAREGiver for Home Instead®. CAREGiversSM are often seniors like you who are trained to work with other older adults providing various non-medical tasks such as meal preparation, light housekeeping, medication reminders, errands and shopping.

For more information about Home Instead, visit To learn more about energy efficiency, go to the Department of Energy Home Energy SaverTM (HES) website at and HES computes a home's energy use online in a matter of seconds based on models and data developed at the U.S. Department of Energy's Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory.

Last revised: May 21, 2011

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