Consumer Reports: Tips for lowering energy bills

Your commuting costs might be down but with many people still sheltering at home, energy bills might be creeping up. The experts at Consumer Reports have some simple tips to keep your utility bills down without sacrificing the comforts of home.

Our homes have been working overtime for us these past several months. All those extra meals at home, dishwashing, heating preferences, it all adds up. Consumer Reports says a few small steps can keep your utility bills in check.

"Adjusting your thermostat settings is actually one of the simplest and most significant things you can do to keep your energy bills under control," said Consumer Reports Home Editor Dan Wroclawski. "Lower your thermostat by a few degrees when you have the heat running and raise it a few degrees when it gets warmer and you have the AC running."

Consumer Reports says programmable or smart thermostats can make this lifestyle change easy, breezy.

The thermostat from Honeywell Home is a Consumer Reports Best Buy at $90 and testers said installation is fairly straightforward.

"Some other smart thermostats can actually adjust your temperature settings based on your activity and behavior," Wroclowski said.

Consumer Reports likes the smart Nest Thermostat E for about $140.

"Some smart thermostats also offer wireless temperature sensors that detect motion in a room. That allows you to heat or cool a room when it's only being used," Wroclowski said.

You can curtail costs in the kitchen, too. When cooking smaller meals, use a toaster oven or microwave which costs less than heating up your big oven.

To save water, instead of prolonged pre-rinsing and handwashing dishes, simply scrape off food and load it right into your dishwasher.

"Use the quick rinse or rinse and hold cycle on your dishwasher," Wroclawski. "That'll rinse all the dishes and use a lot less water than the faucet and then you can save them up for when you have a full load to run."

And finally institute shorter showers five minutes or less.

Consumer Reports says the best way to save in the laundry room is to use the highest spin setting available on your washer. It removes more moisture and helps shorten drying times.

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