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Trim your bill

If the idea of taking a look at your electricity bill each month makes you break out in a cold sweat, help is here. 

There are plenty of ways you can lessen your bill each month thanks to some smart gadgets and a few handy tips.

Published:Caption:Photo:Alina Bradford/CNET
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Use your dishwasher

Dishwashers may use electricity, but they save more energy, money, water and time than hand washing. 

According to the California Energy Commission, using an Energy Star-qualified dishwasher instead of hand washing can save you, on average, 5,000 gallons of water and $40 in utility costs each year, not to mention 230 hours of your time.

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Air-dry your dishes

Opt out of the heat-dry cycle on your dishwasher. Instead, open the door just a crack and let your dishes air-dry. Or, if your dishwasher has an air-dry setting, use it. 

The air-dry setting can reduce your dishwasher's energy use by 15 percent to 50 percent, according to the California Energy Commission.

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Get 'em clean

Of course, these dishwasher tips won't save electricity if you have to repeat loads because the dishes just won't get clean. 

Here are some tips on loading your dishwasher properly so that they sparkle every time. 

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Use a fan

If you live in an area of the world where the summers are hot, turn on your ceiling fans before you touch your thermostat. Using a ceiling fan can make a room feel 10 degrees cooler and a fan uses just 10 percent of the energy that a central air conditioner does, according to the US Natural Resource Defense Council

Here are some more energy-saving tips for keeping cool.

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Use a smarter bulb

If you haven't switched to LED, now is the time. The US Department of Energy says that LEDs use at least 75 percent less energy -- and last 25 times longer -- than incandescent lighting. That equals a lot of savings!

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Forget the twist

If you hate the look of thecompact fluorescent lights (or CFLs) that were popular a few years back, there's good news.

Many LEDs, like the Cree Daylight, Philips SceneSwitch or GE LED Daylight, look just like the old incandescent bulbs. Learn more about choosing an LED bulb here.

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Use motion to stop waste

If your family members can never seem to turn off a light, one solution could be motion detectors, such as the GE Indoor 120-degree Motion-sensing Light Control or the E-Age Ajustable Motion Sensing Socket. They turn on when they sense someone's in the room and then turn themselves off when they don't detect any movement.

The way these work is, you simply screw the detector into a light socket. Then, you screw the (hopefully energy-efficient) light bulb into the motion detector. It's crazy-easy, and the US Department of Energy says that using sensors like these can cut wasted lighting electricity by 30 percent.

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Turn off the burner a little early

Here are some ways to monitor and reduce your electricity usage with some smart gadgets and upgrades, and a few easy tricks.

According to the California Energy Commission, if you turn off the burner early, the stove will still release enough heat to finish up whatever you're cooking, but will save electricity. This tip works for most dishes, though there are a few exceptions.

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Keep your oven closed

Every time you open your oven door, the internal temperature can drop 25 degrees. Then, your oven has to use more electricity to bring the temperature back up. To save electricity, peek through the window and rely on your oven's light instead of opening the door.

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Go small

If you're just heating something up or cooking something small, go with a small appliance like your microwave or toaster oven. They use substantially less electricity than your oven.

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Install a dimmer

Dimming your lights reduces wattage and output, which helps save energy, according to the US Department of Energy. 

Some dimmers, like the Leviton Decora Smart Dimmer or the GE Bluetooth Smart Switch can even be controlled by an app, making them even better at saving electricity. 

Be sure to get bulbs that work with dimmer switches, though.

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Use this thing

You may think that your electronics and appliances are energy-efficient, but are you using more electricity than you think? This $30 item may be the answer.

The Belkin WeMo Insight and the Kasa Smart Wi-Fi Plug are little gadgets that plug into your wall and monitor how much electricity whatever you plug into them uses. The findings may just inspire you to unplug or upgrade your energy-sucking appliances. 

By using an Insight to find out what was consuming the most power around his house, CNET's Jason Cipriani saved $840 a year on his electricity bill

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Tap your circuit breaker for information

If you don't want to check one appliance's energy consumption at a time, you can go large. Your circuit breaker panel is the hub for all of the power going through your house, and it can tell you a lot about where all your electricity goes. 

You can add devices such as the Curb, Neurio or Ecoisme to your circuit breaker so that you can monitor every power-using item in your home. More knowledge about where your electricity goes is a big step toward saving it.

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Put it on standby

Putting your electronics on standby saves more money than leaving them on. Remember, though, standby still uses a substantial amount of electricity. 

According to the US Department of Energy, electronics on standby account for 10 percent or more of your electricity bill.

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Better yet, get a strip

One of the best ways to control these power wasters is by plugging them into a power strip or a smart outlet like the ConnectSense Smart Outlet or the Insteon On/Off Outlet

Just switch the strip off or use the smart switch's app to turn off electricity guzzlers when you go to bed or when you're not home. Learn more about standby energy waste here.

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Install a programmable thermostat

Still have that thermostat that looks like it's from the 1970s? Switch it out with a programmable thermostat such as the Nest, Ecobee or Honeywell. According to the Alliance to Save Energy, switching to a programmable thermostat can save you save up to 10 percent on cooling and heating costs.

$213.00 at Amazon
Read Full Review
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Check your thermostat location

While you're considering a programmable thermostat, check your current thermostat's location. It could be on the wrong wall.

Drafts, direct sunlight and other factors can trigger your AC or furnace to kick on when it doesn't need to. Here's the perfect place to put your thermostat.

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Baby your dryer

The California Energy Commission says that dryers use approximately 6 percent of a home's total electricity usage. You can help your dryer work more efficiently by keeping it clean. Always cleaning the lint trap after every load is one of the most important things you can do. Here's more on how to deep-clean your dryer.

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Go cold

Start using cold water when you wash laundry. Why? Because 90 percent of the electricity used to wash a load goes toward heating the water, according to Consumer Reports

The Alliance to Save Energy also says washing clothes in cold water can save you $63 a year on your electricity bill. Most detergents are designed to work better in cold water, anyway.

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Upgrade your laundry room

Older appliances aren't as energy-efficient as they could be. For example, Energy Star estimates that on average a washer over 10 years old could cost you around $190 a year.

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Old dryers waste, too

Switch out your dryer while you're getting a washer. Your old dryer could be wasting 20 percent more energy than a newer, Energy Star-certified model.

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Speed up your load

Giving your clothes an extra spin in the washer can save up to half the drying time. Here are some more ways to save electricity on laundry day.

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Switch out your showerhead

Switching to a 2.5-gallon-per-minute (low-flow) showerhead and taking a 10-minute shower not only saves you 5 gallons of water over taking a bath, it also saves up to $145 each year in electricity, according to Energy Star.

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Upgrade your kitchen

If your kitchen appliances aren't Energy Star-certified, then maybe it's time for an upgrade. For example, an Energy Star-certified dishwasher is 12 percent more energy-efficient on average than models that don't have the certification. 

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Air ducts can be an electricity-sucker

The air ducts in your home could be costing you big bucks. Ducts with holes, clogs and leaks can lose around 20 percent of the AC's and furnace's efficiency. Have your ducts looked at by a professional if you have any of these problems.

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Go solar

You may not be able to convert your whole home to solar power, but there are a bunch of small ways you can incorporate it into your life. For example, this Addtop Portable Solar Power Bank can make and store up to 25,000mAh of power for recharging your gadgets. 

Here are some more small ways to go solar.

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