Believe it or not, your friends at electric utility companies across the nation are offering you some ways to pay them less. Via their trade group, the Edison Electric Institute, they've compiled a list of local programs available.

In their own words, the programs for residential customers offer:

  • Cash rebates given as incentives for purchasing or upgrading energy-efficient lighting, air conditioning, refrigeration, and water heaters.

  • Direct load control programs, where you allow your electric company to cycle off or shut down big energy-using appliances and equipment for certain periods of time. These programs are especially useful in the summer months on air conditioners, water heaters, and pool pumps.

  • Low-interest loans to help you afford high-efficiency equipment.

  • New construction programs, offering incentives and training to encourage energy-saving designs and the use of higher efficiency equipment.

  • In-home or online energy audits, providing an analysis of your energy use and specific recommendations for energy savings.

  • Personal energy management systems, providing automated meter reading with real-time information on energy usage and costs and allowing you to make informed energy use decisions before your bills arrive.

Meanwhile, here are some tips on saving energy and money via your appliances:

  • Check and clean or replace air conditioning filters every month. Clean the outside condenser coil once a year. Reduce your usage by 10-20% by caulking and weather-stripping your doors and windows. Make sure your attic is ventilated and your home sufficiently insulated.

  • Keep your refrigerator between 37° and 40°F and your freezer at least as cold as 0°F and not much colder. Keep your refrigerator filled to capacity, but don't overcrowd to the point where doors cannot be closed or air cannot circulate. Vacuum the condenser coils (underneath or behind the unit) every three months or so. Do not put uncovered liquids in the refrigerator. The liquids give off vapors that add to the compressor workload. Allow hot food to cool off before putting it in the refrigerator.

  • Reduce your refrigeration electricity usage by 40% by replacing a 12-year-old or older unit with a new unit. An Energy Star unit will lower usage even more.

  • Microwave ovens use 90% less energy to cook with than conventional ovens. Convection ovens use a small fan to circulate hot air around the oven. This speeds up cooking time by about 30% and saves the same in energy. Combination ovens use microwave technology and halogen lamps to cut cooking time and energy use by 66-75%.

Learn more in this Acrobat document from the Edison Electric Institute.

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Longtime Fool contributor Selena Maranjian does not own shares of any companies mentioned in this article.