There are plenty of projects that are low-cost, easy — or both, said Callahan. The Department of Energy estimates that lowering your water heater thermostat takes less than two hours, and can save you $12 to $30 per year for every 10 degrees you lower the temp.
Sealing home air leaks is another project that can have a big payoff, cutting your home heating and cooling bill by up to 20 percent, she said. (Some utilities or state programs offer free or low-cost audits to help pinpoint leaks and other trouble spots.)
“That’s something we always suggest people look at,” she said. “[The leaks] can add up to a whole three-foot by three-foot window being open all the time.”
Other small purchases that can pay off include energy-efficient light bulbs and low-flow shower heads or faucet aerators, and smart power strips that cut off power to peripheral devices (say, your DVD player or game systems) when a primary device (the TV) is off.