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Maintaining an energy efficient home is one way to lighten the load on both the power grid and on your bank account. Here are five ways to make your home energy lean.

Do Your Homework

Don't know where to start? ENERGY STAR, a program run by the Environmental Protection Agency, offers a one-stop online reference for energy-efficient products, homes and buildings. While you've probably seen their star logo on major appliances, they also evaluate and rate many other items that go into homes and their construction. The program's website provides tips on how to create an energy efficient home no matter where you live. Local utility companies often offer periodic incentives and discounts for homeowners who purchase ENERGY STAR-approved products or appliances.

Bonus: To save even more money, Consumer Reports recommends buying most major appliances in December, when old models become discounted to make way for newer ones.

Get a Home Energy Audit

To discover where you're wasting your home energy dollars, you may want to hire a pro. According to Angie's List, the typical home energy audit takes between two and five hours and can cost anywhere from $250 to $650. But the five to 30 percent long-term energy savings you stand to gain are worth the time and money.

If a professional audit isn't in your budget, This Old House has advice for performing one on your own.

Upgrade Integral Systems

Older abodes often need upgrading to become energy efficient. When replacing windows, look for an insulating double-glazed option. Or, if you want to preserve your home's original wood windows, consider adding storm windows to the exterior. The U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) is a great resource for navigating the many factors to consider when replacing windows. For exterior doors, look for solid wood or insulated fiberglass. There are even insulated options for garage doors.

Your attic is likely the least traveled part of your house, but it could be costing you the most due to poor insulation. Take the time to up the ante on your attic's insulation. Doing so can prevent heat from escaping during the winter and keep your house cool in the summer.

Fix Hidden Energy Zappers

Maybe your windows and doors are in working order but still a bit drafty. For chilly winter months, invest in heavier insulated or thermal curtains. Wood and honeycomb blinds also provide some insulation. Close the drapes or blinds at sunset to maintain warmth.

In the summer, curtains and blinds can also keep your house cooler. Keep them closed during the brightest part of the day. Replace old window and door weatherstripping and caulk obvious gaps.

Make sure to unplug electronics when not in use. The DOE calls these "energy vampires" and they can really add to your utility bill.

Cut Down on Energy Use

While these tips can snip away at your energy use and result in significant savings, you may be ready for a more radical approach: rooftop solar panels. Depending on where you live, your annual electricity bill could drop dramatically if you switch to solar.

However, it's true that solar panels can be a big up-front expense. According to Solar Power Authority, the average cost of a solar power system comes in around $25,000 to $35,000. Check to see if you're eligible for incentives or subsidies. There's currently a federal tax credit of up to 30 percent on primary residences and second homes, running until December 31, 2019.

Solar panels aren't the only high-tech option that could generate savings. For a more affordable option, try a programmable thermostat. Set it to lower the temperature when you're not home or at night, when you're soundly asleep under the covers, and you could shave 15 percent off your utility bill. Don't forget your water bill: Think about installing low-flow toilets, faucets and shower heads.

From making small adjustments to springing for major upgrades, there are many ways to make your home more energy efficient. While the upfront costs may give you sticker shock, the long-term savings will only make you smile.

This information and recommendations contained herein is compiled from sources deemed reliable, but is not represented to be accurate or complete. In providing this information, neither KeyBank nor its affiliates are acting as your agent or is offering any tax, accounting, or legal advice.

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