EAST PROVIDENCE, R.I. (WPRI) — When the cold, winter months arrive, Southern New Englanders crank the thermostat and watch their energy bills rise. 

The average Rhode Island family’s monthly energy costs are $302, according to WalletHub. It’s $315 in Massachusetts. The figures include electricity, natural gas, home heating oil, and motor fuel. 

Jan. 10 has been designated “National Cut Your Energy Costs Day,” so Call For Action compiled a list of seven ways consumers can save energy and money:

  • Use a programmable thermostat — Many consumers commute and leave the house for long stretches of the day. You can save on heating and cooling costs if you program your thermostat to lower its temperature in the winter months and raise it during the summer months when you are not at home.
  • Update your light bulbs — Traditional incandescent bulbs waste a lot of energy producing heat instead of light. Newer CFL (compact fluorescent lamp) and LED (light emitting diode) bulbs produce the same amount of light while using 25-80% less energy. They also last between three and 25 times longer! That means that even though these bulbs cost more to purchase, they can more than pay for themselves through energy savings and durability.
  • Update your appliances – Household appliances like refrigerators, washers, and dryers use a lot of electricity. If yours are old, consider replacing them with newer, Energy Star certified appliances. Newer models can offer substantial energy savings, offsetting their cost. Keeping your appliances clean (such as dusting or vacuuming your refrigerator coils) and well-maintained can also save energy.
  • Consider unplugging – Many household items drain power from an electrical outlet, even when they’re turned off. Plugging electronic devices into a power strip and switching the strip off when you aren’t using them can help reduce unnecessary power drain.
  • Consider water heating costs – You can use a lot of energy just keeping water heated in your home. Add insulation to your water heater and pipes to save heat and install water-saver shower heads or flow restrictors. These can save you a lot of money on hot water. When going out of town consider turning back the temperature dial on your water heater. No point in keeping it ready for a hot shower when no will be home for days.
  • Insulate and weatherize your home – Consider upgrading your doors and windows to save energy. Check window and door seams for drafts. If they are leaking air, caulk the seams or add weather stripping to reduce the leaks. Close off rooms you don’t use often so that you’re only heating and cooling the rooms where you spend the most time.
  • Contact your utility company – It’s in your electric company’s best interests to have your home be energy efficient, as this reduces stress on the electrical grid. Your utility provider will often provide energy tips. Some will even provide free energy checkups, with discounted or free energy saving devices (such as light bulbs, pipe insulation, and water saving devices for your shower and sink).

The Department of Energy also has energy saving tips here

Susan Campbell (scampbell@wpri.com) is the Call 12 for Action and Target 12 consumer investigator for WPRI 12 and Fox Providence. Follow her on Twitter and on Facebook.