CHICAGO (CBS) — It’s getting colder outside and you know what that means: more expensive utility bills, making it even harder for millions of people to “Survive This Economy.”

But there are simple changes you can make around your home that can help you and families like the Wrights save money.

The suburban couple has four kids, so their TVs, computers and appliances are working overtime.

CBS 2’s Dorothy Tucker visited the Wrights’ home with an “energy doctor,” whose prescription for the Wrights is painless and will save them hundreds of dollars.

With three children at home the Wrights use a lot of energy, paying about $100 a month to ComEd.

To help reduce that bill CBS 2 called on ComEd’s “Energy Doctor,” Mary Freestone.

Using a “Kill A Watt” meter, which anyone can check out from the library, you can tell how much energy your appliances are using by plugging the appliance into the meter.

The Wrights’ fax machine uses just 4 watts, but freestone still suggested unplugging it.

“You figure you use it for an hour a day or hour a week. That’s a lot of time that it’s just sitting there using energy. So that’s an easy way to save.

You’ll only save a few pennies by unplugging most small appliances, but when the Wrights leave their computer on, it’s sucking up 75 watts. Turn it off or put it to ‘sleep’ for 16 hours at night and they’ll save $4 a month.

The Wrights can also save energy and money by making sure big appliances like the refrigerator are working properly.

She suggested closing a dollar bill in between the refrigerator door’s rubber seal and the refrigerator itself, then tugging the bill to see if there’s any resistance.

If the bill slides right out, you need to replace the seal, because cold air is leaking out of your fridge.

Freestone also suggested cleaning the coils off the back of your fridge, so that it won’t work as hard and use less energy.

You should also remove any ice that builds up on the walls of your freezer.

“That can get in the way of the seal … which is going to make this freezer need to turn on more frequently, which is going to use more energy.”

You also should turn lights off when they’re not being used, which can save the Wrights can another $10 a month.

Turning down the thermostat about eight degrees at night reduces the family’s energy usage by 10 percent and saves $10 more a month.
So, if the Wrights are diligent, they could save about $24 a month just by changes in their habits and becoming more energy conscious.

They’ve already saved $137 dollars by taking the advice of a credit card expert.

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