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5 Ways to Save Money and the Earth Year-Round

NEW YORK (TheStreet) -- Mother Nature doesn't care about Earth Day -- at least, any more than any other day of the year. Every day is Earth Day in her book, and every day should be a day global citizens treat the rivers, forests, plains, deserts, oceans and mountains with reverence and respect.

So now that Earth Day is over, there's no reason to shelve it for another 364 days.

In fact, for homeowners, Mother Nature offers plenty of opportunities to go easy on the environment and take steps to "green up" your home in an affordable, safe and environmentally conscious manner whether it's Earth Day or not.

Choose Energy, a San Francisco online energy marketplace for businesses and residents offers a few strategies designed to "save energy and save money" for Americans who either own a home or are buying or renovating one.

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"As the economy and real estate market continue to improve, Americans are once again purchasing or building new properties and/or renovating their existing homes," Choose Energy says in a report this week. "This is the ideal time to pay attention to a home's energy efficiency and make energy-saving changes where possible. Not only can consumers save electricity and natural gas, they can also realize significant cost savings."

Use "smart" appliances. Citizens advises homeowners and buyers to keep a close eye on major household appliances such as refrigerators and washing machines. By installing energy-efficient appliances, homeowners can save up to 50% instead of using older appliances. "Consumers should look for the Energy Star certification -- a US (EPA) program that helps businesses and individuals save money and protect the climate through superior energy efficiency," the group says. "Durable, energy efficient products also require less maintenance and will increase the resale value of a home."

Shop around for energy rates. Don't settle for the first offer you get from a utility company, especially the entrenched, major energy providers who tend to dominate local markets. Instead, aim to save 25% by shopping around for renewable energy plans in your state. Note that you need to live in a state that has deregulated its energy industry, but if you live in high population states such as Texas, New York, Connecticut, Illinois, Pennsylvania, New Jersey, Maine, Maryland or Massachusetts, for example, you should be able to shop around for a better utilities deal.

Plan ahead, but creatively. The way you build and design your home can have a big impact on your energy bills. Explore space planning and intelligent design to maximize heating and cooling in your home.

Don't hesitate to insulate. To provide optimal heat, cooling and water to your home in an environmentally friendly way, investigate energy-saving strategies such as solar panels and energy-efficient double-pane windows. Also, make sure to seal all window sills and doorways. Upstairs, insulate the attic to further cut energy costs.

Also, sign up for smart meters and thermostats in your area. most energy providers offer them. They can track your utility usage and manage it for maximum savings. In addition, change filters in your heating and cooling unit every 90 days -- dirty filters are a big energy waster, Citizens says.

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