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Unplug appliances when they're not in use.
Unplug appliances when they're not in use. / Jess Kugler/Getty Images

It pays to know the major energy thieves — and stop them from doing their mischief.

HVAC.

Heating, venting and air conditioning can add as much as 20% to annual energy costs. Causes of waste include dirty duct work, furnaces with an inappropriate gas-to-air ratio, and blocked or dirty air conditioning condenser units. “Have duct work cleaned annually. Also, professional servicing helps ensure heaters and air conditioners are clean,” says Dimitris Kapsis of American Utility Management, an energy consulting company.

Hot-water heaters.

Settings above 120 degrees are wasteful — and dangerous. Ten degrees lower can save as much as 5% on your hot-water bill. Insulated pipes keep water warmer longer.

Lighting.

Conventional light bulbs are monumental energy burners. Using condensed fluorescent bulbs or light-emitting diode (LED) bulbs can trim lighting costs up to 80%, Kapsis says.

"Vampires."

These are devices that use electricity even when they’re off. Unplug cable boxes (a major culprit), TVs, computers and other appliances when they’re not in use — particularly when you’re away from home for an extended time.

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