"Dirt and neglect are bad," Leonhart said. "Check and clean your air filters every month, and change them, at a minimum, every three months."
Other big energy hogs are unused appliances. Whether you're going on a summer vacation or not, unplug coffeemakers, toasters and hair dryers, or invest in power strips with energy-saving features.
"My computer charger was pulling a huge amount of energy," Olson said. "Unused appliances make up anywhere from 10 to 15 percent of your bill. It's not doing you any good to leave anything plugged in if you aren't using it."
Both Leonhart and Olson also stressed weatherizing your home. If it's drafty in the winter, Olson said, it's still going to be drafty in the summer, letting cool air escape unless cracks or doors are sealed properly. And be sure to seal up heating and cooling ducts where air tends to leak, Leonhart said. Olson suggested having a professional inspect your home's heating and cooling system and make the repairs. Exposed ducts in crawl spaces, basements and attics are often fixed with duct sealants or metal tapes.
"People don't understand their energy bills," Olson said. "A few simple tips can make an incredible amount of difference."
Steps to a smaller bill
Cost-saving suggestions from the EPA and the Potomac Electric Power Co. (Pepco):
- Plant shade trees strategically around your home. Properly selected and planted shade trees can save up to $80 annually on the average electric bill.
- Reduce the temperature of your water heater. Setting it too high (140 degrees or higher, according to Energy Star) can waste anywhere from $36 to $61 annually.
- If you raise your thermostat setting by only two degrees and use your ceiling fan, you can lower your cooling costs by up to 14 percent.