Spend less on hot water

Closeup of dollar bill

Heating and cooling your home accounts for most of the energy you use.

But hot water heaters are running up your gas and electric bills, too.

That's why we've come up with 3 smart moves that will cut your utility costs without sacrificing comfort or convenience.

Smart move 1. Lower the thermostat. For each 10-degree Fahrenheit reduction in water temperature, you can save between 3% and 5% in energy costs. Although some manufacturers set water heater thermostats at 140 degrees Fahrenheit, most households usually need their water heated only to about 120 degrees.

Reducing the water temperature also will slow down mineral buildup and corrosion in your water heater and pipes, helping your water heater to last longer and operate at its maximum efficiency.

Smart move 2. Insulate your hot water heater. Special water heater blankets or jackets are available at most hardware stores for less than $20.

Limiting heat loss is especially important if the heater sits in an unheated garage or basement. Then set the thermostat to no more than 120 to 130 degrees.

Smart move 3. Stop washing clothes in hot, or even warm, water. "There's no reason to spend money heating water for the wash when you can get clothes just as clean washing them in cold water," says Leah Ingram, eco expert and blogger behind "The Lean Green Family."

The savings will be significant, because 90% of the energy that goes into washing clothes is used to heat the water.

Want to cut your utility bills even more?