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AS SEEN IN USA TODAY’S MONEY SECTION, JUNE 8, 2005

Water heaters are one of the biggest hogs of energy use in the home. Keeping the thermostat set at 120 degrees Fahrenheit will usually be enough to clean clothes and dishes without scalding them, Callahan says.

Energy-efficient mortgages are also an option. If you're buying a new home or refinancing your existing one, you can borrow more on Federal Housing Administration-insured mortgages if you make improvements — such as replacing a furnace — to cut down on future energy use.

If your water heater is more than 10 years old, you might consider getting a new one, which is likely to use less energy, Prindle says.

The idea is that if you're able to reduce monthly utility bills, you can afford to pay more on your mortgage, says William Glavin of the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, which oversees the FHA.

u Don't wash sparse loads of clothes and dishes. Or forgo the dishwasher drying cycle in favor of air drying plates and utensils.

u Install low-flow shower heads and fix leaky faucets. The Energy Department estimates that when each person in a family of four showers for five minutes a day every day, the family will use 700 gallons of water a week. Installing a low- flow shower head could halve the water used.

Joe Cain, who lives in Waldorf, Md., could give out his own energy-saving tips. He's turned down his thermostat 2 degrees and installed motion sensors in the bathroom to turn off the light when no one's there.

Still, Cain's bracing for what he expects to be a 30% to 40% higher energy bill this winter. Rising energy prices, he says, are also affecting his family's life outside the home.

Consider buying Energy Star appliances. Products with this designation have met energy-efficiency guidelines from the Environmental Protection Agency and the Energy Department.

"We used to go out to dinner and stuff along those lines, but we've stopped that," he says. "These prices are killing us."

Reprinted with permission. All rights reserved.

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