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3 small changes that can make a big difference in your utility bill

Saving money at home isn't hard, it just takes a plan and a bit of discipline. These three tips can help you save hundreds on your energy bills over a year's time.

CHARLOTTE, N.C. — With so much uncertainty in the economy due to the COVID-19 pandemic, everyone is looking for ways to save money. 

Yes, it can start with energy savings at home. Sometimes, a small savings by doing little things can add up over time to make a difference. 

To make it easy, here are three things you can do at home to make your energy bill cheaper. 

"I am all about saving a buck where I can," said homeowner Brad Thomas. "I am kind of an energy hoarder, I guess."

Thomas said he had an energy audit done a few months and ago and it revealed a lot of places he can cut corners and save. First, he discovered he was losing money around his plugs, switches and outlets. The uninsulated plugs and switches were drafty. Cheap fixes like insulated foam inserts are available at almost any store and they're usually dirt cheap. We're talking less than a dollar. 

Thomas also said he's even planning on an attic tent to keep the heat and air conditioning trapped in the home. After all, he's paying for it.

Next, set your water heater to 120 degrees. Hot water is one of the biggest drains in your house, from multiple showers, to laundry to the dishwasher. According to the U.S. Department of Energy, the average house spends nearly $600 a year just heating water. It represents the second-largest expense in your home, taking up as much as 18% of your utility bill. 

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Third, grab your budget with gusto! Technology makes it easier with mid-cycle budget alerts. You set the budget and receive an alert letting you know if you're over or under. You can even check it any time. 

Most power companies do this, too. It's a great way to not be surprised by a huge bill and remember, "your heating and cooling systems represent half of your energy bill," added Meghan Miles, a spokesperson for Duke Energy.

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If you want to take it a step further, get a low-flow showerhead that is recommended by the Environmental Protection Agency. The EPA estimates that you’ll save 2,700 gallons of water a year by making that change.