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Knock $4,000 off your utility bill

Invest $1,500 in insulation and maintenance and get over twice that in energy savings the first year.

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Wrap your water heater
Cost: $40
Payback: $100 a year

Drape a water-heater blanket - really nothing more than an overcoat - around your tank to keep heat from leaking away.

Also, wrap pipe insulation around the first five feet of both the hot-water outlet pipe and the cold-water pipe leading into the tank. You can find the stuff at any hardware or plumbing-supply store.

Taking these measures will knock as much as 15% off the unit's operating costs.

NEXT: Call for service

Last updated June 18 2009: 12:58 PM ET
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