April 22 is Earth Day and we’re spotlighting ways to help the planet. One is to reduce energy use, which both saves money and improves your Ecological Footprint - the measure of how much of Earth’s biological capacity is consumed by human activities.

Many of these tips from the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) and EPA are easy to implement but quickly add up to big energy savings. Involve your whole family in the hunt for energy wasters. The EPA’s ENERGY STAR® Kids program offers a fun way for youngsters to play along.

1. Seal air leaks. The average home has a lot of air leaks, the equivalent of leaving a medium-size window open 24 hours a day all year long! You can, on average, save 10-20 percent a year on heating and cooling by finding and sealing leaks. Either hire a professional or do your own home energy audit.

2. Install a smart or programmable thermostat - and adjust it to save energy. Save as much as 10 percent per year on heating and cooling by turning your thermostat down 7-10 degrees F for eight hours a day in the fall/winter and turning it up in the spring/summer.

3. Install ceiling fans. Using ceiling fans can help you set the thermostat in summer about 4 degrees F higher without feeling warmer.

4. When upgrading a heating/cooling system, choose ENERGY STAR® certified products, which can reduce energy use by 20 percent. In the meantime, keep up on all manufacturer-recommended maintenance on your heating and cooling unit/s, including the filters.

5. Plant shade trees. Done right, this can reduce cooling costs by 15-25 percent. Planting trees is an activity the entire family can enjoy.

6. Lower your water usage, which translates into lower water-heating (i.e. electricity) costs. Use less hot water; turn down the thermostat on your water heater to 120 degrees F; insulate your water heater and pipes; or buy a new, more efficient model.

7. Focus on lighting. You’ve probably already upgraded to CFLs or LED light bulbs, now focus on your light fixtures (the lamp/light). ENERGY STAR certified light fixtures use 70–90 percent less energy than other fixtures, according to the EPA, and replacing your home’s five most frequently used light fixtures with ENERGY STAR certified ones can save $45 a year.

8. Use a power strip to turn off electronic equipment when not in use to save up to 12 percent on your electric bill a year, an average of $100. You can have your kids help calculate how much electricity your appliances use if you want to turn this into a fun educational game.

9. Reduce washer and dryer energy use. Hang up clothes whenever possible instead of using the dryer, which eliminates dryer energy costs. Wash in warm or cold water to save up to 90 percent of energy used for washing. If your washer and dryer are more than 10 years old, consider upgrading to an ENERGY STAR certified product because these use about 20 percent less energy than conventional ones – and 70 percent less than conventional ones made before 1990.

10. Lower refrigeration costs. Save money by setting your refrigerator to the optimal temperature according to the manufacturer’s instructions - and if you have a second fridge/deep freeze, evaluate whether you need it; powering these appliances can cost $1 per day, according to Spark Energy, an electricity and natural gas supplier. Also, upgrade a fridge that’s more than 10 years old with an ENERGY STAR certified version, which can save $270 in electricity over five years. Be sure to recycle any old appliances.

11. If you replace your roof, research “cool roofs.” Whereas a standard roof in a warm/hot climate can reach temperatures of 150F in summer, cool roofs, which reflect sunlight, can lower the roof temp by 50F, saving energy. DOE’s Cool Roof Calculator can help you calculate your family’s savings.

12. Consider rooftop solar. These arrays can produce more electricity than your family consumes, significantly reducing your Ecological Footprint. This electricity will then be sold back to the utility, providing other consumers with clean, renewable energy too.

Implementing these steps adds up. The DOE estimates that we as a nation can reduce our energy use by 20 percent simply by eliminating wasted energy. Now that you’ve tackled some big energy wasters, help the planet with these additional tips.