Being earth conscience may not be at the top of everyone's priority list during today's tough economic times. After all, many of us are struggling just to pay the bills and cope with the rising cost of groceries. There are a few projects around the house to help save money and the planet during these times.

Replacing your existing incandescent light bulbs with "CFL" or compact fluorescent bulbs in an easy way to save on your electric bill. An 18-watt CFL bulb provides as much light as a 75-watt standard light bulb. Average savings: $10-$50 per year. They screw in just like standard bulbs, but use one-fourth of the energy and last up to 10 times longer.

Did you know a constantly running toilet can use up to 8,000 gallons of water each year? Fix the problem by installing a toilet repair kit that features a new valve, flapper and other devices that will conserve water. Average savings: $25-$100 per year.

Aside from causing that annoying "drip", leaky faucets can also cause a spike in your water bill. Replacing the faucet seats and rubber washers will cost you pennies yet save you dollars in the long run. As for the showerhead, consider installing a flow-restricting model. A family of four can conserve 21,000 gallons of water per year going this route. Average savings: $100-$200 per year (if you are not on a private well).

Your water heater may be working harder than it needs to, costing you precious dollars. Reduce the temperature on the unit to about 120 degrees. If the unit is older than 12 years, you may want to look into replacing it with a new, more energy-efficient model. Average savings: $20-$50 per year.

Installing a programmable thermostat can significantly reduce energy costs, especially in the winter and summer months. Programmable models allow you to automatically adjust the temperature throughout the day, creating a specific energy-saving program for weekdays and weekends. Some models even allow you to set preferences on the hour for each day of the week. Average savings: $125-$350 per year and up.

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