Kim Komando, Special for USA TODAY
The leaves are starting to curl, there's a chill in the air and pumpkin-flavored treats are everywhere. That's right folks: It's fall.
Of course, when fall arrives, winter can't be too far behind. And when temperatures start to drop, you can bet your monthly electric bill will start to climb.
No need to panic, though. You can save money without giving up the comforts of a warm and toasty home. I have some tips to keep your electric bills under control this winter - or any other season.
1. KEEP VAMPIRE ELECTRONICS UNDER CONTROL
You probably already know about easy winter fixes like sealing gaps around doors and windows to prevent precious heat from escaping. But did you know your home is filled with dozens of other energy-draining culprits? I call these foes vampire electronics.
TVs, computers and other gadgets are guilty of sucking lots of energy day and night, even when you're not using them. The EPA estimates that these idle gadgets burn through more than 100 billion kilowatt hours of electricity nationwide each year. That's about $10 billion worth of energy.
The easiest way to stop vampire electronics from driving up your electric bill is to unplug them when they're not in use. Of course, sometimes it's hard to give up the convenience of having your gadgets plugged in and ready to go at a moment's notice.
If that's the case, many companies sell affordable power switches that you can plug into wall outlets. The power switches let you control the power to any outlet with a simple flick of a switch. Use these switches on countertop appliances like your coffeemaker and watch savings add up.
Another great option is adapters with built-in timers. If you plan to use space heaters or put up holiday lights this winter, using a built-in timer can shave dollars and cents off your winter electric bill. Timers also offer peace of mind on those hectic days when you can't remember if you turned off your gadgets before leaving the house.
Big-ticket items like your TV and computer are the biggest energy-suckers. Use a smart power strip or surge suppressor for these gadgets. Smart power strips will shut down a power outlet when it senses your gadgets have gone into standby mode.
And did you know that putting your desktop computer in Sleep Mode and Hibernate can save almost as much energy as unplugging it?
Not sure what gadgets are draining the most energy? You can also buy electricity usage monitors that will pinpoint exactly which appliances and electronics are the biggest winter energy culprits.
2. LIMIT USAGE IN 'PEAK HOURS'
You can save money on your electric bill simply by changing the time of day you run the oven, do laundry or run the heater. That's because power companies change electric costs based on the time of day. It can cost 30 to 60 percent more to operate your electronics during peak hours of energy usage.
Peak hours are usually between 6 to 10 a.m. and 3 to 9 p.m. Weekends and holidays tend to be "off-peak." Every company defines peak hours a little bit different, so make sure to check with your provider for exact times.
Doing chores during off-peak hours is a simple way to lower your electric bill. So, save the laundry for the weekend, and turn the heater back a few notches during peak evening hours.
3. SAVE WITH ENERGY-FRIENDLY GADGETS
Energy-saving gadgets like Energy Star appliances can save you serious money in the long run. Did you know these gadgets might score you savings with your power company too?
You might qualify for rebates for purchasing energy-efficient appliances. Even switching to compact fluorescent bulbs or LED bulbs can count. Rebate eligibility will vary depending on your company, but it never hurts to ask.
If you're interested in buying energy-efficient appliances for your home, the Department of Energy has tons of tips about the latest in energy-saving gadgets.
Now that you know how to save money on your electric bill this winter, throw some kindling in the fireplace and kick back with a cup of pumpkin-flavored coffee!
Kim Komando hosts the nation's largest talk radio show about consumer electronics, computers and the Internet. To get the podcast, watch the show or find the station nearest you, visit www.komando.com. E-mail her at firstname.lastname@example.org.