I think, sometimes, that if science had been taught differently when I was in school I would have been fascinated by it. Math, too, for that matter.
Kill A Watt, it's a nifty little device you plug into the wall and then plug any electric device into to find out how much energy said appliance is pulling. If you leave it there for several hours, it will give you an average pull, allowing you to extrapolate how much it costs to run a given appliance per day, month, year, etc.
That information, of course, allows you to make smart choices about what to replace and when. For example, we plugged in the monstrous fridge that came with our house and found out that it would be in our best interest to replace it sooner rather than later! On the other hand, our equally ancient chest freezer is barely pulling anything so there's no point in replacing it until it dies a natural death.
When we were apartment dwellers, there was depressingly little we could do about our electric bills. The best we could hope for was to plastic the windows over in the winter and set the thermostat to the most restrained temperatures feasible.
Now that's we're homeowners, we're turning keen eyes to a push for efficiency in our home. Because really, who doesn't like efficiency? It's green, it's responsible, and in the long run it frees up time and money for other projects. Did you know that it's more cost effective and financially smart to put up to $100,000 into improvements on your property than to invest a penny in the stock market?
I'll be honest and say that number blew my mind. It also gave me fresh motivation to dig into an exploration of what is available to us and a good use of our efforts. Summer is an ideal time to evaluate and increase the energy-smartness of your home/property. The warm (and hopefully dry) weather allows outside projects and spillover space for messy indoor projects. It's a particularly good time to tackle winter preparations (like insulating walls or fireplace cleaning/ repairs) since most of the world won't start thinking about them until fall at which point the waiting lists abruptly get long and more expensive.
If you don't already have some efficiency-improving projects on your summer list, might I encourage you to pick at least one to try for? Even simple steps can make a big difference!
Where you have seen the biggest bang for your buck in home efficiency improvements?