I have spent the last few months researching energy saving ideas. As part of my research, I have interviewed energy experts and done extensive online research. There are lots of simple energy saving tips that I would strongly recommend to you. They can all help you save money while making our community "greener."

Firstly, I would recommend you get an energy audit. Connecticut Light and Power charges $75 to do an energy audit. During an audit, the auditors will come to your home and measure how efficient your house is, fix some air leaks, change some light bulbs and things like that. They will then make recommendations on what can be done to get even bigger savings. Dollar for dollar, the Connecticut Home Energy Audit program is the best investment that can be made.

Secondly, you should replace your incandescent bulbs with compact fluorescent bulbs. Compact fluorescents use roughly one-quarter of the electricity than an incandescent bulb. They both give off they same amount of light. The rated lifetime of most compact fluorescent bulbs is 10,000 hours. In contrast, incandescent bulbs are rated to last from 800 to 1,000 hours. It would take 10 or more incandescent bulbs to match the life of one compact fluorescent. If a Westport household used 12 incandescent bulbs for 1,000 hours per year, and they converted their 12 incandescent bulbs to compact fluorescent bulbs they would save $52.80 per year. The incandescent bulbs would need to be replaced after one year but the compact fluorescent bulbs can last ten years so you would save a grand amount of $690 over 10 years You would also save 540 kWh of electricity every year if you convert your incandescent bulbs to compact fluorescent bulbs. This would reduce the carbon dioxide produced by electric power plants which would make the environment cleaner, slow down ozone depletion, and global warming.

Thirdly, you should buy an Energy Star laptop or desktop computer when replacing an old one. If possible, you should consider using a laptop instead of a desktop. If you converted your desktop computer to a laptop, you would save $57.81 per year and 481.8 kWh per year. A computer that is on a screen saver uses the same amount of power as a computer in use (around 60 to 250 watts per hour). The advantage of putting your computer on sleep or standby mode is that it uses almost no electricity (around 1 to 6 watts per hour). This is much less than a computer on screen saver.

Fourthly, when your existing appliances wear out try to replace them with an Energy Star appliance. There are also some simple tips to save your appliances energy including waiting for a full load to use the dryer, minimizing the amount of time the refrigerator door is open, running your dishwasher with a full load, and washing your clothes using cold water.

Finally, please try to follow simple energy saving measures including turning off your computer at night and turning off lights when you leave a room. There are additional energy savings methods you might consider including installing solar panels, geo-thermal systems or even co-generation systems. However, all of these involve a significant investment and might not be suitable for all families.

Arun Soni is a sixth grader at Bedford Middle School.