WITH UTILITY bills at an all time high, Mid-South farm families are looking for ways to cut costs. But when you have lost part or all of your income due to ice storms, a plant closing, timber losses or decreased farm prices, saving on gas and electric bills becomes more important.

Here are common sense suggestions from experts with the Cooperative Extension Service, University of Arkansas, that can help:

  • Lower your thermostat setting to the lowest comfortable level, about 68 degrees in winter, 72 degrees or higher in the summer. For every degree you lower the thermostat, you can save up to 5 percent on your heating bill.
  • Clean or replace air filters about once a month for more efficient operation. Turn off lights when not in use.
  • Turn on the hot water faucet only when hot water is needed and turn off hot water immediately after use. Repair leaky faucets. One drip a second can waste 1,500 gallons a year.
  • Set the water heater at 120 degrees if you do not use a dishwasher. Use water no hotter than necessary. Operate the dishwasher with full loads of dishes. Allow dishes to air dry by turning off the control knob of the dishwasher, and open the door after the final rinse.
  • When doing laundry, wash and dry full loads of laundry. Clean the filter in the washer and dryer after use. Use water no hotter than necessary to remove soil and for sanitation, and use a shorter wash cycle for less dirty loads. Rinse clothes in cold water. Don't over dry clothes. If possible, line dry clothing.
  • When cooking, plan to use the oven for complete meals. Don't heat the oven for only one item. Use timers to cut cooking time and open the oven door only when necessary during the cooking period.
  • If you have them, use portable appliances such as toaster ovens and electric skillets. Begin cooking foods on high heat, then reduce the heat to the lowest possible setting for cooking. If you have an electric range, turn off burners before the item is finished cooking and allow residual heat to complete the cooking process.
  • Make energy conservation a family affair. Sit down as a family and discuss ways you can reduce energy consumption at home.