Heating and cooling account for almost 50 percent of the energy use in a typical American home, according to the U.S. Department of Energy. Here are 10 tips for reducing your energy spending, ranging from several steps that won't cost you a thing, to inexpensive measures, to larger investments that will help you reap big savings.

1. Set your thermostat to 68 degrees. You can save as much as 10 percent a year on heating and cooling by lowering your thermostat by seven to 10 degrees from its usual setting for eight hours a day.

2. Set your water heater to 120 degrees. Water heating is the second largest energy expense in your home. There are four ways to cut your water heating bills: use less hot water, turn down the thermostat on your water heater, insulate your water heater, or buy a new, more efficient model.

3. Open the shades on south-facing windows to let warm sunlight in. Consider closing window coverings in rooms that receive no direct sunlight to insulate from cold window drafts. At night, close window coverings to retain heat.

4. Replace your furnace or heat pump filter regularly. Dirty filters reduce airflow, making your equipment work harder and use more energy. Replace your furnace filter monthly during the heating season (unless it is a high-efficiency filter designed to last several months).

5. Install a programmable thermostat. For a small investment, you can buy a thermostat that adjusts your home's temperature settings automatically when you're sleeping or away.

6. Switch to CFL or LED light bulbs. They cost a little more, but you can save at least $50 over the life of just one bulb.

7. Weatherize your home. A handy homeowner can seal up holes to the outside by weather-stripping doors and sealing windows and gaps along the home's foundation, saving up to 10 percent on heating and cooling.

8. Insulate your home. Is your attic insulated? What about your walls and crawl spaces? Properly installed insulation and weatherization can save up to 20 percent of heating and cooling costs for an average home.

9. Purchase Energy Star appliances. Appliances account for nearly 20 percent of the average household's energy use. Energy Star qualified appliances use less energy and less water compared to standard appliances.

10. Schedule a Standard Home Energy Audit. For $60, a contracted energy expert will identify energy waste and help you develop a plan of action. (What you choose to implement is up to you.) For more information about rebates, efficiency programs and additional tips, visit Xcel Energy's www.responsi blebynature.com.

Source: Xcel Energy