Here's a startling fact: The average American family spends more than $1,600 a year on home utility bills. What's more, by using electricity generated from fossil fuels, a single home emits more carbon dioxide annually than two average-sized cars.

With the costs of natural gas and electricity to heat and cool your home skyrocketing, reducing your spending seems nearly impossible these days. Fortunately, there are ways to save money—and even help save the environment, in the process, by using less energy at home. Here, five easy tips to lower your energy bills.

1. Unplug all appliances when they're not in use.

or plug them all into a power strip that you can switch off. Light displays and other instant features consume 60 to 80 percent of the electricity used by electronics such as televisions and DVD players. And whether a device is charging or not, if it's plugged in, it's sucking up electricity. So, if you're not using your computer, put it in sleep mode, which consumes 60 to 80 percent less energy than full-power mode. Or better yet, unplug it. The energy lost on appliances that are turned off but plugged in (known sometimes as "vampire energy loss") represents between 5 and 8 percent of a single family home's total electricity use per year, according to the Department of Energy. That's equivalent to an average month's electricity bill.

On a national scale, this accumulates to a minimum of 68 billion kilowatt-hours of electricity yearly, which is equivalent to the productivity of 37 electricity-generating power plants—costing consumers more than $7 billion. All of this wasted energy emits more than 97 billion pounds of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere. According to Alan Meier of the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory, this accounts for 1 percent of the world's carbon emissions.

2. Stay cool.

In the winter, set your thermostat a little lower than usual. Try dropping it a degree or two every week so that you grow used to the temperature. Do the opposite for the summer time. You'll be amazed at the savings after just a few weeks. At night, try turning your thermostat down 5 to 10 degrees--which may even help you sleep--and turn it back to a comfortable temperature in the morning. If you're leaving the house, don't forget to turn down the thermostat. If you go away for a few days, you can safely lower the thermostat to 55 degrees Fahrenheit to reduce spending.

3. Switch the bulbs.

By replacing traditional bulbs with compact fluorescent bulbs, you can save money and conserve energy. In fact, according to the Alliance to Save Energy, by replacing only four 75-watt incandescent bulbs that burn four or more hours a day in your home with four 23-watt fluorescent bulbs, you can get just as much light--while saving more than 2,000 kilowatt-hours (kWh) of electricity and $190 over the 10,000-hour life of the bulbs. Now, imagine if all the houses in the America were to do that. The amount of energy that could be saved if equal to the amount consumed by 38 million cars annually.

4. Stop the waterworks.

Next time you brush your teeth, turn off the tap water. In addition, try to take short showers instead of long baths. When you use the dishwasher, air dry your dishes instead of using the drying cycle. Also, consider using both the dishwasher and washing machine only on full loads of dishes and clothes. And if you have a leaky faucet, try to get it fixed right away. According to the Environmental Protection Agency states, leaky faucets that drip at the rate of one drip per second can waste more than 3,000 gallons of water a year.

5. Don't let your energy and money flow out the window.

Your energy might be literally leaking from your home, so make sure that it's properly insulated. According to the Alliance to Save Energy, proper insulation for your climate can not only increase your comfort and make your home quieter, but it can also reduce your heating and cooling costs up to 20 percent. Be sure to check all windows and floors, as well as the attic and crawl space.