Today is Earth Day, and it's a great time to consider some environmentally friendly ways to save money.

The good news is, you don't have to choose between saving money and saving the planet because some easy steps go hand-in-hand toward meeting both goals.

Sure, there are plenty of costly and complicated ways to reduce your energy consumption and cut long-term costs for electricity, gas and water, but there are also simple measures that cost little or no money upfront.

As regular readers of this column know, I've been able to reduce the amount of electricity my household consumes for more than four years in a row, and I think reducing power and water consumption is a great money-saver because utility rates just keep on rising.

Cutting energy and water demand brings savings every month, and the amount saved increases as rates go up.

Here's a short list of quick improvements and steps that you could take this very day:

If your home has an old-fashioned thermostat, swap it out for a programmable model. You can set a programmable thermostat to turn down the air conditioning or heat during times when you're not home, and if you have more than one heating/cooling zone in your home, you can make adjustments based on when you occupy different areas.

A basic seven-day programmable thermostat costs about $40 at most hardware and home improvement stores, and anyone comfortable with basic home repairs such as changing out a light switch should be able to install one. If you replace an old thermostat containing mercury, be sure to dispose of it property.

When's the last time you changed the air filters on your heating and cooling system, and the filters in your car? Dirty air filters make machinery work harder and consume more energy.

Most HVAC filters should be replaced about every three months. Vehicles can typically go a few years between replacements (check your owner's manual) and filters are readily available at auto parts stores and easy to replace.

Your water heater at home should be set above 120 degrees to kill bacteria, but if it's set above 130 degrees, you're wasting energy and risking scalding. Check the setting.

Next, if you can't recall the last time you drained your water heater, it's probably time to do that. Sediments build up in water heaters, decreasing their efficiency. If you wait until the water is cool, you can use the drained water for plants.

And big savings can be had by using cold water for most laundry. Modern washing machines do a good job with cold water, and that reduces the energy demand for water heating.

If you have a home with an HVAC system, then you have a condensation pipe where water drips out when the air conditioner runs. I checked last summer, and the condensation from just one of my two HVAC units was about 10 gallons of water daily.

With a few pieces of cheap PVC pipe from the home improvement store, you can pipe that water to your garden, helping your plants while reducing your need to irrigate. You'll save water and money.

Indoors, if you have leaking toilet tanks — you can tell because the toilet will run from time to time to refill the tank as water leaks into the bowl — that's a cheap do-it-yourself repair to consider. Small leaks waste lots of water over time.

Ever ride a bicycle with underinflated tires and notice how you have to work harder to get somewhere? Cars work the same way.

Check the pressure on your vehicle's tires and make sure they are properly inflated. Doing so will bring better gas mileage as well as better road handling.

Another quick and inexpensive money-saving step involves checking the insulation around the doors and windows of your home. If you can feel air coming in or can see light between a door and frame, then you have an air leak that's increasing your heating and cooling costs. Some weather-stripping from the hardware store will fix that.

Sometimes, it's easy being green, and easy to put more green in your pocket.

Reach David Slade at 937-5552.