While we certainly need a saner, smarter federal energy policy (and hopefully we will get one in this government cycle), you can start slashing those energy bills today. Energy conservation is mostly common sense, yes, but sometimes we can all use a few reminders. These 7 tips will help you get started; once you give it a little thought, we’re sure you’ll find even more ways to $ave.

Turn Off Unneeded Lights – Your dear old Dad wasn’t just being stingy, he was trying to teach you to save energy and money back when he fussed at you for leaving lights on after you left the room.

Lighting is responsible for about 11 percent of a home’s energy bills. By turning off lights you don’t need, you’ll begin saving right away, and will extend the lifetime of all those bulbs.

Switch Out Your Lighting – CFLs (compact fluorescent light bulbs) are well known for substantial energy savings (they use about 75% less energy than standard incandescents), plus they last much longer. These days, you can get CFLs in many different shapes and sizes, including ones that work with all your lamp shades!

You aren’t stuck with that now-iconic swirly shape, unless you want to be. Do remember to dispose of them carefully, but don’t over worry about the small amount of mercury they contain.

Install Motion Sensors – Install motion sensors on lights in your home, which turn on only when movement is detected and turn off automatically.

These work particularly well for outdoor lamps, which can also boost security. Leaving lighting on all night can be disruptive to wildlife, especially when it comes to flood lights.

So save electricity and money (and reduce the chance of getting shocked) by installing sensors. Isn’t that smart?

Turn OFF Your Computer at Night – Many of us spend so much time on our computers, and check e-mail and other services so frequently that we never turn the things off.

It may occasionally take you a few more seconds to get to work, but you’ll save energy and money if you turn your computer off at the end of each day. It will also reduce wear and tear on your hardware, extending its life. According to the Department of Energy you’ll save an average of $90 of electricity a year.

The agency recommends shutting off your monitor if you aren’t going to use it for more than 20 minutes, and the whole system if you’re not going to use it for more than two hours. (It is true that very frequent cycling of the power switch can result in added wear.)

Use a Laptop Instead of a Desktop – If you have the choice between powering up your desktop or a laptop, choose the latter. Also, when it’s time to upgrade to a new computer, think laptop.

Laptop computers draw only 15 to 25 watts during regular use, as compared to the 150 watts used by a conventional desktop computer and monitor. Plus, laptops also draw just a fraction of a watt when in sleep mode.

Get An Energy Monitor – Get a close handle on your home energy use with an advanced energy monitoring device.

One good example is The Energy Detective (TED), which starts at $139. TED is a small display that indicates household electrical usage in real time and projects your monthly bill — all without using batteries. Research has found that real-time energy feedback leads consumers to reduce their electricity consumption. According to the company you’ll save 15 – 20% on each bill, which would amount to hundreds of dollars a year.

It’s really quite simple: If you can measure it, you can manage it. You can make small adjustments through the day and see how the savings add up

Get An Energy Audit – Now that you’ve been making some small changes around the house to save energy, you may want to consider a home energy audit. Many people think of them only when it starts getting cold, and heating season begins. But summer cooling is also one of our largest energy users.

An energy audit will help you determine exactly how much juice you are using, and will identify ways you can reduce it, through better insulation and other techniques. Hire a pro!