(Editor's note: This is the second in a three-part series about energy efficiency in recognition of Earth Day, celebrated April 22.)

FORT RUCKER, Ala. -- Going green not only means reducing wasted energy, but also keeping more money in people's pockets.

Post and national leaders encourage individuals to conserve energy usage at home and in their vehicles.

There are many simple steps people can take to begin the path to savings and a more environmentally friendly lifestyle, installation officials said.

Replacing older home thermostats with programmable electronic ones to regulate temperature significantly reduces heating and cooling bills, according to Michael Grubb, Directorate of Public Works energy and water conservation manager. He suggests setting air conditioners to 76 degrees when individuals are at home. Units should be programmed to about 82 degrees when residencies are unoccupied.

Window coverings are also important, he said. Home owners should install shades or blinds and keep them closed on all south-facing windows during sweltering summer months. East-facing windows should also remain covered in the mornings and west-facing ones in the afternoons to maintain cooler indoor temperatures.

Additionally, conserving water is critical to minimizing environmental footprints and lowering bills, Grubb said. People should reduce outdoor irrigation, and consider watering lawns and flowers early in the morning before substantial evaporation begins. Residents should contemplate purchasing low-flow shower heads and more efficient kitchen and bathroom sink aerators.

If helping the planet isn't enough motivation, the long-term return on these initial investments positively impacts people's budgets, Grubb noted.

"I'm cost-driven. (My) philosophy is the utilities are there to support the individual, and the less money you can spend on those utilities and consuming energy, the more money there is available for other items," he said.

To continue pinching pennies, people can conduct easy, do-it-yourself home energy audits to find and correct inefficiencies, according to U.S. Department of Energy information at www.energysavers.gov.

Begin by inspecting for air leaks around floor baseboards, wall and ceiling intersections, window frames, pipes and fireplace dampers. Seal any open areas with caulking or weather stripping.

Next, ensure ample insulation is present, especially in attics and around water heaters, hot water pipes and furnace ducts, according to the site. Professionals may be required to check for sufficient wall insulation. People should also replace filters on heating and cooling units monthly.

Individuals aren't on their own in these efforts, however. Some post organizations want to help residents reduce waste, too.

Picerne Military Housing staff makes going green easy for residents here through building more efficient houses, offering a weekly recycling program and installing energy-saving compact fluorescent light bulbs throughout their houses, said Emily Natalio, Picerne communications specialist.

Residents in renovated Allen Heights and newly constructed Munson Heights homes participate in the Department of Defense Responsibility Program, causing them to become more aware of their electricity usage. Natalio said Picerne staff has noticed about a 10-percent savings since the program's implementation here last year.

Staff shares energy conservation tips with residents through monthly newsletters, newcomers' welcomes at The Landing, Picerne town halls and at www.ruckerpicerne.com, Natalio said.

Personal energy awareness and savings don't have to stay inside four walls, however. Proper vehicle use and conservation is critical to saving the environment and pocketbooks. Changing driving habits can also cause vehicles to last longer, saving even more funds.

Ensuring proper tire pressure, running vehicles at specified optimum operating temperatures, maintaining emission-related systems and tuning up cars on a regular basis are all important to keeping vehicles as environmentally-friendly as possible, said Tina Barber, Automotive Skills Center manager.

"I believe that we have done so much damage to this Earth, (that) anywhere and any place we can make it (better) for the Earth (helps) as well as saves money," she said.

Fort Rucker community members who enjoy maintaining their personal vehicles can use automotive center bays for $5 an hour, including tools and instruction, Barber said. Shop hours are Wednesdays-Fridays from 10:30 a.m. to 7:30 p.m., Saturdays from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. and Sundays from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Mechanics are available by appointment at 255-9725.