7. Create a rain garden

For most people, runoff is a problem. With a rain garden, it becomes an amenity. Instead of diverting your gutter water into a storm drain, where it picks up motor oil and other urban crud, you can channel it into a low spot on your property planted with bushes, grasses, or trees that like getting their feet wet. Your reward is something beautiful to look at, plus the satisfaction of knowing that you're helping to provide the natural flood-control and water conservation that used to be the job of forests and wetlands. Find construction details at raingardens.org. For plant recommendations, contact your local extension office or conservation district, or your state's native plant society.

For a plot 5 feet wide, 10 feet long, and 2 feet deep: 1 cubic yard of topsoil: $27
2 cubic yards of sand: $30
1 cubic yard of compost: $30
*Total: $87 (plus the cost of plants)

8. Install a smart ceiling fan

In theory, a ceiling fan saves energy because the breeze evaporates moisture on your hot, sticky skin, cooling you down without the benefit of air-conditioning. In practice, though, it doesn't always work that way. People keep fans running with the AC going full blast, or leave them on when no one is in the room, which wastes their cooling power. Here's what to do instead. First, make sure any fan you buy is Energy Star rated. Lighted ones use fluorescent bulbs instead of hot-burning incandescents or halogens and are up to 50 percent more efficient than standard models.

Second, once the fan is installed, raise your air conditioner setting by 5 degrees. (Experiment with your heater setting, too. You may be able to lower it a degree or two if you run the fan backward so it pushes rising warm air down.) And finally, install an occupancy sensor switch that shuts the fan off if no one's in the room.

52-inch Calera Ceiling Fan: $69
Retrofit electrical box: $12
Motion-sensing wall switch: $25
*Total: $106
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