We all feel the impact of high energy costs in the home, but there are concrete steps we can take to ease the burden of hefty gas and electric bills. Replacing incandescent bulbs with compact fluorescent ones can reduce lighting costs by 50 to 75 percent, according to the U.S. Department of Energy. Weatherizing your home helps trap heat inside and keep cold air outside. More efficient appliances and water heaters can save even more energy and money.

So imagine the kind of progress that can be made when energy-saving reforms are taken up at the national level and incorporated into programs that benefit states, municipalities, small businesses and homeowners. The future is bright.

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As vice chairman of the Energy and Technology Committee and a member of the National Caucus of Environmental Legislators, I am keenly aware of the challenges we face in finding creative ways to improve energy efficiency. I believe this is a challenge we can address together. My role is to support legislation that promotes sustainable energy programs that Connecticut residents can take advantage of and implement in your own homes and businesses.

A report released last month by the American Council for an Energy-Efficient Economy makes recommendations for improving how we heat and cool buildings, manufacturing cars that get better gas mileage or rely on fuel cells, and retiring outdated power plants, which waste vast amounts of energy produced from burning nonrenewable fossil fuels.

Here in Connecticut, we are taking steps to establish smart energy policies that help residents reduce energy consumption and save money, policies that invest in green technology, create jobs, boost the economy and promote a cleaner environment. Last year, we passed a comprehensive energy reform bill that invests in clean energy projects, reaches out to small businesses about programs that could help them reduce energy costs, and supports zero and low-emission electric generation. Already, gas and electric rates are falling across Connecticut.

Some of the bill's most significant components pave the way for a sustainable and greener future in the long term. For example, the legislation established a residential solar power program and enhanced efficiency standards for electronic devices like televisions and DVD players.

For Connecticut residents who want to get started right away making energy-efficiency home improvements, check out the Home Energy Solutions Program, which is supported by the Connecticut Energy Efficiency Fund. Go to www.ctenergyinfo.com for more information on how to sign up for a low-cost or no-cost home energy audit.

State Sen. Bob Duff represents the 25th district which includes parts of Darien and Norwalk.