It's summertime, which means everyone is focusing on keeping their homes cool - and all those utility bills are creeping up as outdoor temperatures continue to climb. How can you save money on heating and cooling costs this year? Here are a few small changes you can make that will help reduce your utility bills through the warm summer months and into the cold winter ones.

1. Open - or Close - Your Blinds

Depending on the time of the year, the sun can either be your greatest ally or your worst enemy when it comes to heating or cooling your home. During the winter months, keep your blinds open and use the sunlight to warm your house. As your windows move out of direct sunlight, close the blinds to keep in all the warmth you've accumulated throughout the day.

In the summer, keep your blinds closed. Invest in thermal blackout curtains that keep more of the heat and UV rays out of your home.

2. Invest in a Smart or Programmable Thermostat

Leaving your thermostat at the same setting all the time could be costing you upwards of $180 a year. If you can't remember to change your thermostat when you're going to be out of the house for a while, consider investing in a programmable or smart thermostat. These devices automatically adjust the interior temperature of your home depending on your pre-sets or, in the case of a smart thermostat, on the exterior weather conditions.

According to the Department of Energy, a programmable or smart thermostat can save you between 5 and 15% on your annual energy costs.

3. Heat Your Home With a Wood Stove

Instead of relying on gas or electricity to heat your home, consider switching to a wood-fire stove. A high-efficiency wood-burning stove can save you hundreds or thousands of dollars during the winter, especially if you stock up on wood pellets during the spring and summer months when prices are lowest. You can easily get 24 hours of heat from a single 40-pound bag of pellets - more if your home is well-insulated.

4. Install or Refresh Your Insulation

You can have the best HVAC system in the world, but if you don't have insulation in your attic or crawlspaces, you'll end up bleeding hot or cold air and spending a ton of extra money you don't need to waste. Have your home inspected to see if you have enough insulation, or if you need to upgrade it. You may also want to consider installing insulation in the walls or floors if you live in an area that experiences extreme temperatures, either high or low.

5. Check for Leaky Ducts

If you've got a leak in your ductwork, you're venting all your hard-earned hot or cold air into the attic or crawl spaces where it won't do any good. Check your home's ductwork and make sure there are no cracks in the ducts. Leaky ductwork reduces the efficiency of your HVAC system by up to 20%.

Stay Comfortable and Be Kind to Your Wallet

You don't have to break the bank or remodel your home to stay comfortable during the changing seasons. A few small changes can help keep your home temperate while lowering your utility bills for the year.

Scott Huntington is a writer from central Pennsylvania. He enjoys working on his home and garden with his wife and 2 kids. Follow him on Twitter @SMHuntington