Saving money on energy and home bills and conserving energy and the environment are the same thing. You want lower bills, everyone needs greener air. Win-win!
Check out a few tips for how to save your wallet and the planet:
- Cuddle up at night. Lower your heat at night to save. Pile on the blankets, cuddle up, and remember to wear socks. Keeping your feet warm at night helps you fall asleep faster.
- Check your kilowatts. As author Katherine Neville put it so well in her novel The Eight, “What can be measured can be understood; what can be understood can be altered.” So say you want to save a little on your electric bill. A good place to start would be to know how much electricity is used by your TV, appliances, lights, and other electrical items in your home. The biggest users, of course, need the most attention: You should begin to consistently use those less or possibly even replace them. So now, how to measure? A small company called P3 International market a device called “Kill A Watt,” which records electricity usage for anything plugged into it. Although it doesn’t work for direct-wired devices like water heaters, it’s a handly little device that can tell you more about what you use. If nothing else, it will help settle arguments about which things–or who–around the house uses the most juice.
- Weatherstrip the house. You’ve probably heard it a hundred times from your utility and read it a dozen times in various magazines. Weatherstrip your home to seal out drafts and keep the cold (and warm) outside where it belongs. It really does work and can save up to 15 percent of your home heating and cooling costs. It’s easy, too, and you’ll have fewer drafts and be more comfortable. After you’re done with the windows and doors, finish up with attic entrances, spaces around pipe entrances under sinks, and even wall switches and receptacles–these “leaks” can cost, too.
- Fix the faucet drips. A leaky faucet can waste hundreds of gallons every year. If it’s cold water, it won’t cost a lot (a toilet, however, can cost a lot more.) But if it’s hot water, that’s a different story. That leaky faucet can cost 800, maybe 1,000 gallons of hot water a year–twenty or thirty tankfuls. That can translate into sizable energy costs. How to fix the problem? Just enter “fix a leaky faucet” in your search engine; you’ll find a lot of tips. One of the more user-friendly approaches comes from the “Handy Ma’am” section of the iVillage Web site. An added bonus: You won’t have to listen to the “drip, drip, drip”any longer.
Switch to compact fluorescent bulbs. They’re showing up pretty much everywhere–those little curly-Q fluorescent light bulbs. Yes, they’re more expensive to buy than their traditional incandescent counterparts, but they’ll save a lot in the long run. Typical indoor bulbs save about two-thirds of the energy per equivalent light unit, and they’ll last four to five times as long. And now even those outdoor floodlights have fluorescent versions. Spend a little more now; save a lot later.
- Turn out the lights! Much is made of saving energy by using compact fluorescent bulbs, energy-efficient appliances, and so forth. But it isn’t just the rate at which you use energy, it’s whether you use it at all that counts! Buying an energy-efficient bulb putting out 75 watts of light with 23 watts is nice, but what if you just turn out the lights instead? You’ll save more. Get in the habit of turning out all lights except the ones immediately needed–and get the family in the habit too. It will save now–and in the future.
- Wash in cold water. Fully 90 percent of the energy used by a washing machine (and hence the cost of the energy you used) is used to heat the water. So, use cold water. Unless you are washing really soiled clothing, most ordinary dirt will come out with a cold-water wash. You can add to the cold-water cleaning power by loading up the washing machine in the morning with clothes, soap, and water, and then stop the cycle so that it soaks all day long. When you are back from work, start the rest of the cycle.
- Put on that sweater. Drop the heat down a few more degrees and put on a warmer sweater. Cuddle up on the couch under a warm blanket. Remember to turn the heat down several degrees when you are going out for the evening. Even just a few percentage points can really make a difference on your overall heating bills. The U.S. Department of Energy suggests you can sae around 10 percent a year on your heating and cooling bills by simply turning your thermostat back ten to fifteen degrees for eight hours.
- Renovating? Try architectural salvage. Need windows, doors, light fixtures? Check out www.redo.org to find an architechtural salvage “ReStore” near you. When buildings are demolished, many elements are saved and can be purchased. Habitat for Humanity frequently receives donations from builders and homeowners and runs many of the achitectural salvage operations around the country. Before you go to Home Depot and buy new, check into ReStores.
- Set your water heater lower. Water heaters use energy “24x7x365,” and in so doing account for about 13 percent of a household’s utility expenses. According to the Department of Energy, if you lower your water heater setting from 150 degrees to 120 degrees, you could reduce its energy demand by up to 15 percent–and that can add up to as much as $50 or $75 a year if you live in an area with high utility costs. Combine that with using less and insulating hot water pipes, and you’ll save even more.
- Turn off the lights! It sounds simple, yet so many of us simply walk out of a room and leave the lights on. Now, sometimes we’re leaving a single 23-watt fluorescent bulb on–not a big deal. But if it’s a bank of ten 50-watt track lights, that’s a big deal. And if its an entire houseful of lights, that’s a big deal. Get in the habit of turning off your lights as soon as you leave a room. And get those kids to do it, too. You’ll not only save electricity, but a lot of bulbs during the year, too.
Replace furnace filters. Outa sight, outa mind, right? How often do you look at those filters? Well, especially if you live in a dusty environment, you could plant corn on the average filter in a month or two of service. And that restricts airflow into–and out off–your heating and air conditioning system. That draws more power to move air less effectively. So replace the filters–or get the kind you can wash out. You’ll save, and you may feel better, too, as more dust and allergens with be pulled out of the air.
- Close drapes at night. You don’t want anyone peeking in your windows, rights? But that’s not all–your drapes provide an insulation layer preventing cold or warmth from being transmitted through your windows. They block drafts too. Get in the habit of closing drapes and blinds as a last move before going to bed. And if you don’t need them open–say, in a spare bedroom–leave them closed.
- Look for energy tax credits. The laws change every year, but in general, if you make qualifying energy-saving improvements to your home, you’ll not only reduce energy costs, but will also become eligible for a host of tax credits. They won’t help pay for all of your improvements, but will certainly help. Check out the Federal EnergyStar Web site to learn more about Federal credits and the North Carolina Solar Center’s “DSIRE” database (Database of State Incentives for Renewables & Efficiency) for a more comprehensive summary of federal, state, and local incentives…
- Close vents in unused rooms. If there are rooms in your house that are not regularly used, go ahead and close the vents there. No sense paying to heat or cool a room no one is using. Jennifer closed the vent in the laundry room; the drying keeps it plenty warm.
- Get a programmable thermostat. Programmable thermostats are a pretty old idea really. The notion is to be able to set it by time of day to keep the house warmer or cooler according to your preference, when you’re actually home, and when you might be in bed under blankets and not need that hothouse indoor climate. Most of these units cost between $40 and $70 and are easy to buy and install. Some utility companies are even offering them for free or at reduced prices–check to see if yours is on this bandwagon.
- Don’t block heating and A/C vents. Your furnace and air conditioner work hard to regulate the temperature in your house. So why would you put a big piece of furniture or a rug over your vents? Doing so will make the system work harder, make more air come out in the wrong places (creating drafts), and create warm or cold spots in the house. Make sure nothing is on top of–or in front of–those vents. And don’t forget the cold air return, that big “vent” that sucks air into the system–that one’s got to be free to breath, too.
The above tips are directly quoted from 573 Ways to Save Money by Peter Sander and Jennifer Sander. I recommend borrowing it from the library or buying it for easy-to-read advice on freeing up space in your budget.
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