January 11th, 2008
Since we’ve been looking at ways to avoid spending money on things we don’t really need, let’s look at some ways to save money on things we really DO need. Like, say energy to heat and cool our homes, cook our food, keep us (and our clothes) clean, etc., etc., etc. Energy – in the form of electricity, gas, heating oil and such for use in our homes is not getting any cheaper, and the generation technologies are contributing greatly to global warming. Water is another diminishing resource we cannot live without. Learning to consume less water is vital for our collective future. One of the best things we can do for our world and our pocketbooks is to learn how to live on less. USE less, NEED less, and be proud of our small footprints on the earth!
Here are some of the best ways to conserve energy and water that are being touted at present. Some of you can put to good use right now, and some of you will want to seriously consider through the coming year as your income allows you to replace things or renovate for a more efficient lifestyle. If you can save a couple thousand dollars a year on your electric and water bills, you’ll have that much more money to spend or save! Check ‘em out…
1. Time Your Energy Usage. It may surprise some people, but the time of day that you use energy has a significant effect on the costs you pay for the privilege. What you want to avoid is using energy during “peak” hours, when drains on the grid are highest. Whenever peak usage goes beyond what can be provided by your local utility, that utility is forced to purchase excess energy from other utilities at a premium. Do a little research on your local utility’s web site by searching “usage” and “peak,” time your laundry, bathing and baking to when demand is lowest.
2. Downsize Your Appliances. Do your laundry loads not take up enough room to justify the water anymore? Get a smaller, more energy-efficient washer! Consider hanging laundry outside to dry if you can, or use in-utility room drying racks for dress clothes, delicates and sweaters. Dryers are notorious energy-hogs.
3. Save Water! Municipal water supplies are under increasing pressure as droughts become longer and more serious, to the point where wasteful water usage is becoming an environmental ‘sin’. Ways to conserve are many. Take shorter showers, turn the water off while soaping. Get rain barrels and put your gutter rainspouts into them. You can drain from the top to make sure they don’t overflow, install a spigot at the bottom to which you can attach a hose. Use this water for your garden, lawn or car washing. Install low-flow toilets, and pressure-increasing shower heads. Wash and rinse clothes in cold water, as full as your machine allows. Naturalize your lawn space with low-water plants native to your area or rock gardens – saves on mowing too!
4. Turn Your Electronic Gizmos OFF at Night. That’s computers, VCRs, DVD players, stereo/radios, any gizmo that has a red light showing it’s really ‘on’ when you aren’t using it. Even in ‘sleep’ mode they consume electricity, and there’s no good reason for it. Turn off bathroom space heaters when you’re not bathing – you can use the toilet when it’s a bit chilly, it won’t hurt you!
5. Keep Your Thermostat Settings Reasonable. No more than 68º in the winter, no less than 75º in the summer. Humans can handle both temperatures just fine. Wear a sweater when it’s cold and very little when it’s hot. Keep the air moving with fans and your house will seem cooler/warmer at these temperatures by eliminating cold and hot spots.
6. Consider Alternative Heating and Cooling Technologies. If you live in an area with less than 75% relative humidity, an Evaporative Cooler (water cooler) can keep your home comfortable while saving you lots of money on air conditioning. If you have to air condition in order to sleep at night, consider a window unit in the bedroom. If your house traps heat in the upper story, install window or attic vent fans to blow the hot air out while pulling cool air in from the slab or basement. Moving air (ceiling fans, vent fans, floor fans) will make your house more comfortable in all seasons.
7. Replace Light Bulbs With Compact Fluorescent or LED Bulbs. The cost is reasonable because these bulbs last a year or more and use much less electricity than standard incandescent bulbs. New LED technology is on the way too, which will likely end up conserving a vast amount of energy every year.
8. Make Good Use of Drapes and Blinds. These can prevent heat loss in the winter and heat gain in the summer. Plan your lighting to make up the difference, or think about installing skylights in rooms where a lot of light is desirable. Heat rises, so a good insulated skylight won’t let too much heat in and won’t allow too much heat to escape in winter.
9. Insulation and Weatherstripping! Adding extra insulation to the attic and making sure your doors and windows are well-sealed helps a lot to save heat and cooling costs. This is old advice, still as good as it was 20 years ago. Be sure to have your home tested for radon first, particularly if it’s a masonry home on a slab.
10. Ignore That Fireplace! A cozy fire can make you feel warmer psychologically, but most fireplaces waste way more heat than they provide. An open flue sucks heat right out of your home, and leaves cold spots you’ll be tempted to compensate for by turning the thermostat up. Resist! If that fireplace takes up a whole wall (as mine does) consider decorating with a mirror where the opening used to be, a nice collection of scented candles in front that you can light for effect.
11. Replace Old Appliances With Energy Efficient Models. High energy efficient models are now becoming more readily available on the second-hand market, as they have been increasingly marketed to new buyers for some years. If you can buy new, get the one with the highest rating possible, and don’t buy more than you need – do you really need that double-door monstrosity of a fridge, or can you make do with a smaller one and get an efficient chest freezer. Learn to use ice trays or a standard ice maker, they work just fine.
12. Replace Your Old Cookware. For range top use, pots and pans that readily conduct heat will save minutes every time you turn on the burner. There are some really good, naturally non-stick sets available now that will serve well for many years. Also keep your range top drip pans clean. Use the reflective (not-enameled) variety, they will reflect more heat to the pan. Use the right size pan for the burner. If your oven is self-cleaning, don’t clean it very often.
13. Turn the Hot Water Temperature Down! The temperature of your hot water straight out of the tank should not scald you (or anyone else). 120º is as hot as it needs to be for any task. If you have to compensate too-hot water with cold water, your thermostat’s set too high.
14. Get a Tankless “Instant” Water Heater. Heating water as you use it is more energy efficient than keeping a 30 or 50 gallon tank full of water hot. There are some good models available, and even some microwave in-line heaters in development. Big energy savings!
15. Use Small Appliances When You Can. Making a big pot of soup or beans-from-dry in a crock pot instead of on the electric stovetop saves electricity. Baking a few muffins, a loaf of bread or some biscuits in a toaster oven instead of in your oven big enough for two turkeys saves a lot too. If you’ve an energy efficient microwave, use it for heating single or double servings of leftovers instead of your regular oven or stovetop. A microwave uses 75% less energy than a range oven.