I’m always looking for ways to save money. My latest obsession is trying to find ways to cut my energy costs, not only to save money but to use less fossil fuels. According to David Gershon, Green Living Handbook, we waste up to 75 percent energy. In an attempt to get a lower UI bill, I’ve been trying to incorporate some of his suggestions, as well as some of my own.
I started off my endeavor a couple of months ago by buying drying racks for my laundry. I figured that the dryer uses up a good chunk of the electricity in the house, so cutting back on drying may help lower my bill a bit. The racks are easy enough to use and hold a couple of loads of laundry at a time. I don’t particularly like the “crunchy” feel of my laundry so I use a homemade fabric softener and only hang my laundry until it is almost dry, then put it in the dryer for about 15 minutes to finish off and soften up. Compared to the 45 minutes or so needed for my laundry to dry, I’m ahead of the game. Only major issue….getting the rest of the family to use the racks. Sometimes my daughter will hang certain items, but usually they all use the dryer. I find myself hanging their clothes out of the washer every once in a while. I would do more, but I gave up doing their laundry a few years ago when I had so many loads in one weekend I could have sworn I had extra kids hidden in the house somewhere!
Moving into other areas, I considered the vampire watts of the electronics we have. We have two televisions in the house with associated entertainment boxes sucking up wattage as they sit in standby. So I plugged each component (TV, DVD, gaming consoles) into a surge protector to be turned off when not in use (cable box stays on separately all the time because of the DVR). I showed the family the new set up and must admit, they do occasionally shut off the surge protector (not all the time, but….).
Lights are a tough one to keep up with. We all are guilty of leaving on lights. Even as I type this, I see the kitchen lights left on (thank you, honey, for shutting them off!). Gotta keep thinking about that lower electric bill….
With the above strategies, I noticed a $15 drop from February to March. Considering that the furnace was still running during this time AND the chicks heat lamp was burning for about two weeks, I’ll graciously accept the success!
Blower door test
Continuing on, I scheduled an energy audit. The cost was $99 and they spent about 2 1/2 hours in my home, conducting a blower door test, replacing shower heads and faucet aerators, installing (up to 40, if needed) compact fluorescent bulbs, sealing some areas of potential leakage, identifying older appliances and making recommendations, and offering rebates for newer appliances. When they were finished, I was given a summary of the visit. According to the summary, my estimated annual energy costs (electricity and oil) was $3800. After the visit, I should expect a $200 improvement. If I took their recommendations into account, my savings would be a total of $700/year. The breakdown of recommendations included replacing the dehumidifier, refrigerator, and washer; applying more insulation in the attic; and installing new heating and central cooling systems. Each item came with a payback in years (the cooling system with 156 year payback was definitely out!). Rebates were offered for replacing the older appliances within four months of the energy audit with an ENERGY STAR equivalent (a new frig is tempting!) The handbook they gave at the end of the visit also contained 101+ ways to cut energy costs. Ideas included ENERGY STAR purchases, turning off the water heater when away, and clever placement of fans and lights. The technicians that did the work were very professional and knowledgeable, showed up on time, and went over the booklet they left with me thoroughly.
Next up are the computers. We have a desktop but seldom use it. I put it on a surge protector as well and keep if off. The laptops all have power down options as does the printer. The best way I found to minimize laptop usage is to stack a few books in front of the kids! With summer coming, we’ll be making lots of library runs.
After all the additional strategies, I found my electricity from March to April went up a little. Disappointed, I attributed some of it to 24 hour/day heat lamp for the chicks for the entire month and power tools in use for the coop building. With that behind us, I’m hoping again to see a drop in the next bill.
With summer coming, I know the air conditioning will be in use. I had the unit serviced last year and keep up with the filter changes. We do stall off using it with fans around the house. We have the window unit fans that help keep the house cool, as well as a ceiling fan in the kitchen. Interestingly, I read that using cups of ice in front of the fans can simulate air conditioning. Need to try that one this summer.
We looked into programmable thermostats and amazon (as always) has some good choices. Honeywell has a good reputation, with different choices ranging in price from $24 for a basic programmable model to $140 for a more deluxe touchscreen model. I’m all for good reviews and middle of the road pricing, so on order is a Honeywell 7 day programmable thermostat. It claims to be easy to install and many of the reviewers back this up. If trouble happens, I always have my favorite brother the H-VAC journeyman!
My last energy thought is whether to buy a dishwasher or keep up with the good ole’ fashion hand washing. I’ve put in my 5 years of dish washing servitude since buying this house and am ready for a change. Being the environmental mom, I choose to use paper or plastic plates, cups, or utensils VERY SELDOM (like maybe once a year). I’ve been told by a certain child that if I had a dishwasher, she would help me with the dishes more. With the way she washes, I’m sure they will be cleaner! So research I did, and I found most sites I browsed pushed for ENERGY STAR dish washers as using less energy, water, and obviously less time. I particularly liked The Huffington Post’s blog on what is better, by hand or dishwasher. The editor brought up an interesting study done in EatingWell magazine regarding the very subject. “…washing a load of dishes (12 place settings) by hand uses on average 27 gallons of water and 2.5 kilowatt-hours of energy to heat the water — equivalent to running a hair dryer for two and a half hours. By comparison, an energy-efficient dishwasher uses about four gallons of water and 1 kWh of energy per load (Ruopp, 2012).” Well, that decides it…I’ll be appliance shopping soon. I know two kids that will be very happy!