Cutting Utility Costs

We’ve entered The Tunnel, those short, dark, damp and dismal days of winter and it seems like the only thing that’s going up is the utility bill.  Here are a few way to keep that bill lower.  You won’t find any new ideas here; these are just to remind you of what you already know you should have been doing.

Turn it off. When you leave the room, turn the lights off.  Ditto on the computer.  Even in energy savings mode, it is still using electricity.  Shut ‘em down when you’re not using ‘em.

Load it up.  Only run your dish and clothes washer with a full load.  You’ll save water, but, as importantly, you save on not having to heat the water.

Take a shower. A five-minute shower will use less than 1/3rd of the water that you’ll use taking a bath.  Use a low flow sprinkler head and you’ll use even less.

Switch bulbs. LCD outdoor lights and indoor Compact Florescent Lights (CFLs) use much less energy than their incandescent counterparts.  A 60 watt CFL uses 13 watts of power.  Unfortunately, most of the CFLs are 60 watt and sometimes I like a brighter bulb (maybe because I’m a bit of a dim bulb myself) but these are great in porch lights, entry ways, etc. where you don’t need them to be bright enough to read by.  This last week I saw some 3-way CFL bulbs so they’re even more universally useful. LCD outdoor lights are more durable than incandescent lights, use less electricity and last longer.

Time it. Unless you need to put on the show at 3am, put your outdoor lights on timers so they’ll shut down late at night and be off during the day.  Perhaps the single best cheap investment we’ve made has been an electronic thermostat for our furnace.  The $50 cost will pay itself back in less than a year’s time. You simply set the time so your home heats up when your there but the heat stays off when you’re gone.  While you’re at it, don’t set the thermostat for higher than you really want it.  Setting the heat higher won’t help the house warm up any faster.

Dress the part. Wear a warm sweater instead of cranking the heat up.

Draw the blinds. By closing the blinds (or curtains) at night and opening them during the day, you’ll capture (and retain) whatever heat from the sun we get.  Glass is a notoriously poor insulator and your blinds or curtains will help.

Eliminate drafts. Either with a lit candle (yes, be careful) or with just your hand, you’ll be able to check for drafts around windows and doors.  Caulk and weather-stripping will go a long way to keep the cold air out.  Again, $50 can be wisely spent.

Chill out. Set the water heater at 120 degrees, usually between low and medium.  You’ll avoid scalding yourself and it will still be hot enough to kill harmful bacteria.

Keep a lid on it. Putting lids on your pots and pans will take half the time to cook and the time your stove needs to stay hot.

Keep it clean. Vacuum the coils on your refrigerator once every 3 months and it will run more efficiently.  Ditto on replacing the furnace filter.  A dirty filter makes your furnace work harder and wear out faster. Replace the filter every 3 months. Ditto on cleaning out the lint filter on your clothes dryer.  With a clean lint filter your dryer can be 30% more efficient.

Now that you’ve saved all that money on your utility bill, how about a nice new sofa?  I know where you can get one cheap.