Posts tagged utilities

Easy Ways to Cut Energy Costs

I was not surprised by the fact that the average American family spends more than $1600 a year on utility bills. I know that seems surprising but I know what I pay and when you average it out, this amount seems average for us. This adds up to about $133 a month on average and we actually spend a lot more than that in the summer. I’m sure the same is true for a northern household in the winter. So $1600 does not seem extravagent and yet it is! Do you realize that the electricity generated to power a single family home creates more carbon than two average sized cars?! This, I must admit, I do find surprising and very disheartening. How on earth can we bring this number down? It’s not like we’re overdoing it, at least by our standard of daily life. So what can we do to change these numbers, to save carbon and money? And do these things have to make daily life difficult?

I think there are some easy solutions that can help us reduce this consumption however, I do not think anything is easy when it is not a part of a daily routine. I, just like everyone, has adjusted a routine that allows for just so many tasks a day within the framework of the demands made upon my time. I hate it when I have to stop something, change something, move something and, in the process, disrupt the efficiency of my routines. But, none the less, I do beleive the effort is worth it and I have been trying harder. Here are some of those steps you can take if you are willing to make small changes to your daily routines.

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Get Warm and Save Money

It’s hard for me to imagine it, here in Florida where we are all still sweltering in a solar sauna, but it is winter already in many parts of the country. I saw yesterday that it was snowing somewhere already! Wow. I would love a single day below 85 degrees! But even so, it got me thinking about how expensive winter is and how it is hard to stay warm in a tough economy. I have family up there, facing the blast on less money this year, worrying about the heating bills. So it gave me the motivation to look around for some solutions.

I wrote a few posts last year on insulating the home and how to winterize the home cheaply and easily. I thought it was time for an update, with some new ideas thrown in. So if you’re starting to shiver and find yourself shopping on ebay for sweaters, then maybe you can use some of these tips. I promise I will only focus on ideas that cost very little but will work. And, of course, I will stick to the natural side of things and not go suggesting you add abestos! (lol). So, if you’re getting chilly and want to cut back on the green stuff you spend, then give my list a read. It will only take a minute.

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Green Your Home FAST!

Everybody is looking for ways to save the planet and save money, too. It is the primary goal of all of us today in this cold economy with a fast warming planet. Some folks seem exasperated with it all, saying that going green is a luxury and right now, we have to be economical. But someone needs to explain conservation to these folk. Conservation IS saving. Saving money and saving the earth.

You should be conserving in every way possible every single day. It will lighten the load on your wallet, make your life simpler and help the gasping environment at the same time. You should be thinking in this mode every day, all day. How can I save this? How can I stop losing that? How can I simplify my needs? How can I save money? We cannot afford to slip backwards one time in this effort, as it can cost us that last dime and push us closer to bankruptcy while adding another pile of trouble on our world at large. When you think about it, you will realize that what has happened to America then began to happen all over the world. As a rich country, a superpower in the world arena, we control the destiny of billions. Including many countries we will never visit and many others we don’t even know the names of.

So it is very important that we get it together, for ourselves, for the world and even more so, for our children and their future. But that does not mean it has to be a loss or a sacrifice. In fact, we have sacrificed more in the past, chasing money and working like dogs, than we will in the simpler, kinder future. And some of the solutions to our most pressing problems are readily in hand today. And, best of all, they just don’t cost a lot while they will save us tons of money and trouble in the future.

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Residential Wind Turbines

Imagine this! Wind turbines you can just set up behind your house and have it run your electricity… all for free… or for, at least, only the initial cost of buying one and installing it. That would be wonderful, no? You would not have to wait for your city or county or state to figure it out and make it available; you would not have to cowtow to your neighbor in the hopes of getting a go ahead on a community project; you could just act on your own. Sounds very Democratic and American, doesn’t it?

Well, it seems that nowadays there are more and more options for those of you who do want a small wind turbine out in the yard or on your roof. These items admittedly range from the standard to the bizarre, and come in sizes that varying from powering several major appliances in your home all the way up to your whole house and beyond! There are all wonderful options for those of us who want to run out ahead of the pack and go green sooner than later.

Did you know that, in the right conditions, wind power can be much more economical than other renewable energy options such as solar or geothermal? In design and feasibility, traditional propeller-type wind turbines remain the best options for residential settings outside of urban areas. They are efficient and time-tested, and the leading manufacturers of these turbines have been at it for a long time.

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Winterize on the Cheap

In snowy areas where temperatures really drop, there is a need to “winterize” the homestead to improve efficiency of heating methods, to save money on heating costs and to prepare for the worst. But it’s a tough call to make. The economy stinks and inflation is out of control; most people are living in homes that aren’t worth what they thought they were. This keeps people from investing in home improvements of any kind. But there are some small things you can do that won’t smash your wallet and may improve the value of your pad over time.

I wanted to address both the cheapest and simplest ones and also the most important ones. There are things you can afford to do because they don’t cost much but then there are things you can’t afford not to do because they will give safety in case of the worst situation that can happen. Winter storms are nothing to look forward to, but it’s a good idea to be ready just in case.

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Ideas for Keeping the House Cool

More great ideas on keeping your house cool and saving energy. Some of these ideas came from the Consumers Guide to Home Energy Savings, available here: .Consumer Guide to Home Energy Savings, 9th Edition: Save Money, Save the Earth (Consumer Guide to Home Energy Savings). But some of them I collected from various sites and books I’ve seen. So I drew them all together and tried to give you something you can use on a daily basis. Some of these I’m sure you’ve heard before, maybe even on this blog in the past, but all of them are useful and need to be considered.

Stop throwing money away relying on a workhorse air conditioner when there are a lot of things you can do to cut that cost.

Idea # 1: You can cut energy waste and create a force for conservation just by shading the east and west windows in your home. Keeping the home as dark as possible during sunlight hours is an incredible cost cutter. You will be surprised how high you can set that thermostat just by doing this. The air won’t run as much as a result. Install mini blinds on smaller windows and curtain or use blinds or larger windows. Overall, curtains and mini-blinds can reduce solar heat gain by 40-50 percent.

Idea # 2: Try to delay cooking, drying clothes, running the dishwasher and other heat-generating activities until late in the day. Prepare meals all at once instead of various people preparing meals at different times. Wash all the dishes at one time a day, preferrably after dark (even while you’re sleeping) and not at different times of day, such as running the dishwasher after breakfast and then again after dinner.

Idea # 3: Use cold water when possible. This includes the clothes washer, the dishwasher, the sink, the shower or bath, etc… The water heater is a huge energy sucker and it makes the house hot. Turn it off after use or turn the thermostat on the heater way down. Plan baths, showers, washer loads, etc.. for the same time of day and make it in the evening or later night hours when the cool air outside helps the house to cool more quickly and efficiently. Overnight, flip the breaker on the water heater.

Idea # 4: Keep your house tightly sealed up during the day and during heat waves. Don’t let in unwanted heat and humidity. Do this by resealing or caulking all door jambs, window frames, dryer outlets, drainage pipes, etc.. so that no cracks or holes end up sending the expensive conditioned air into the parking lot or front lawn. This includes air conditioner ducts and any ducts that run through unheated basements, crawl spaces, and attics.

Idea # 5: This is one of my favorite ideas so you’ve probably read it here before. Plant trees or bushes in front of windows and shade trees near the house. Large shade trees shade the roof and keep it from heating up so much. This reduces the overall warmth of the home. Bushes or small trees that are planted in front of windows help cut sunlight and, in turn, the warmth inside the home. Plant trees or bushes that come 1/2 to 2/3 up the window, leaving the upper area uncovered for some light. Plant them along the east and west windows. Don’t plant trees along the south side windows if you want to benefit from passive solar heating in the winter. You can also trim bushes and hedges back along the south side of the house in the winter to allow that light in.

Idea # 6: If your cooling cost are getting prohibitive you should check to see if you have an older central air conditioning unit. If so, you may need to replace the older outdoor compressor with a new high-efficiency unit. Just make sure that it is properly matched to the indoor unit and don’t just rely on the serviceman to make sure this is the case. You don’t want to have to replace the entire unit in the near future and servicemen do not always have your savings on their mind.

Idea # 7: If you do decide to just go ahead and buy a new air conditioner, make sure it is properly sized. Again, do not rely on a serviceman to make sure this is the case. Get assistance from an energy auditor or air conditioning contractor. Double check the paperwork yourself. The smallest possible size for your home is the best energy saver. Many A/C units are outsized by 60% or more and this costs you money that is really wasted. And when you do replace the unit, buy a high-efficiency unit. For room air conditioners, the energy efficiency ratio rating should be above (EER 10+). For central air conditioners, the seasonal energy efficiency ratio rating should be above 12 (SEER 12+).

Idea # 8: If you live in a humid climate like I do you need to make sure that your air conditioner gets rid of the humidity. Water run off from wet units creates mold growth, clogs the condenser coils, traps air in the duct work, etc… and can cause indoor flooding. You need to find a model with a variable or mult-speed blower to control this problem. Moisture in the system cuts back on efficiency and lessens the life of the compressor.

Idea # 9: If you use a dehumidifier for health reasons, try not to use it while the air is on. The heat produced by the dehumidifier will increase the cooling load and force the air conditioner to work harder.

Idea # 10: Try to ventilate with fans overnight. I live in Florida, where you can broil just walking outside to dump the trash, and I find a fan in my room works great while I’m sleeping, cutting the need for the air conditioner. If you wish to, you can do the same thing by opening windows but I don’t recommend this for anyone but those of you who live on the third floor or above. I would recommend installing window fans instead. Keep the thermostat set at 78 degrees F or higher if using ceiling fans. Turn off the air-conditioning in unused rooms by closing air vents. Also, keep air from being lost from the rest of the house into the empty rooms by keeping the doors to these rooms closed.

Idea # 11: On windows where you cannot plant bushes or trees and there is not enough roof overhang to shade it, then you should install awnings. The roll out kind can allow you flexibility of shade on sunny days and no shade on cloudy days. If you also buy the shuttered kind, they will provide breakage protection during storms and other disasters. Another great shade idea is to add bamboo shades to the OUTSIDE of really sunny windows to keep the heat from even reaching the glass.

Idea # 12: Other ideas for shading and protecting windows from too much heat is to apply film. Sun films that are used on car windows will work fine. This should be done only on windows where you do not want more sunlight at any time. Once applied, they keep the room at the same light level at all times. You might also want to consider exotic infills for the windows. This is a new technology that fills the spaces between panes with krypton or argon, gasses that have lower conductivity than air and which boost R-values.

Idea # 13: Provide shade for your air conditioning units. This includes air units, window units and central units, too. Putting the window unit in a window with an awning or a large bush casting a shadow will increase it’s efficiency. Room units should be placed out of sunlight, in a dark corner of the room. And central units can be installed in shaded areas such as on the north side of the home or on a patio under an overhanging roof trim.

Idea # 14: Don’t forget to maintain the A/C. Keep up with freon levels, change air filters, clean the condenser coil on a regular basis. Most frequently, change the air filter, as often as once a month during really hot weather. Have the duct work cleaned every 5 years or so. Replace the compressor once every 5 years as well. And turn the darn thing off when you leave the house for more than an hour. While you’re at work or out shopping the poor old A/C is grinding away, eating a hole in your wallet and the ozone layer at the same darned time.

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