Sunday, March 22, 2015

Saving Money on Utlities: Every Penny Counts

I know I'm not alone in suffering from pure frustration over utility bills.  It seems like they keep going up and it seems that the excuses get worse (natural gas bill going up because people are using LESS natural gas for instance).

Last month was the final straw for me.  I got the highest electric bill in years (the only one higher we got our first year we lived in our new house and we were living on purely electric heat.  That bill hurt) and also got the a high gas bill at the same time.  Both during a month that I could not afford that type of bill entering my life.

So, it was then I knew that some changes had to be made around here.

So, I started implementing changes that I could think of to save money on utilities (gas and electric anyway since the phone bill is now, wonderfully, static every month).

And the changes worked.  With a half of a month of changes (since my bills come in the middle of my "billing cycle" I had no idea the bills were going that high at the time, so by the time I started to implement changes, I would only have 1/2 of a month of savings to show on the bill) I was still able to shave off 70.00 off of my electric bill and 100.00 off of my gas bill.

I thought I'd share some of the things I'm doing in the hopes it might help others as well seeing as how the electric and the gas aren't going to be getting any cheaper anytime soon from the looks of it.

Changes I Made for the Electric Consumption:

1.  I started turning off the electric heaters during the day.

We have a Frankenstein heating system in our house that is a combo of one giant forced air (gas run) heating vent that actually does heat the house pretty well and electric run baseboard (thermostat run, permanently wired, etc) that you can run as a supplemental heating system.  We do run the electric heaters in the bedrooms as we find they can get pretty chilly without it, but I found that during the day especially this wasn't necessary.

See, I run the gas heat high during the day because my kids have an aversion to clothing, so when they're home the house is set to be at about 73 degrees all the time.  But, during the nighttime I set the heat down to 70 and that makes the bedrooms pretty cold.  So, I find the while the electric baseboards have to be on during the night, during the day the house is kept so warm that while the bedrooms might get a bit chilly it's not bad at all with the heaters off.

2.  I started turning off the lights.

My son LOVES lights.  And he likes to turn them all on.  All.  The.  Time.  It used to just make me roll my eyes a bit, but now it drives me completely bonkers.  I am making sure to tell him about 25 million times a day to "turn off those lights" as soon as he turns them on.  And he does.  I keep hoping he'll stop turning them on all the time, but for the time being that works.

I also make sure that as SOON as the sun pushes it's face over the horizon the kitchen lights and living room lights are off and any windows facing the direction of the sun the lights in those rooms get shut off and the curtains opened.  It is a bit dimmer at first as you get used to it, but you quickly realize how unnecessary all of the extra interior lighting is during the day.

3.  I started listening to the radio more and watching TV less.

The children love having their TV's on in their rooms to watch movies on and off while they are playing, but for the most part they like them as background noise.  So, I've been making a point of having the radio on out in the kitchen as a deterrent to turning on the bigger screened TV in the living room.  I enjoy listening to my CD's, the kids get their background noise and I don't have to watch the same TV program 17 bazillion times a day.  When the kids are at school I don't watch TV at all.  I've started reading instead (well when I'm not doing other stuff) and find that it keeps your mind a lot more sharp.  Or I knit.  Or sew or something more constructive.

4.  I started doing the dishes the old fashioned way.

I know, people are going to start thinking I went off the rails here, but let me explain.  For one, think about it.  Dish washers run for how long to clean your dishes?  And as they run they go through a lot of water.  And while they are running they are drawing electricity.

So, not only do you have a device that runs for about 2 hours per load of dishes (if you have one like mine), but you also have that dish washer drawing off your well and/or water while it is running.

I decided that that couldn't be really a great way to do things if I was trying to save money on the electric, so I started doing dishes the old fashioned way.

Not only have I found that I actually kind of like doing dishes (I find it meditative...a good time to think, while doing something constructive), I don't have to rewash dishes that didn't get clean, my dishes actually LOOK cleaner and I don't have to worry about shelling money out for dish washing detergent on top of dish soap.  I also don't feel this need to wait until I have a "load" before doing the dishes, so my dirty dishes are getting washed every night and my kitchen is getting clean (I have a small kitchen, so this is a definite bonus).  And I use my dirty (but not too dirty) dish water to do things like touch up the floor with a sponge or wash finger prints off of low cabinets in the kitchen.  So, the water is doing double duty on those days and I'm not just washing it down the drain like with the dish washer.

Don't think that the dishwasher is getting no use, though.  Nope, when I'm in a hurry I use the dish washer as a drying rack for wet dishes so I can get them done in a hurry.  I'm just as lazy as other people some days, or just as hurried.

 5.  I started doing a laundry day and a baking day.

This keeps my oven running for about four hours straight, yes, but on one day.  The same with the washer in my laundry room.  I also try to make sure I keep all of my laundry sorted, so that I can definitely fill up the washer completely.

6.  I started switching over to LED.

My husband is an electrician and got a love for LED's early on as they draw next to nothing compared to more traditional light bulbs.  Yes, LED's are expensive, but it depends how and where you buy them.

We have switched over pretty much to all LED light bulbs (with the exception of chandeliers we have).  Some LED's we got by using a gift card we got as a gift for the Home Depot and we went in and spent the entire thing on LED light bulbs.  We then got LED light bulbs as part of our 200.00 run to Costco with our tax refund as 3 LED light bulbs cost us the same there as buying one somewhere else.  They are a good buy there!

7.  I started turning off garage lights during the day.

We, like a lot of other people out there, have a garage and while we DO have pretty efficient fluorescent light fixtures out in our garage, it still wastes electric to have them on all the time.  I always seemed to keep them on during the day as I was running in and out so much and I was worried about my husband coming home during the day and not being able to see where he was going in the garage (it gets pretty dark in there).  I managed to get some Rubbermaid storage boxes from in front of the one window in the garage (it's a tiny little thing, but at least it lets in light), so that my husband will be able to see during the day if he comes home to turn on the garage lights.  And so I've started trying to remember to turn off the garage lights during the day.  As soon as it starts getting dim outside I turn them on so my husband won't kill himself if he comes home in the dark.  Every little bit helps!
Changes I Made to Cut Back on Gas Consumption:

1.  I started turning my heat down during the day.

Har.  I know, that sounds weird doesn't it?  But, I am in a position where my children are in school and while I keep the heat turned up during the day when they are home, while they are at school I just turn the heat down.  I don't have a problem putting on a cardigan or covering up with an afghan while they are in school.  When I go out to run errands I'll even put the heat down a few more degrees, just to save that little bit extra while I'm gone.

2.  I have started hanging blankets and other clothes that don't get completely dried with one run through the dryer.

We have a gas run dryer.  I used to just put blankets through two runs through the dryer as a matter of course as they never get dry the first go around, but now I hang them up.  We have a stairway landing rail that I use to hang them right now, but I'm hoping to put up a clothesline in my laundry room sometime soon (we can't really hang laundry outside because my kids are...well allergic to outside).  That should help cut my costs down even further when it comes to laundry.

3.  I try to cook and bake smart.

When I'm doing my menu plan lately, I try to think of what to have for dessert and try to plan it on a day when I'm going to be baking at the same temperature.  That way my oven can do double duty work with no extra waste in fuel.  If I'm going to bake bread, I bake at least two loaves at one time to maximize the usage of the fuel I'm using.

If I'm cooking something on the stove top (say poaching chicken), I'll steam veggies for that night's dinner on top of the pot where I'm poaching the chicken.  That way my veggies for dinner get done without wasting extra fuel as well.

4.  I started doing dishes the old fashioned way. 

This has improved our hot water consumption, so it is a nice bonus to doing dishes.

5.  I do laundry on a "laundry day".

This not only cuts back on electricity as I'm not running a half load of laundry or something, but it is also helping to maximize our hot water consumption and the gas running the gas run dryer.
So, there you have it folks.  A few ways I'm working on reduce our utility bills.  I hope it might help some of you out!  Good luck!

1 comment:

  1. THese things do really help.. I too, cut temps down and wear a sweater [if needed]..[Hubby says , I am freezing him to death,ha]. I have cut the use of dishwasher in half.[still too lazy to completely quit,]
    I keep tv and lights off , as much as possible.
    As you said, every penny counts.