Cut Your Energy Usage, Save Money, Be Green

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Ah, winter. It’s all snow and cozy and hot tea, until you get the monthly energy bill. You spent HOW MUCH on electricity?? (This is where you off-grid folks can fold your arms across your chest and smile smugly…)

For many, heating is a huge expense this time of year. For me, it’s not heat—we don’t actually have a heater; when our temp hits 55 degrees, our only option is more blankets—but our bill is rising nonetheless. So, let’s work to depend less on the electric company.

If your electric bill reflects the need for heat this time of year, consider these easy to implement options – no home renovation required:

  • Turn down your thermostat. Even one degree will make a difference.
  • If you’ve got a drafty door or window, roll up a towel and use it to block the cold air.
  • If you’ve got rooms that aren’t really in use, close the heating vents to the rooms and close the doors. No sense heating unused space.
  • Got sunshine? Open the blinds to let in the warmth.
  • If you use your dishwasher, open the door slightly to allow the remaining heat to warm the kitchen when the cycle is complete.
  • Turn off the “heated dry” setting of your dishwasher. Allowing the dishes to dry slowly will teach you patience.
  • If you froze some of your garden’s bounty this summer, now is a good time to consider transforming those berries into jam or jelly. Processing the jars in the canner will free up freezer space and warm up the house.
  • Place several fire bricks inside your oven. When you cook, the bricks will absorb the heat. You only need to leave the oven door ajar to release that heat into your house (use caution with this plan if you have children). No fire bricks? Pop your pizza stone in there.

Other ways to reduce your energy bill:

  • Install a simple timer on your water heater so that it’s only running when you actually need hot water. No sense heating it all day while you’re at work.
  • It goes without saying, but turn your lights off when you’re not in the room. And have you made the switch to LED lights?
  • Only wash full laundry loads.
  • Dry clothes on a line if weather allows. Or get an indoor drying rack.
  • Be aware of vampire power.
  • If you tend to keep the TV on just for background noise, try to break that habit.
  • When you have the oven on, use it to full capacity. If you know you’ll be baking a casserole, think about pulling together a batch of granola or baking a loaf of bread.
  • Vacuum the coils of your refrigerator so it doesn’t have to work so hard to maintain its temperature.
  • Take shorter showers.
  • Use cold water for laundry loads when you can.
  • Set your computer to “sleep” mode when you’re not actively using it.

This is an incomplete list, for sure. I’d love to hear your suggestions for saving energy!

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  • Great ideas! We remove window air units after summer or you could cover them, to keep the drafts out. Also, we have an automatic timer for the bathroom light. No light switch, it turns on when you come in and goes off after 5 minutes. No leaving the light on by mistake and showers end quickly once you find yourself in the dark! lol

  • Liana ,

    Im gonna resolve to do your challenges. Electric bill was up this past month, expectedly. But I am going to work hard on making this next one extra low. Thanks for the tips.

    • Kris Bordessa ,

      Liana, Our bill was way up, too. It may have been HELCO at it again, but our usage was up, too – though I can’t figure out why!

  • Lisa ,

    Thanks for the tips! All I can think of to add would be to use scatter rugs to keep floors warmer and wear house shoes.

  • April ,

    We moved into a new house and had been told it’s expensive to heat with the vaulted ceilings. It has this wonderful gas fireplace that has a vent and fan that blows out the warm air. It’s in our main kitchen/dining/family room area where we spend most of the day and the thermostat is. It keeps that area nice and toasty while telling the thermostat not to turn the heat on. So it’s not busy heating the bedrooms or the upstairs playroom (that overheats if the air comes on). Our bills have been much lower than we had been told they would be.

    We also ordered motion sensor/timer switches for some of our rooms including the bathrooms, play room and bedrooms. We are working with our kids on turning off lights, but they are all 5 and younger, and it just hasn’t quite stuck.

    We plan to have more insulation put in the attic to help insulate the house more. There are government rebates that help with the cost.

  • Flavia Westermann ,

    It presumably goes without saying that we are all using CFL or LED lighting *everywhere*… And putting the We also have our stereo system on one power strip, our TV and DVD on another, and the computer and peripherals on another — when not in use, turn off the power strip… We’re off-grid, so, yeah, feeling a bit smug — but we did recently invest in a 12/24 volt DC refrigerator-freezer, which uses only about 500 Watts a day, WAY more efficient than regular AC fridges, and we no longer have to pay for the propane to run a gas fridge. It occurs to me, though, that folks on-grid could buy a DC appliance, a solar panel and a couple of deep-cycle batteries, and remove one of the larger draws from the grid, thereby lowering their bill…

    • Bec ,

      What a fantastic idea Flavia. Just because some of us are on grid, doesn’t mean we can’t use off grid ideas to reduce our bills. Thank you for the idea.

  • Cheryl ,

    We had slowly replaced burned out lights with CFL and now have been making the same gradual change to LED.

    Installed a Programmable Thermostat and set it down right chilly during the times no one is home.

    Power strip on TV / gaming equip. It’s off every night and some days does not get turned on.

    Moved into this house in January. First project: insulate the tops of the basement masonry walls in between the floor joists. In most wood frame construction there is simply ~ 2×10 board at this location. Above it the walls are insulated. Below it is masonry block with earth on the other side. So the basement stayed nice and cold which radiates upstairs. The added insulation at this one location made a noticeable differance.

    Then we invested in a chimney and wood stove in the basement (built in the summer / off season prices) and tied the furnace air intake to collect the heat and distribute it through the house using the existing duct & house fan system. The radiant heat from the wood stove does wonders for the temp of the wood floors above.

    • jo ,

      The EPA just banned most wood burning stoves…and are going after the rest of them.

  • I keep our house at 62 degrees–and this is in the Midwest. I figure it’s a lot easier to put on sweaters, plus I don’t feel so dried out from the heat blowing constantly.

  • We moved to a condo that’s half the size of our old house. So, lower utility bills by far — and we’ll be able to get by with one car instead of two.

  • Good tips. We heat with a wood burning stove, which really saves! ;)

  • I LOVED the bricks in the oven tip. I’ve never heard that one before and it’s just genius.

  • sarah henry ,

    All good and timely reminders — my energy bill is going up and up too. I live in a drafty, uninsulated (rental) cottage, where it can be less than 50 degrees inside in the AM (we don’t heat overnight). Now, how to get the teen to take shorter showers or forgo his beloved baths?

  • Sarah ,

    I flip off the hot water heater breaker in the morning after I shower and leave it off until the evening when its time for the kids baths. The water is still hot since I wash in cold water and don’t use hot water during the day. Shaves a good 30 bucks off the bill.

  • Betty ,

    Line dry your clothes dropped mine about 200.00 a month

  • Karen McCarville ,

    unplug everything that does NOT need to be used, even lights! Don’t own a TV, or unplug it at night for those who have one. I just paid my electric bill this month and asked them to check for me how much useage for this last month of keeping the temps at a chilly 50! They said my useage is at 250 most of the time, this month was 200! Think I will try to do even better next month!

  • Susan ,

    We are really good at all these things, but the sad part is that we are in the country and when we have a $120 electric bill, only about $40 is what we really use, the rest is taxes and usage fees. It’s very annoying. Even our well bill is only $27, but real usage is $8 of that, the rest is fees. Really wish we could be off grid but don’t have the money to set it up.

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