Sunday, May 26, 2024
League of Power

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Same Advice I Gave My Brother

Bigger Home, Bigger Bills

My family and I recently moved into a new house. We’ve been busy decorating and finding the perfect place for all of our knick-knacks. New homes are fun and get the creative juices flowing.

American home owners move, on average, every five to seven years due to major life changes. I take this to mean expanding families and more/less money in the budget.

New houses are fun to decorate and revel in but new digs also mean changes in costs-and typically those costs only go one way-UP!

I am a resident of south Florida. I don’t have much in the way of winter utility bills. The summers here are brutal though. Currently I am the unhappy recipient of a $255 electric bill. The biggest bill we received at our last house was much less; closer to $180 at the same time last year. My electric bill inspired me to research ways to lower my utility bills, no matter if I live in south Florida or northern Alaska.

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Electricity

Ceiling and portable fans are an obvious choice in the summer. Fans circulate air so that it feels three to five degrees cooler in a room. Moving the air around allows you to keep your thermostat set a few degrees warmer than normal. Ideally you want to set up fans to draw in cool air so position them on the shady side of your house. They will circulate the cooler air into the warmer areas of the house. But these handy cooling instruments can be just as effective in the winter months to keep your home warm. Remember that heat rises, and that a lot of the warmer air is sitting near the ceiling or in the attic. Set your fan on reverse. Using reverse will help move the hot air back into the room instead of escaping out the ceiling. A low setting is all that’s necessary to draw that warmer air back down.

I have a younger brother Jeff who is set to be a new dad next year. His income will have to go farther when that happens. I’ll be advising him (isn’t that what big sisters are for?) that he can save some dollars by being proactive before the harsh Cleveland winter sets in.

I’ll tell Jeff to check out his attic for starters. Insulation should cover all the 2x4s in the attic. If not you don’t have enough. This is the kind of project Jeff or the average home owner can do by themselves, no need to pay a professional. You can get insulation at your local hardware or home improvement store at affordable prices. Insulate your attic floor with either “roll” or “loose-fill” insulation.

Another project Jeff can do on his own is to check his doors and windows. Look at your doors; can you see light shining in? Light a candle and walk by some of your windows if the flame flickers or goes out you know air is escaping through them. Simple things like caulking, weather stripping and adding window film can go a long way towards preventing air from seeping out. Make sure there are no open cracks around doors or windows. Also check to make sure that there is no air escaping from areas such as dryer vents, electrical wall plates or any other utility opening. Switch boxes are a common source of lost heat as well. Seal areas like these up with expandable foam.

Water

If you have a creepy basement like I did growing up in the Midwest then you’ll know why a lot of us didn’t spend much time down there. Now that I live in south Florida, where no one has a basement, I miss having one, go figure. Basements are cooler areas to hang out in during the summer months. Most contain your furnace, water heater, and a few other heavy duty appliances.

When is the last time you checked out your water heater? Probably never. It’s not something you think to check once a month. You require water from your faucets to cook and clean with every single day. Keeping the appliances that satisfy our daily needs clean and in proper working order should make sense. Go down in the basement and touch the side of your hot water heater. Does it feel warm? If so you are losing heat. A tank that’s warm to the touch needs additional insulation.

Insulating your water heater tank is fairly simple and inexpensive, and it will pay for itself in about a year. Adding insulation to it can reduce standby heat losses by 25%-45%! You can find pre-cut jackets or blankets available from around $10-$20. Some water companies sell them at low prices, offer rebates, and even install them at a low or no cost.

While you’re looking at your water heater check what temperature it is heating your water up to. Is it over 120 degrees? If so lower the temperature. You really don’t need water heated up to 180 degrees. You can’t shower in that kind of water and your dishes don’t need water that hot to clean and disinfect your plates. Lower it a bit and save.

Also save money when watering your lawn and outdoor foliage. Water the garden in the early morning hours of the day because it will minimize evaporation. If you have sprinklers that you can set on a timer set them to water your lawn between six am and eight am. A lot of homeowners believe watering their lawns at night is ideal, this is not true. Plants watered when the sun is below the horizon are more likely to develop fungal bacteria. The sun helps to soak up extra water so the plants aren’t drowning their roots all day, if you water at night your plants don’t have the sun to help them along.

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GAS

I myself don’t have a gas bill but that didn’t stop me from researching and finding out all I could about reducing the gas bill in the winter. I am not so far removed from my Midwestern roots that I have forgotten harsh biting temperatures.

My mother would always tell Jeff and I to put on a sweatshirt or thicker socks if we complained it was too cold in the house November through March. She kept our thermostat at a chilly 65 degrees.

Our mom was always good at finding ways to save money. I told you about her usage of cloth diapers and heavy reliance on clothes lines a few months back when I recalled all the home remedies she had taught me over the years. Back then being green wasn’t hip or the trendy thing to do- it was a way of life.

Another trick she taught me to conserve energy was to turn off the stove and oven a few minutes before the timer went off. The residual heat finished the job perfectly and saved money.

The real lesson here is to be proactive and don’t wait till you receive glaringly large bills in your mailbox like I did to figure out how to save money.

Keeping Money in Your Pocket,

Nancy Patterson


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