Saturday, August 8, 2009

Lowering our utility bills by 27%

I set out a few months ago to earnestly reduce our utility bills. Not only to be frugal, but also to conserve energy overall and be more mindful of the natural resources we are using. I usually don't use the trendy words "green" or "carbon footprint" because I think it sounds just that: trendy and I don't pretend to be following in the latest hollywood fad. But I do have a great concern for the environmental impact that we have on the earth. I believe we were always modest in our energy usage, such as not running the water while we brushed our teeth, turning off lights when we left a room, etc, but now it was time to step it up and really become vigilant about it.

I read many blogs on what other families were doing to reduce energy bills and started implementing many of their ideas. I must admit, none of these ideas are ground breaking, really more common sense. But, like alot of people, I often choose convenience over common sense. :)

1.) The first item I did was to try washing most of our clothes in cold water instead of hot or warm. I still wash certain items in hot. This reduces the amount of natural gas we used to heat our water heater. I saw no difference in the cleanliness of our clothes.

2.) I started running our dishwasher no more than every other day. I hand wash all the larger dishes such as pots and pans, and larger serving or mixing bowls. This allows more room for smaller dishes to accumulate and be washed at the same time. I've gotten so accustomed to hand washing dishes now, that I actually wash some small dishes too. Now, I often go 3 days without running the dishwasher. This saves water, electricity and dishwasher detergent.

* Now, I have to admit, this first two items alone did not seem to make a big impact on our utility bills so I had to step it up even more.

3.) Adjusting our thermostat. I had read on a frugal mom's blog that her family does not turn on the air conditioner until it hits 80 degrees for the first time of the season. And then they keep their thermostat at 80 for the entire season. They rely on their ceiling fans to help cool them. I know many readers are gasping right now, "80 degrees! I would die!" . Well, guess what? I tried it. In May I set our thermostat at 80 degrees, turned on the fans, and haven't looked back. With the exception of a couple of times when hubs said it was too hot and turned the air on manually, it has worked for us and this adjustment has made the most impact on our utility bills.

4. Not using the clothes dryer. In July, I conducted a little frugal experiment where I tried to go a month without using our clothes dryer. Go here for the whole story. I learned what a big impact our dryer has on our electric usage. While I cannot continue to go totally dryer free, I will use it less and line dry some clothes.

5. Unplugging appliances not in use. Even though they may not be use, small appliances such as hair dryers, electric can openers and blenders are still pulling some power. Now I unplug any small appliance that is not in use and is easily plugged back in.

6. Purchase a rain barrel. Mid summer we purchased a rain barrel from Metro Public works. With half the summer gone, and a pretty generous rain fall, we've not used it that much yet, but we intend on making it a primary water source for outside water needs in the months and years to come.

With just these few adjustments and a new perspective on how we use energy, we have been able to reduce our overall utility bills by 27% from this time last year. That's an extra $57.00 that we have for other things.

This did not happen overnight. It took a few months of getting into the groove of new habits to really see an impact. But, now that I have seen the impact, I don't think we'll be going back to our old ways of doing things.

Our future plans include:
1.) Buying a programmable thermostat
2.) Pay more attention to the time I'm in the shower (I love long hot showers!)
3.) Using our rain barrels as the only watering method for next year's gardens.

Do you have a good way to save on utilities? Please let me know!

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Anonymous Lydia said...

Something simple, but so easy not to do, is only be in the fridge as long as you need to be. It is so easy to stand there thinking about what all you want to get etc. and in the process you waste energy.

August 20, 2009 at 8:21 AM  
Blogger Nick said...

Big energy savings can be had with the right combination on laundry equipment. The new front-load washers not only use less water, but they do not need hot water AND the spin the clothes out so fast that they come out almost dry.
Then just take those 'almost dry' clothes and hang them up on a laundry drying rack indoor or out (depending on the season).
Clean dry laundry with very little water usage and great energy savings!

September 24, 2009 at 9:54 AM  

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