12 Simple Ways to Save Money on Utilities (and the Planet)

The other day I was poking around in Quicken when I decided to tally up the amount of money we’ve spent in various categories taking reference from our credit report.We now have ten full years worth of data in Quicken, so it really gives a sense for the extent to which small things can add up. One thing (of many) that stood out to me is that we’ve spent an average of $141/month on utilities (gas, water, electric) during that period (it was much lower early on, and considerably higher more recently). That doesn’t sound like a huge amount, but consider this… Over a ten year period that works out to roughly $17k — that’s a pretty nice chunk of change.

Anyway, all of this got me to thinking about simple things that people can do to cut their utility expenditures without impacting their comfort level. I’m talking here about ‘set-and-forget’ modifications that you put in place once, and then reap the benefits forevermore. What follows is a list of simple suggestions. Some of these are common sense, others are perhaps less obvious. And looking beyond the financial savings, a number of these tricks will improve the comfort of your home, and nearly all of them are also good for the environment.

(1) Replace your incandescent light bulbs with compact fluorescent bulbs. Admittedly, some of these bulbs really suck (weird colored light, dim until they warm up, etc.) but there are some good ones out there. In fact, we’ve had great success with the el cheapo multi-packs from Lowes and Home Depot. The added bonus is that CF bulbs put out less heat, so they also reduce your AC load in the summer.

(2) Get a programmable thremostat. This is especially useful if you live alone, or if you and your significant other both work a common schedule. In that case, you can dial back your heating/cooling while you’re at work, but have it back at a comfortable level when you arrive home at the end of the day. Similarly, you can automagically control the temperature at… For me, this is most useful in the winter, as I don’t mind bundling up and sleeping in the cold. But in the summer, forget about it! I can’t stand sleeping hot.

(3) Put a brick sealed jar or jug of water in your toilet tank. Doing so displaces water in the tank and causes you to use less. Of course, too little water when you flush can cause problems, so you’ll have to experiment with this one. But be careful… Displacing so much water that you have to flush twice is generally more wasteful than flushing a larger volumne once.

(4) Install low-flow shower heads. Actually, I only put this in for the sake of completeness, because I hate weak showers. I’d much rather cut my shower short than deal with wimpy water flow.

(5) Install aerator screens on all of your faucets. Any reasonably modern house will have aerators on their kitchen and bathroom sinks, but many don’t have them when it comes to laundry or utility sinks. The magic of aerator screens is that they increase the apparent ‘power’ of the stream of water as it comes out of the faucet. Thus, you don’t need to turn the faucet up as high to get the same effect.

(6) Get a separate water meter for your exterior hose bibbs and/or irrigation system. In most locales, your sewer bill is tied to your water usage. Why pay more for sewer service in the summer when much of the water isn’t going down the drain? Many water utilities allow you to have dual meters, only one of which gets billed for sewer service (the one that feeds your house). Of course, you could also xeriscape, which obviates the need for irrigation and is far more environmentally friendly.

(7) Insulate your attic access. When we moved into our new house, we were having trouble balancing the upstairs and downstairs temperature. As it turns out, one of the problems was attic heat leaking into our upstairs through two attic access doors. The doors were about 3/8 of an inch thick (wood) and had no insulation on their backside. Insulating them greatly diminished the problem, and allowed us to bump up the thermostat considerably during the summer while still maintaining a comfortable temperature throughout the house.

(8) Balance your vents to achieve an even, comfortable temperature throughout your house. The other problem that we had in regulating the temperature between our upstairs and downstairs was that all of the vents were wide open when we moved into our house. After a bit of experimentation (mainly involving closing some of the downstairs vents) we were able to balance the upstairs/downstairs temps. Again, this allowed us to bump the thermostat up a good bit. And in the winter we reversed the procedure. Works like a charm.

(9) Weather strip your doors and windows. Just think, a 1/4 inch gap along the bottom of a 3 foot wide door is 9 square inches of open space. If you had a 3 inch x 3 inch hole in one of your exterior walls you’d fix it, wouldn’t you?

(10) Insulate your garage door. I did this at our old house, but haven’t gotten around to doing it at our new house. But it works wonders for controlling the temperature in a room above the garage.

(11) Plant trees in strategic locations around your house. This is a longer term solution, but deciduous shade trees can keep your house much cooler in the summer without blocking the sun in the winter. Planting trees also helps offset our high-carbon lifestyles.

(12) This is where you guys come in. Instead of capping this list at twelve, I’d love to hear your ‘set-and-forget’ utility saving tips. Please leave a comment below.

70 Responses to “12 Simple Ways to Save Money on Utilities (and the Planet)”

  1. Anonymous

    Call every place and see if they offer an EPP (equal payment plan) this way you know EVERY month what amount you will be paying. Cell phones for kids – get real. Keep one cell phone for when one is going out they can call home. Change all lightbulbs (hint:call your power company most will give you bulbs, but only once)And keep socks on your feet in winter your body will feel warmer. Set temp and leave it. I keep mine at 72 winter and 68 summer. Cover windows with higher priced curtains (it does pay off) Use led night lights in the bathrooms at night afterall your just using the bath room I could go on but, I have to cook dinner.

  2. Anonymous

    Dont be in a rush to throw your clothes in the dryer right after you wash them…Allow them to drain and dry in the washer for a couple hours before you put them in the dryer…This will result in a shorter drying time which helps with electric bills! P.S…Dont leave them in the washer to long to dry/drain or they will start to smell musty!

  3. Anonymous

    If you live in the southern states you can turn you water heater off and let the heat warm your water. .Trick is timing ur main usage and doing most of the house hold chores in the evening when the water is warm but the outside temp is cooled off. So you don’t use more elect cooling down the house. . And when you need hot water turn the cold side on and leave the hot side off. . The water sitting in the water tank will be cooler than the water that’s running through the pipes. I turned our gas off this summer cus we only needed it for the dryer and water heater… Hung the clothes on the line (they actually dry quicker down here anyway). . wich also saved in electricity. . .We saved over $120 this summer. . compared to last summer just on our gas. . Electric was just a little less but it was worth it. . .Good luck. . Kacey

  4. Anonymous

    Unplug every thing when you leave your house, or whenever your not using the item. Even if its not on it is still using electricity, it is called Phantom Power and it pretty much is just sucking money out of nothing…UNPLUG!!

  5. Anonymous

    Sean, he is correct, but you can do it yourself. You can get the gas company to come out for free to check for leaks. then all you need to do is change out your filters once every 3-mos to a year, depending on how much you use the system. Check them every 3 months and if they’re dirty, change them out (or wash them out, depending on what sort of filters you use. clean filters will definitely save energy because the system doesn’t have to work so hard, and it will also prolong the life of your system.

    You can also save a lot of money on AC if you use white roofing materials. They make some that are energy-star rated with tiny reflective beads that can actually get you government rebates. Check it out with your local utility or roofing provider. We lowered our summer electric bills by about 15% and ended up paying the same for the more expensive energy-star material as we would have with the ordinary stuff due to rebates. If your roof is in good shape, there are now special paints you can apply to reduce heat absorption.

  6. Anonymous

    Great tips! Yeah Nat you are absolutely right, their saver switch/consumer choice program will absolutely lead you to changes. My sister told me about the deregulation and what it meant a couple years ago, andI live in Columbus, Ohio, (company operates in Pennsylvania, Michigan, and Kentucky also). SoI switched my energy rate provider and I have noticed at least a 22% reduction in my bill since! It’s cool, everything is basically the same except the price of my bill, no matter how much air or heat I use!

    Here is the number to call if you live in any of those states:
    614-874-SAVE (7283)

  7. Anonymous

    Check into incentives with electric companies. We save 15% on our bill from June-September by particpating in the Saver Switch program, we’ve never noticed when they’ve cycled our air on and off.

  8. Anonymous

    Great advice. I’m going to use this list and check it off as I go. Our builder told us that regular maintenance of your furnace can also keep your heating bills lower. Does this sound right or are we just being pitched??

  9. Anonymous

    OK, so here we go…pee and poop only when you really need to, during odd hours when all neighbors are nite nite, outside under a nice hidden tree…this way you will both save water, fertilize a tree, get some fresh air, and bathroom scent free? walla! (and reduce your “carbon foot-print, which is getting popular now, I guess) and
    use some un-used leafs to clean your behind..

    Take showers before your scent becomes offensive. This will take some figuring out, depending how active you are, how your body works, etc. Besides, wasn’t it
    in fashion not too long back in france? the shower thing?

    Don’t drive, bike. Simple!

    turn off everything and live as though your homeless, with a home, for a while just to get a taste of how it
    might feel to crash in an abandoned building…

    Don’t check your mail more then once per month. That
    way you get all the bad news all at once, instead of little tortures, little kills. Just do it right!

    If anything gets way past over-due, don’t worry it, your credit it jacked-up anyway…

    Try and climb up your chimney and see if you can hook up
    to your neighbors cable somehow to yours…you know, just attach some wires to their…shouldn’t be to difficult.

    Go over your relatives for dinner and lunch….sleep breakfast off…

    Suck gas out your neighbors at exactly 3 am…this you can accomplish with a pipe device, sucking gas out to container and gas up..

    Apply for all gov., state, county aid…now!

    Get your second and third edd extensions, before they do the fourth..

    put car on neutral downhills…its just like a high-bread!

    donate blood, sperm, kidney and an eye.

    start fighting in the undergound scene…lots of money I hear…

    Find a rich girlfiend! even if your a girl, find a rich girlfriend…

    meet people at your place, not half way. but don’t invite them over, say you’ve moved and this is your meeting place.

    get metro phone service. This way, you can have txt, web, cell, worldwide calling, family plan meaning four phones at only ninety one dollars!

    rend movies from the library! its free (but if your late, damn people charge you 1 dollar a day, and if you’ve rented seven movies and your late, then it defeats the purpose!)

    anyway, hope I’ve been of some assistance

    I know some of what I’ve share from my wealth of experience isn’t directly related to energy consumption but it all boils down to saving money…correct?


  10. Anonymous

    USE COOL/COLD WATER TO WASH YOUR CLOTHES. Tide also has a new detergent that is used to wash your clothes in the cold water as well, however this is not needed.
    It will save you around $10.00 a month on your electric bill.
    Hang your clothes to dry, as well. I like the salt idea that someone added. You can also just spray some fabric softener on the clothes while they hang to dry,as well. (Clothes smell great then, too!)

  11. Anonymous

    Search radiant insulation on the web. Get the 29 lb roll 1000sq ft. ROI is under a year. The $0.14 per sq ft is Tax deductable save 30% on average utility bill. After the 1st year enjoy the savings.

  12. Anonymous

    We have a basement that stays cold in the winter. Instead of using the A/C we just go downstairs. Also we chose carpet for the floor above our basement. Carpet provides some insulation to keep our basement cold.

  13. Anonymous

    Purchase “Smart Strip” energy saving autoswitching power strips/surge protectors. You can purchase them through SmartHomeUSA.com (although I found them cheaper through Amazon). They can save up to 73% of the energy used by emilinating idle currents…. much more efficient than normal power strips/surge protectors. I have 4 in our home & have been amazed at the savings!!!! Google “smart strip power strips” and research them…it’s well worth the time, energy, and money once you see the savings. 🙂

  14. Anonymous

    Place your computer and TVs, DVDs, VCRs, cable Modems, etc… on a surge protector and then plug the surge protector into a timer that is programmed to only be on when you are at home. Also program the timmer so that it is off at night as well. This fullfils your set it and forget it requirement.

    For me this translates into only being on for 6 hours each day when I might use them.

  15. Anonymous

    These things are GREAT! You open the doors and windows in the morning and turn on the fan, and it sucks in cool air and blows the warm air out through the attic.
    In the evening, as soon as the temperature drops, do the same thing. It cools the house and the attic. It saves a fortune in air conditioning. I LOVE mine!
    Even if there’s no breeze, it guarantees an airflow through the house.
    The electric companies offer a rebate on the purchase of one, too.

  16. Anonymous

    We also have a power strip on the computer so we shut all of it down when its not being used. We’re not the kind of people who get up at night so we just turn the heat down and use a lot of blankets.

  17. Anonymous

    Turn off the water while brushing your teeth or washing your hands. Get your hands/brush wet and then do your scrubbing with the water off. That will save a minute or two of the water going straight down the drain. Small habit to change with a huge lifetime result. Several Gallons of clean water every day

  18. Anonymous

    If you don’t keep a lot of food in your freezer, fill in the blank space with ice cubes. It will transform your freezer to be like an igloo cooler and will let the freezer work less hard. Keep the ice in a bowl or non-leakable container, though. If you have a power outage and it melts it will create a mess.

  19. Anonymous

    There are a variety of power switches which are motion and/or light sensitive. All our overhead lights, bathroom fan, etc are on such switches and it saves alot of energy as well as griping about turning off lights when you leave a room!
    I also recently got surge protectors with a motion sensor. These are great for all those phantom loads such as TVs, chargers, etc.
    Our most efficient {bizzare] strategy is to have solar powered, motion sensitive (security) lights mounted inside our skylight wells. After a sunny day we have free light at night!

  20. Anonymous

    Wash the majority of your clothes in cold water. Only use warm water if you have stains (then pretreat first). The dirt will get out in the cold water and you save on heating costs.

  21. Anonymous

    Another precaution when anticipating extended power loss… do not store uncooked food in freezer. Cook it, then store it in freezer. When power goes off, you dont have to worry about cooking it… just thaw and eat.

  22. Anonymous

    Here in Florida, we come by a lot of hurricane (loss of electricity) precautions… Keep gallon jugs of cold water in your fridge to fill it up, if you dont have it full of food. Every time you open the door, thats one less gallon of chilled air you will let out and have to replace. and if the power DOES go off, you have a reverse heat-sink to help keep the other foods colder longer… If you have kids and the power goes off, padlock the fridge door closed, only open it once to prepare a meal. Filling the unused part of the freezer with gallon jugs of ice also helps.

  23. Anonymous

    Do your own home-engineering and pipe the clothes washer outflow to your yard, not down the drain. We had beautiful ginger lillies thriving in this outflow field behind the garage.

  24. Anonymous

    Some communities calculate their monthly septic service charges based on January/February water consumption. Save up gallon jugs of water and go bohemian for that 2 months… shower at the gym, use the local carwash (or not), avoid washing clothes at home (go to the washateria) during that 2 month period.

  25. Anonymous

    Schools, institutions with electric water coolers can install timers so the cooler will not continue to keep the water cold all night long when there is no one in the building. And turn them all off for the full 48 hour weekend, and extended holidays for more savings.

  26. Anonymous

    1. You don’t need to pee in a bottle. Just don’t flush every time. There’s nothing wrong with leaving some pee in the toilet for a few hours until you have … uh … you know … a real reason to flush it. I would avoid leaving it in the toilet over night though as it will start to smell.

    2. On hot sunny days make sure you draw all your shades closed, especially on the southern side of your house. This will help keep the inside cooler. In the winter, do the opposite, let as much sun light in as possible.

    3. If you water your lawn/garden, get a rain barrel (or two) and hook it up to your down spouts. Use the accumulated rain to water the lawn/garden on dry days.

    4. While you might not want to drink the “cold” water that initially comes from the hot water line, there are many other useful things you can do with it: poor it into the washing machine to be used with the next load, add it to your rain barrel, or clean something.

    5. Turn off the clocks that are built into Microwaves, VCR’s etc. Many Energy Star compliant appliances provide the ability to do this.

  27. Anonymous

    Another idea for cooling: invest in a “whole house fan.” This is dependent on your climate, though. These are mounted in the ceiling of the top floor of your house and suck air from the outside, through your house, and out in to the attic and eventually back outside. We bought ours at Lowe’s for around $200 which was much nicer than the $3,000 quote for central cooling.

    When our internal temps are in the 80’s, and the outside temps are in the 70’s, it only needs to run about 10 or 15 minutes to match the temperatures. We usually only need to run it an hour or so before bed.

    Be sure you open the windows on all levels to make sure you get nice air flow. Too little intake will wear down the motor. Also insure you have enough venting in your roof to remove the air your are pushing in to it.

    Since this is mainly a big hole with a fan in it, make sure you seal it up properly in the fall to keep your heater from running constantly. We cut a few pieces of blueboard insulation to fit and stuffed them up in the hole.

    Lastly, if you have south facing windows, close the blinds during the day in the summer to keep the heat out.

  28. Anonymous

    Check your bills – when I was comparing my gas bill with the Public Service Commission webs site I noticed the gas company had a range of service fees and my charge was NOT the lowest one! One phone call later and I had my bill dropped by $3.00 a month.

  29. Anonymous

    Only keep your bathroom vent fan on long enough to remove excess moisture (or odor) and then turn it off.
    If left on these fans can remove a significant amount of conditioned air, heated or cooled, depending on the volume of your home, of course.
    There must be a way to use a timer switch for these.

  30. Anonymous

    Hey people!
    I think the best way to save both your money and the planet is by TURNING OFF THE TELEVISION/COMPUTER SCREENS! It sounds quite simple really and it is! After watching TV or doing things on the computer, just turn off the screen, it works wonders, beleive me!
    Pleasure doing business with you all,

  31. Anonymous

    Great article

    Great feedback

    peeing in a jug, lo-flo shower and faucets, and jug in the toilet tank are great ways to save on water both hot and cold.

    Great idea on the additional hot water tank to ‘acclimate’ the incoming water to house temp first before heating to 118 degrees.

    Cooking on your gas grill year round is tasty, healthy and efficient, you get about 20+ hrs grilling time from one tank. 40-60 meals

    Electric Blankets in conjuction with programmable thermostats work great. Just get your timing right and don’t overheat before you leave for work, usually an hour heat up before I rise is enough to get bathed and out the door comfortably.

    peace all

  32. Anonymous

    Turn down the water temp on your hot water heater. We have ours at 120 and it still does fine in the dishwasher. In the dishwasher, turn off heat dry option.

  33. Anonymous

    (6) Get a separate water meter for your exterior hose bibbs and/or irrigation system

    This is not always cost effective. I work for a utilities and in the summer we average out the winter sewer bill so you don’t get charged sewer in the summer when you are watering your plants. Then there is the tap fee for them to come out and set a meter and with us it is 650 and then a meter fee. This is alot of money to save a couple of dollars a month. You might want to check with your utilities to see if they average winter for summer. It is not worth it where I live.

  34. Anonymous

    Here are my 2cent Additions to the list;
    12a–We have a no-scald faucet in our shower- The water is either on or off which is fine for the tub, but not so great for saving water int he shower. For about $2 Installed variable control on the shower head. I can now reduce the water pressure as needed and even very quickly turn the water on or off (or down very log) while soaping up, then turn it up higher to rinse.

    12b– Our incoming water must be near ground level as the water temperature is about 45 degrees during the winter. Where our water heater is, there is enough room for two. We purchased a new water heater leaving the old one in place but not connected to the gas. Water comes in first to the old heater and acclimated a little to room temperature before going into the new heater which takes quite a load off it.

    12c– Installed self closures on closet and bathroom doors. Closets are typically located with at least one wall as an outside wall. Keeping the door closed allows the closet to act as an insulating barrier and eliminates a few square feet of area that has to be heated or cooled.

  35. Anonymous

    Use a pitcher to catch cold water while waiting for hot water to reach the faucet. Use caught water to drink, cook,… etc.

    Very, VERY bad idea. Never use hot water to drink or cook with because it leaches contaminants from pipes and solder joints. Even if it is cold at first it still comes out of the hot water pipes. Doing this is an excellent way to give yourself lead poisoning if you live in an older house or apartment.

    The problem you seem to have is with your pipes, not my advice. If you use or consume water through pipes you don’t trust because of fear of lead poisioning, maybe you should move.

    Or perhaps see a therapist.

  36. Anonymous

    Use a pitcher to catch cold water while waiting for hot water to reach the faucet. Use caught water to drink, cook,… etc.

    Very, VERY bad idea. Never use hot water to drink or cook with because it leaches contaminants from pipes and solder joints. Even if it is cold at first it still comes out of the hot water pipes. Doing this is an excellent way to give yourself lead poisoning if you live in an older house or apartment.

  37. Anonymous

    Insulation is a tax deduction as well. We recently purchased $250 two seperate times at Home Depot to receive two $75 gift card rebates. We were also able to use the deduction our taxes, which turned into a $50 refund (~10%). I still have to roll out half of it though.

    Programmable thermostat is a pretty cheap must-have in a house, and anyone can install them. Main thing to remember is wrap the wires around a pen so they don’t fall back in the wall.

    Regarding the dual meter for water, that one will probably take a while to recover your costs. We received a letter from the water comission about installing a second meter and they said it would cost right around $400 to do so.

    As for the individual who was talking about ethanol, it is slightly cheaper and uses local resources, but when you consider the lower gas mileage (since there is less energy in ethanol, about 30% more fuel is required) it ends up being a wash.

  38. Anonymous

    (3) Put a brick sealed jar or jug of water in your toilet tank.

    You can also adjust the interior components of your toilet tank to use less water or install a flapper that adjusts the amount of water used. If this sounds complicated spend about 15 minutes searching the web for toilet repair and you should be ready to go.

  39. Anonymous

    Correct! Vent electric dryers only. I’m sorry I omitted that earlier.

    As for mold and mildew becoming a problem, you’d have to dry clothes nonstop everyday for this to be a problem in a dry, winter interior. It’s good to know, however, that people are careful of mold/mildew issues. It’s a serious threat to health and well-being.

    Good feedback on your interesting website, nickel.

  40. Anonymous

    I had a airconditioning/heating repairman clue me in on the proper use of the programmable thermostat: Do NOT use it in the summer, as it takes a LOT more energy to cool down a house in the summer (and takes a lot LONGER to cool down) than it does for the gas furnace to heat it up in the winter. Set it to a single temperature when you’re using the air conditoner, and use the programmability in the winter.

  41. Anonymous

    Just to be clear on the “venting the dryer inside”, as one answer above may have had a typo:

    NEVER vent a GAS (propane, natural gas, etc.) dryer inside. For a gas dryer, the vent carries gas combustion exhaust along with moist air from the clothes. That could expose you to carbon monoxide.

  42. Anonymous

    Venting the dryer to the inside is not a great idea. All that moisture can cause mold and mildew.

    Get an energy audit through your energy provider. Usually either the gas or electric company will offer this service. I paid $15 which could be applied to a future bill. Someone came out and inspected the house and offered advice on where my greatest energy leaks were. I had her order the list by return on the dollar. In addition we got 4 cf bulbs, a low-flow showerhead, 1 aerator for each faucet in the house, a blanket for the water heater, and insulation for the chimney. Very worthwhile!

  43. Anonymous

    hey guysmiley00, shouldn’t that be “Take a cue from truckers […] pee in a lidded plastic container, then throw it out of the window of your vehicle into someone’s backyard”?

  44. Anonymous

    No, your venting the hot air not exhaust gas, assuming you have a gas dryer.

    “Hey… if you route your drier vent back into the house is there a risk of carbon monoxide poison?”

  45. Anonymous

    I am fairly certain an electric blanket, though a good one is an initial investment of maybe $75, will allow you to turn down the thermostat several degrees at night more than usual (I assume this would save the $75 within about 5 months). That’s 8-10 hours of 5 degrees cooler per night. No idea if this is true, as I haven’t gotten the latest electricity bill and fluctuating temperatures make it difficult to check. But it sure sounds good, and is toasty (and cheaper than a warm dog on your feet).

  46. Anonymous

    Guys – Take a cue from truckers, and pee in a lidded plastic container (eg, windshield washer fluid container), then pour out the urine and flush it down when the container’s full. You can reduce your daily flushes from 6-7 to 1, easy as pie.

    Women might be able to do this too, although the lack of male “external aiming apparatus” could be an issue.

  47. Anonymous

    I magically discovered that my car is a flex fuel model. This means I can use ethanol which seems to be around 30 to 40 cents cheaper per gallon than gasoline, has less emissions, reduces our dependency on foreign oil, helps protect ANWAR and Florida’s beaches, and keeps my corn-growing relatives in Iowa employed. Apparently, everyone in Iowas uses ethanol whether they have a flex fuel vehicle or not, but it can cause more wear on a traditional engine from what I hear. When I live within 50 miles of a station, I will use it exclusively.

    Growing up in the south, I learned to help cool the house without using the AC by opening all the windows overnight and closing them before the temperature warms up. Use a microwave to cook whenever possible in the summer and the oven in the winter to help maintain the chosen temperature. You can further aid this by drinking in the winter. Alcohol always makes me feel warmer. Between a beer and that crocheted skull cap suggested by eyebrows, you can have quite a party.

  48. Anonymous

    In older houses, those “draft snakes” are a godsend. They’re like fabric tubes stuffed with sand or whatever to block the draft. Even my newer doors with faboo weather stripping don’t block the whole draft; the draft snakes are a $4 solution to a $2000 problem.

    Get a pet. If they sleep on your feet, you can set the thermostat EVEN LOWER at night!

    (On the same note, if you sleep in a sleeping cap, you’re a lot warmer so you can keep the thermostat colder. But wear a crocheted skull cap because it’s just so much more fashionable.)

  49. bluntmoney: I bought a roll of insulation and then cut off the right amount and tacked it to the attic access door using a staple gun (paper side against the door). We don’t have a pulldown, but it sounds like Brad has an idea (comment #14) if you do.

  50. Anonymous

    Many appliances sold in the US (TV’s, DVD players, stereo equipment) don’t actually turn “off”- they switch between “standby” and “on”. Ever notice how most European TV’s have 2 power switches? That’s why. This means you TV is using electricity while you’re at work.

    Plug your TV, DVD player, and whatever else you can into a simple surge protector with an “on/off”switch. Keep everything plugged in, but turn it off when you’re not using it.

    Also, piss in the shower. It will save you a flush.

  51. Anonymous

    I custom built an insulation box for my attic door, using a 4×8 sheet of 1/2 inch styrofoam insulation from Lowe’s. Measure, cut and glue, then lower the box over the opening each time, as you descend. It has to be a box to accommodate the disappearing staircase. It makes all the difference in the world. I can also heartily endorse insulting the garage door.

  52. Anonymous

    Actually I’ll agree with increasing the insulation in ones attack. I live in an older (built in 75) town home. While I still have horrible temperature differences of up to 10 degrees between the floors, I was able to decrease the overall cost of heating/cooling by spending about 200 in insulation. It was originally blown fill but there were places I could see dry wall.

    Up the insulation went and the bills have dropped about 15 a month so far. It will take a year or 2 to totally recoup but hey, I’m patient.

  53. “Your #5 and #4 contradict each other because they basically do the exact same job.”

    No, they don’t. Low flow shower heads are for, well, shower heads. Aerators are for sink faucets. The former cuts down the amount of water used. The latter makes a ‘stronger’ stream for a given amount of water, such that you can turn the water down.

  54. Anonymous

    Use a pitcher to catch cold water while waiting for hot water to reach the faucet. Use caught water to drink, cook, clean floors, water plants, etc.

    Switch to LCD televisions and computer monitors. They use MUCH less electricity than CRTs, and they do not generate as much heat.

    Appliances with remote controls use a trickle of power while they wait for your next command. Put them on power strips which can be turned off when not in use or when you’re away.

    This one is a no-brainer: Fans in the summer make you feel cooler allowing you to raise the thermostat. A humidifier in winter makes you feel warmer while keeping the thermostat lower.

    Line dry your clothes when possible in warm weather (and cold alike). If you do use the dryer in the winter, pipe the heat exhaust inside to keep that otherwise wasted warm, moist air in your house and reduce load on heating. Your skin and houseplants will enjoy the moisture, and the whole house will smell like fresh clean laundry, too.

  55. Anonymous

    DO NOT put a brick in your toilet tank.


    “the bricks can disintegrate and crumbs will wash into the bowl channel and clog the holes. If the channel becomes clogged with brick crumbs, you are probably going to have to replace the toilet bowl. You can achieve the same results using a plastic jug weighted down with marbles or gravel.”

    A 1/2 gallon plastic milk carton is one alternative. There are others.

  56. Anonymous

    Don’t give up on low-flow shower heads. They aren’t all wimpy trickles. We have used a $10 name-brand (Waterpik, I think, I’m not at home to check) 2 gpm low-flow showerhead from off the shelf at Walmart for years and like it very much. A good one makes up for low volume by increasing the water pressure. Even Mrs. geo with her long hair likes it. And give it some time; the feel of a good low-flow shower head will be different from a wasteful torrent, but not disagreeable at all once you get used to it.

  57. Anonymous

    Did you do anything special when insulating your attic access? Or did you just go out and buy a small piece of insulation & slap it on there? I’ve been wanting to do that but haven’t figured out exactly how first. Maybe I’m missing something obvious.

  58. Anonymous

    Currently, I am a big proponent of CFL bulbs. I buy the large packs at Sam’s Club and they are nice. $15 for 8 of 60w replacements (13w) or 6 of the 100w replacements (26w).

    I am now looking into our NG usage and heating/cooling situation. I recently went to a home show, and the company that installed our central air unit for our home builder was there. We talked about it (and he had a home built by the same builder). The unit is rated for the square footage, but the design is horrible. It should have zones with multiple return air intakes and multiple thermostats. Needless to say, we can easily have a 10 degree temperature difference between the upstairs and downstairs… and that is if we adjust our vents properly and keep the air circulating 24/7.

    I first started looking at the programmable thermostats, and then we started discussing the new hybrid heat options.

    Essentially, it is identical to using a normal heat pump, except that instead of the backup resistant heating (like normal electric heat), it uses NG as the backup heating. So, the heat pump is used unless the temperature dips too low, and then the NG heat kicks in. Also, the new heaters have a variable rate so that instead of heating with 100% of the NG that comes to it, it starts at 60% and then will jump to 100% if the temperature has not corrected in ten minutes. And, the heat pump for cooling will be much more energy efficient than our current A/C.

    The problem is… this system will cost about $3K to install… but it will pay for itself in about 4 years, apparently (I have yet to do my own calculations).

    So, the first step will probably be a new tankless water heater. They are getting better all the time, and there are the tax credits that are currently available. There are new units that work in conjunction with solar water heating (having some piping sitting in a mini-greenhouse on your roof; looks similar to a solar panel). Essentially, the tankless water heater will only kick on to supplement the solar heating (they don’t communicate, the tankless heater just checks the temperature of the water and turns on if it isn’t warm enough).

    So, if we put in this tankless water heater, we will cut down our NG usage for water heating by 50% all year round… and then we could use that savings to help us pay for the new hybrid heat system that will ultimately save us even more.

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