Saving Money On Utilities

Saving Money On Utilities

Is Your Electric Bill Almost as Much as Your Mortgage? 

Getting your electric bill in the mail these days is almost enough to cause you to overheat.  You’ve tried to cut back but maybe there are ways to curtail usage you haven’t thought of.  Conservation is really easy if this is something you want to do.  It does require a conscious effort of the entire family.  Let’s take a look at a few ways to save.

In the summertime raise your thermostat setting to 80 or above and bring out the fans, both ceiling and floor fans.  They can stir the air and make it feel comfortable.  Make sure your ceiling fan is blowing down, not up.  Up is fine in the wintertime when you want to bring the warm air at the ceiling down to your level.  Fans can save you more than $600 each year.

If you’re not at home, turn off the air conditioner.  It’s constantly cycling on and off to maintain a cool home and the hot outside air is trying to get inside to the cool areas.  Just turn it back on when you return.

Clean is cool.  Clean or replace the AC filter once a month.  Dirty filters make your AC work harder and less efficiently.  Clean the registers in all rooms including the intake register.  Close off all registers in rooms not in use.  Speaking of clean, take a cool shower before going to bed and feel cooler. 

Shade your outside condenser and save up to 10% on electric usage but make sure the shrubs or grass are not blocking the intake panels.

Check your duct work for leaks.  The older it is the more likely it leaks.  While you’re in the attic notice how hot it is up there.  Insulate the attic or lose up to 40% of cool air.  Also, consider installing an attic fan.  If you can reduce your attic temperature by only 10 degrees, you can save up to 10% on your electric bill.

Switch to florescent light bulbs.  When you stop to think about it, an incandescent light is simply a mini heater that emits light.  Florescent bulbs are cooler.  They give off 90% light and 10% heat.  Plus they last up to ten times longer.

Paint the outside of your home a light color that reflects heat.  Houses painted dark attract heat up to 20% more and increase the need to cool.  Installing window film also helps keep the house cool but use the kind that reflects heat without blocking the light.

Wash dishes only when you have a full load.  Air dry your dishes and avoid using the heat dry cycle.  A full load for clothes washing is also a good idea or use the proper load level.  A clothes line would save more energy and make your clothes smell better.

Of course, turn off energy users when not in use and consider space heaters and window cooling units.  Why heat and cool what you’re not using?  Saving a few watts of power here and there may not sound like much but it all adds up over the year.  Conserve energy and save money.  That’s something you can bank on.

Save Money Using Natural Gas at Home 

Natural gas is one of the most versatile fossil fuels used in the United States with approximately 22% of energy consumption coming from natural gas.  Most gas consumed in the U. S. is produced in the U. S., with some coming from Canada.  More than 60% of U.S. homes use natural gas as their main source of heating.  It burns cleanlier than other fossil fuels with demand increasing at about 6% each year.

Natural gas is a non-renewable fuel that’s odorless, colorless and tasteless.  Then what’s that awful odor when you turn on a gas jet that some say smells like rotten eggs?  It’s a chemical called mercaptan added before distribution as a safety device.  Natural gas is moved from production fields to consumers and stored in large underground storage systems for use when needed. 

Uses for natural gas include high efficiency furnaces and boilers, space and water heating, ranges, gas grills and fireplaces, spa and pool heaters.  It’s also a major source of generating electricity.

Studies reveal many benefits of natural gas making homes more valuable and desirable.  Natural gas furnaces last twice as long as an electric heat pump providing a more comfortable heat. 

Water heating and clothes drying are done faster and more effectively with gas.  When drying clothes, dry consecutive loads to take advantage of built up heat. Separate heavy clothes from light weight fabrics to reduce drying time and use the proper water level for your load size when washing.

Gas is safer to cook with since you can see the flame reducing the chance of getting burned.  Adjust the flame to fit the bottom of your pan.  If the flame goes beyond the bottom you’re wasting energy.  Reach the desired temperature more quickly when heating food by using lids or covers. 

Check and clean your furnace regularly to gain optimum benefits from natural gas.  Have a professional tune up your furnace each year to save at least 2%.  Turn off any pilot light if you’re going to not be using that appliance for a prolonged period.   Caulk and seal doors and windows when drafts are detected to keep the cold out.  Shut fireplace dampers and close doors and vents in unused rooms.

A gas radiator located near a cold wall is inefficient.  Place a sheet of aluminum foil between the radiator and the wall to reflect the heat back into the room.

If you’re upgrading your appliances be sure and purchase the Energy Star models.  With this program, you’re sure to get the most energy efficient appliance available.  Rebates may be available when you switch from electric to gas on some appliances.  Your dealer can usually help you with this.

More home builders and home owners are choosing to use natural gas, especially for heating.  When you save money and increase your efficiency, you might say you’re cooking with gas.

Slash Your Telephone Bills and Save 

Telephones are no longer considered a luxury but a necessity.  People of all ages usually have a land fixed telephone line plus a cell phone.  Kids can’t imagine not having a cell phone to chat with their friends.  Some even use their phone to keep in touch with parents.  At least we’re communicating more with each other but it’s become a monthly expense that can get out of control.

Some are afraid to open their phone bill each month and discover how much they went over budget.  If you’re spending more than you should, then it’s time to take a good close look at your bill and determine if you really need all those extra bells and whistles.

For instance, ring tones are fun, but do you really need them.  Can you do without call forwarding and call waiting?  How often do you text message?  If you don’t regularly use these extras that you pay for cancel them and save.

It may be time to go totally cellular.  More than 15% of households have done just that.  Before you take the total cell plunge, analyze your phone bill to see how much you use your landline and then add about 20%.  Most people tend to talk more on their cell than the landline.  It just seems to be cool and convenient.

Comparison shop.  Some providers are not opposed to negotiating for free minutes, lower rates and even free services.  There is lots of competition out there but be sure you have the plan that’s right for you even if you pay more.  Ask about combining services and a family plan if several phones are needed.

Read the contract carefully including the fine print.  Ask questions, but ultimately making the right decisions will be up to you.  Make sure the provider rounds to the nearest second, not minute. 

If you’ll be talking more in the evening hours make sure you get their definition of night hours.  Roaming charges can take a big bite out of your pocketbook and vary with the provider.

Take advantage of the trial period.  This can vary from 2 days to 30 days and may be negotiable.  This will give you a chance to use the cell phone in your home and see if there are any areas of poor reception.  Find out if you can access 911 with your cell. 

VOIP (voice over internet Protocol) comes from your Internet provider and transmits calls over the internet.  If you make many long distance calls this can be a good choice because it usually provides unlimited local and long distance calls.  But, if you have a power failure, most broadband cell phones won’t work.

Another option is the pre-paid phone cards where you pay for minutes in advance.  The price range is about $15 to $25.  This is good for chatty children with a limited amount of minutes teaching them discipline and budgeting.  If you lose the card you lose the minutes and many have an expiration date.

Going totally cellular is an important decision.  Be honest with yourself on how much you use the phone.  Over estimate rather than under estimate.  Avoid long term contracts.  Keep an eye out for special limited offers.  Good phone service can keep you in touch.  But, don’t lose touch with your budget.

The Biggest Electric-Guzzling Appliances in Your Home 

Remember when the electric bill was referred to as the light bill?  Those were the days when electricity was used mainly for lighting.  There were few appliances to guzzle energy.  You could say those were the good old days but few of us would want to do without the luxury and convenience of the appliances we rely on today.

The price we pay for this luxury comes high in the form of an electric bill that seems to get higher each month.  Just look around and you’ll quickly see why.  The number one energy user is the central air conditioning unit, especially if it handles the double duty of both cooling and heating.  In warm regions, the AC accounts for more than half of the electric bill.

You could install window units and cool only the used areas of your home, and this is not a bad idea.  But, if you’re determined to keep the central unit there are things you can do.

If your unit is over 15 years old, consider getting a new one.  Today’s models use up to 50% less energy. 

If a new model is in your future, make sure it’s sized properly.  Consult an air conditioning expert because a unit that’s too big or too small can continue to work inefficiently.  Check the energy ratings – the higher the better.

Buy a unit with a programmable thermostat that has a built-in timer.  With the timer, you can turn off the AC when you’re gone and set it to restart just before you return.  Studies have revealed that it’s cheaper to do this than to have it recycle on and off while you’re not even at home.

Another electric guzzler is the electric water heater tank.  Tanks keep heating water 24/7/365 whether you use the water or not.  Tankless water heaters are available for both electric and gas homes but do your homework before installing. 

You could install a solar water heater but the expensive system may take a while to recover your investment. If you stay with the tank, turn down the temperature and wrap it in a thermal blanket.  Also, turn off the tank when you’re out of town and save.

Refrigerator/freezers are both guilty of guzzling electricity, but who wants to return to the old ice box.  If yours was made after 2001 it’s probably more energy efficient.  If you replace an old one, buy the Energy Star label. 

An appliance must exceed federal energy standards by 15% to qualify.  Top freezers use less energy than the side-by-side or bottom models.  Save even more energy if you can skip the ice maker and dispenser. 

We can’t forget the electric dryer which uses about 15% more energy than a gas model.  If gas is not an option, buy an electric dryer with a moisture sensor to avoid over drying.  When clothes are dry it cuts off. 

Don’t forget to clean your lint filter too. Concentrate on these biggest electric guzzlers and you’ll see a dramatic difference in your electric bill.  Conservation sure beats doing without.

What to Do When Your Water & Sewer Bill Soars 

Save water and you not only save money but also conserve one of our planet’s most valuable natural resource.  It’s like getting paid twice.  Water conservation is one of the easiest things to do if you have a little discipline but it’s so easy to turn on the faucet and let the water run. 

The first thing you know gallons of water have gone down the drain and with it your money.  You can actually save a third time because most sewer charges are based on the amount of water used.

Let’s take a look at the amount of water used daily for a family of four.  Bathing or showering uses the most at about 80 gallons.  Showering accounts for 30% of total water usage in the home. 

Laundry uses about half that, dishwashing 15, cooking and drinking 12 and for the big surprise, four people can flush down over 100 gallons of water a day. Including miscellaneous use the total rounds out to 250 gallon a day or 7,500 gallons per month.  That’s a lot of water. What can you do to save?

Make sure your commode doesn’t leak.  Listen carefully for the tiniest dripping sound.

If it’s old you might want to buy a new water saving model.  Or, place something plastic inside the tank to displace the amount of water being flushed.

Use only as much water taking a bath as you need.  A full tub is fun but not necessary.  For showering use a low-flow showerhead.  Get wet; turn off the water and soap.  Turn water back on and rinse.  When shaving or brushing your teeth, don’t run water during the entire task.  Running water while brushing for two minutes can waste up to four gallons of water.

Most washers use up to 60 gallons per load so use load settings on the smallest possible.  Permanent press cycles use a third more water than the regular cycle so use that feature judiciously. 

Run your dishwasher only when full.  The amount of water used is the same regardless of how many dishes you wash.  At the sink, use hot water only when needed.  You waste a lot of water waiting for the hot water to reach the faucet

Lawns are more resilient than you think so water lawns and gardens only when necessary.  Mulch around plants to hold moisture.  Water either early or late to prevent evaporation during the heat of the day. 

A soaker hose conserves more water than a sprinkler and gets to the roots better.  Native grasses and plants require much less water. Use a broom or blower to clean your sidewalks. 

Don’t wash them down with water. If you wash your car, don’t let the water run continuously.  Get a hose brush that has an on/off water switch. Wash your car on the grass to water it with runoff from your car.

Repair drippy faucets.  The smallest drip can waste over 300 gallons a month.  Check both inside and outside faucets.  If you can’t fix it right away, place a container to catch the drip water and use it to water plants or clean floors. Encourage your family to be water misers and your bank account will remain more liquid.