September 2, 2014

Frugal Living Series: Cutting Utility Bills

It seems kind of ironic to be writing about frugal living by cutting the utility bills after this summer. It has been a summer, in which we have barely had to use the air conditioning! Seems too easy to save money when the temps outside are not climbing to 100, but instead have lazily hovered around 80 degrees most of those long summer days.

However, let me assure you, this summer has not been our typical weather. Normally, we have hot, humid, and hazy days the majority of our summers. During those past summers, I learned a few tips on cutting the cost of running our AC. Those and a few more are found below.

General Ideas for Cutting Utility Bills
  • Choose your appliances wisely. While you don't necessarily need to purchase the top of the line appliances, you should purchase the most efficient model in your price range with the options you need.
  • Maintain your appliances. Keep them clean and in good repair. Clean filters regularly.
  • Use your appliances correctly.
  • Unplug unused appliances and TVs. Even unused appliances are using a small amount of electricity. If you don't want to have to unplug a grouping of electronics, then place them on power strips. Simply turn off the power strip when the electronics are not needed.
  • Turn off unnecessary lights.
  • Reduce your cable package or do away with it completely.
  • Before your current contract expires for cable, internet, or cell phone, shop around for a better deal.

Heating & Cooling
  • Turn down the heat/up the AC. Even a few degrees can greatly impact the cost to run either the heat or AC. 
  • Consider turning down the heat/up the AC during certain times of the day, especially when you are away or at night.
  • Supplement central AC with a window unit. If it is just one room that needs cooled at night, why are you cooling the entire house?
  • Install ceiling fans or a house fan, which often can be used in lieu of the AC unit.
  • During the summer, shut your curtains when the sun is shining brightly into the windows. Direct sunlight heats up a room. The darker your room is, the better. Conversely, open your curtains and windows to cool breezes and indirect sunlight. In the winter, reverse this idea. Open curtains to direct sunlight and allow the light and heat to fill your room.
  • If your windows are 'vintage' {aka original} like ours, then use heavier drapes or add room darkening shades or curtains. This is a type which is similar to what we have.
  • Change your heating source. Do you have a fire place or wood stove? These may be more cost effective to run.

Water & Laundry
  • Collect rain water in a rain barrel.
  • Use water which you would normally waste. Our children try to keep water ready for thirsty moments, but sometimes, they get too much. These 1/2 filled glasses become water for my house plants or potted flowers.
  • Line dry clothing. On rainy days, use a drying rack. Even air drying half a load will cut your dryer time. 
  • Consider making your own laundry detergent and dish washing detergent. If you can't use the homemade versions for every load, then perhaps use them for certain washables. By occasionally using the homemade versions, we are still saving some money. This is the laundry detergent recipe I use.

This is a simple listing of ideas. I'm sure there are many more ways to cut those utility bills. I'd love to hear any tips or suggestions from you!
~ Dorie

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