June 30, 2010

$150 Challenge and Utility usage

I love the d.v.d. series Band of Brothers. I know, it is pretty violent, but that is war.  My father served in World War II and became disabled due to his injuries.  I have a lot of respect for our citizen soldiers. In one episode of Band of Brothers, General McAuliffe visits the front lines during the Battle of the Bulge. Our men had very little ammunition and no winter clothing. Also the lines were running very thin with men and they were having trouble holding back the Germans. General McAuliffe makes this statement “Hold the line, plug the holes. There is a lot of “blank” heading this way and with the fog, there will be no drops.”

Our soldiers did hold off the Germans and under very difficult circumstances including very little resources.

What does this have to do with the $150 challenge? I need to plug the holes in our budget. A few months ago I wrote a post talking about the little things adding up and they do.

Utilities are a big part of our budget. We have budget billing and pay the same each month, however, every quarter the utility company reviews our usage and increases or decreases the bill. I know it is obvious, but I never really thought about our electric or natural gas consumption and taking steps to reduce it. That is, until now.

This morning my DH told me that our electric bill for the month of May was the highest it had ever been. We had some very warm days toward the end of May so we naturally ran the air conditioners. I am now pondering ways to save on electricity and I am also trying to figure out why it was so high that month.

1. Turning off lights and TV: I am the one that is constantly turning off lights or the TV. when left on. I know, mothers have been facing this uphill battle ever since TVs and electricity were invented. I hate to nag about it, but the nagging may get worse until the message gets across.

2. Hanging clothes on the line: This week I started hanging our laundry on the line with the exception of my husband’s dress shirts and pants and towels. I have noticed that when I dry clothes it is taking a lot longer to dry them in the dryer. Could it be that the dryer is not performing as well? That would be the natural answer. Then the more I thought about I realized that the new washing machine had a larger tub and I was trying to dry too large a load in the dryer. The solution: I can split the loads of towels and dry half at a time. However, I do believe the next time I will dry them on the line and then while they are still a little damp, toss them into the dryer to fluff them. As to my husband’s dress clothes, when dried in the dryer they do not need ironing and that is a big plus to me.

3. Energy Efficient Lightbulbs: The dollar store has energy efficient light bulbs for only $1.00 each. I plan on replacing all of our light bulbs over the next month with energy efficient bulbs. We have some lamps that we only use once in a while, so I will leave the incandescent bulbs in those lamps for now.

4. Start unplugging: Today I am unplugging lamps and other electric items that we leave plugged in all the time that we don’t use daily.

5. Not using as many lights: It is okay to use the natural light coming through the windows on a cool day as your only lighting. We get too used to flicking a switch to turn on a light and it isn't necessary most of the time.

6. Air conditioners and fans: When we run our air conditioner we already have the temp set at a higher setting and I always keep the drapes closed when the sun is pouring in the house on those warm days. On the cooler summer days, how many fans do we need to have running at a time?

I remember reading somewhere that a woman did all of the above and she saved close to $30 a month on her electric bill and she lived in an apartment.

Our budget utility billing is reviewed every quarter and goes up or down according to our usage. I know that July and August are prime months for air conditioning in our area and I won’t turn off the air conditioning when it is very hot. I will make as many changes as I can to take the edge off of high electric usage months so that the bill won’t go up and over time, it will go down.

In September we will need to be more diligent about winterizing the house by caulking, weather stripping and putting plastic on windows.

Anyone have any other ideas for reducing utility bills?


Ken A. said...

We have been doing many things at our house to conserve utilities. I have gone as far as applying the tacky looking foil to the windows that face the sun to reflect alot more of the heat back out.

We also have added 2 solar panels and generate some of our own electricity, with a upfront cost of around 250 dollars. We can charge many of our electronics, as well as we have lighting that runs off of it.

Another "radical" step we took was to add a small window ac unit to the front part of our house that was really about 15 degree's warmer than the other part of the house. The problem with that was the thermostat was in the warmer area, and the central air was making the other parts of the house almost freezing.

This fall will see me building solar heat collectors to warm water that will help to heat the house this winter from the radiant heat of the sun, to keep us warmer overnight.

Lots of things people can do to be creative with saving on their energy bill, and at times it can be fun to see how little you can get your bill down to. My parents added a wind turbine and now make money by selling back electricity.

Martha said...

That is so cool (pardon my play on words).