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Frugal girl’s guide to going green: electricity & power

You would think that come spring, heating your home wouldn’t be such a hot topic.  Well, considering it snowed at my house on Friday AND Sunday, we’re still battling the chill here in the great Pacific Northwest.

Our apartment is old and drafty.  Even with ALL of my heat and energy Nazi tactics, our average power bill is still about $175.  OUCH.  Our upcoming move to a more solid house will help in that aspect; thank god!

-As we could afford it, we outfitted our huge windows with blackout/thermal curtains.  I purchased the Eclipse brand from Target and they run $12.99-$19.99 per panel.  They keep heat in during the winter and keep it out during the summer.  That is big for us as our giant windows face southwest and during the summer it is downright toasty inside.

No money for new curtains?  Check out thrift stores like Goodwill or garage sales for thick curtains and drapes.  Side note: is there a difference between curtains and drapes?  I’ve seen other people using plastic sheets over windows to further insulate their homes.  It’s not pretty, but when you’re trying to keep the drafts out, aesthetics can be the last of your worries!

We received one of those little fireplace heaters as a Christmas gift this past year.  It is cute, but most importantly Jack can’t burn himself on it AND it keeps our place warm at a lower price point.  We have this one, but check craiglist, garage sales, and home improvement stores for end of season sales.   It doesn’t heat up our room, but once the room is warmed using our inefficient wall heaters, I turn those off and fire up this bad boy.

A few months ago we turned our cable off as a money saving measure.  I purchased a $8 cord from Amazon that connects our computer to our TV.  Wendy from Surviving the Apocalypse in Suburbia asked me why we just don’t watch TV on the laptop instead of connecting it to the TV.  Well, we made that move and saved on average $20 a month in utility bills.  Plus, having the laptop on my actual lap helped keep me warm in our freezing cold apartment.

To avoid paying to heat our place at night, after 7 pm, we only heat Jack’s room.  We double up on the comforters in our room to beat back the chill.

When I bake, I try to bake at night.  That way, Jack is asleep when I’m done with the oven and I can leave the oven open door to utilize the “free heat”.  We don’t use the dry function on our dishwasher, so, I also use the heat from the oven to air-dry the larger dishes after I wash them.  

I also line dry all our clothes.  Year round.  In Seattle.  So yeah, it can be done!  Details here

Pros: CFL bulbs are loads better than regular incandescent bulbs.  They save energy and they don’t give off nearly as much heat which can be big during summer months.  Cons: they also cost more and can’t be thrown away in the garbage.  

Disposal – Home Depot will take back the bulbs for safe disposal.
Cost – yep, they’re more expensive upfront, but they pay for themselves over time.  You can also usually get some for free from your local utility company.

LEDs are even better than CFL bulbs, but cost quite a bit more.  They too will last a long time and lower your bills enough to recoup the costs, but it is the initial investment that can get you.

And it goes without saying, turn lights off when you’re leaving a room for more than a few minutes.

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2 comments on “Frugal girl’s guide to going green: electricity & power”

  1. Awesome! Thanks for the mention … and I’m so happy that you decided to try my suggestion ;). We ditched the television set (with the DVD player and VCR) a while ago and noticed an immediate savings in our electric bill. It’s amazing how much electricity that television set uses. I never realized. I think most people don’t. My kids don’t miss not having the television, either. They’re fine with watching Netflix or DVDs on the computer.

    Best, though, was that the gorgeous armoire that had previously housed our television now holds coats, hats and gloves so all of that stuff is out of sight.

    So, we saved money AND created storage – total win/win!

  2. Our house is really drafty too, and in Minnesota in the winter…that’s not good! So I hit the thrift store and made reversible insulating shades for our windows out of a black sheet, a white sheet (or piece of plain muslin), and old towels for insulation in the middle (scrap quilt batting works too, if you can find a source — I used the pieces thrown out by a charity that makes baby quilts for a couple of shades). I just sewed up the sides and threw in a few quilting-like stitches in the middle to keep the insulation in place. They’re reversible just like the store-bought ones, actually do a surprisingly good job of keeping the cold out, and don’t require a sewing machine to make quickly.

    We also bought clear vinyl off the roll at Jo-Ann’s and used it to make a reusable, cat-proof alternative to that plastic stuff. You can stretch it over the window-frame and tack it, make a frame for it and hang it over the window-frame with picture-hangers, or do what we did and just tape it up at the top where the curtain hides the tape. It’s pretty inconspicuous unless you’re really looking closely, and the vinyl is only a couple of bucks a yard for a 5′-ish width normally, minus one of the 50% off coupons Jo-Ann’s sends out every other week.