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 Post subject: Best small hack to improve life/bills?
PostPosted: Wed Apr 18, 2007 10:01 pm 
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Location: Trumbull, CT
So my fiance and I are looking for small hacks to optimize our usage of utilities. We've come up with a few things:

1. We keep a full 20 oz. bottle of water in the toilet reservoir to reduce our water usage. We also adopt the yellow/mellow rule when we know no one is coming over.

2. CFL instead of the usual lights.

What's your favorite set it and forget hacks?[/list]

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PostPosted: Wed Apr 18, 2007 10:20 pm 

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    Turn off the lights!
    Blankets, not heaters.
    Ice water, not A/C.
    Close the fridge.
Those are your basics, but one people may forget is Hibernate (the computer).

A computer on 24/7 can take a ton of power. Especially if you have a 800W PSU for your uber-ober-fragging. You know who you are...


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PostPosted: Thu Apr 19, 2007 5:42 am 
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Umm

What is yellow/mellow?

Our basic hack is to always drink water when we're out, and the free tap water at that. No more buying drinks!

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PostPosted: Thu Apr 19, 2007 6:16 am 

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JerichoHill wrote:
What is yellow/mellow?


"If it's yellow, let it mellow. If it's brown, flush it down."

A bit graphic, but it gets the idea across.

Low-flow showerheads and faucet fixtures are also a great cheap way to reduce your water use and cut down on your energy bill (you use less hot water as well as less water overall).

Cold-water laundry is another easy practice, as is a clothesline if it's allowed where you live. I've never owned a clothes drier in my life, and have no desire to get one.


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PostPosted: Thu Apr 19, 2007 6:34 am 
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mellow yellow
....

:lol:

yeah okay, we do that too

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PostPosted: Thu Apr 19, 2007 7:29 am 
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I recently wrote about just this topic. Here's my list:

1) Replace your incandescent light bulbs with compact fluorescent bulbs.

2) Get a programmable thremostat.

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

4) Install low-flow shower heads.

5) Install aerator screens on all of your faucets.

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

7) Insulate your attic access.

8) Balance your vents to achieve an even, comfortable temperature throughout your house.

9) Weather strip your doors and windows.

10) Insulate your garage door.

11) Plant trees in strategic locations around your house.

If you care to read the whole thing, complete with my thoughts on each, you can do so http://www.fivecentnickel.com/2007/01/31/12-simple-ways-to-save-money-on-utilities-and-the-planet/.

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PostPosted: Thu Apr 19, 2007 7:33 am 

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I'm putting in a clothes line this summer to cut down on the cost of running the dryer.

One of the things I discovered over the past year is that the biggest variable bill in my household is the electric bill, and I found that it was most influenced by the amount of heating/ac that I used in any given month. I live in Texas, and the summers are so miserably hot that you have to have air conditioning to be at all comfortable. I have a 1300 sqft house, and my biggest electric bill is in August, when the AC runs almost 24/7. I put in a digital thermostat and this summer will keep it programmed it to keep the house at 80 when I'm not home. I'll see if that makes a difference (it should) in how much power I use.

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PostPosted: Thu Apr 19, 2007 8:48 am 
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Location: Houston, TX
I'll third the recommendation for a programmable thermostat. They're cheap & easy to install yourself.

My bathroom light fixtures aren't easily converted to CFL, so instead of replacing the fixtures, I've unscrewed half the bulbs. I don't need to see everything in the bathroom mirror that clearly.

I also have dimmers on several of the other lights that I haven't converted to CFL (though I think I've seen dimmable CFL now). Saving money is only slightly less romantic than dim light.

Another free hack is window-shade management. Open blinds/drapes during the day to let sunlight (heat) in and close them at night to keep it in. (The reverse is true if you live in Texas like Gnashchick and I.)


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PostPosted: Thu Apr 19, 2007 9:03 am 

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Yes, dimmable (and 3-way) compact fluorescents are now available, though sometimes you have to hunt for them.

Much as I'm a champion of CFLs (some of which have lasted me more than 10 years and paid for themselves many times over), there are several fixtures in my apartment where they just don't do the job for various reasons, plus it's never good economic sense to use CFLs in closets or other places where the light is turned on for just a few hours per year.

Another cheap-but-surprisingly-effective hack is to get those little plastic inserts that cover wall sockets when they're not in use. I think most people buy these if they have young kids and want to avoid electrocution (when the kid sticks a butter knife into the socket, for example), but if you put a lighted candle in front of an open socket in winter (or summer in Texas) you're likely to find airflow. Total that airflow across all the wall sockets in your house and it adds up to a drain on your utility bills.

One more thing on clotheslines: in winter we can't hang out our clothes, so we use wooden drying racks indoors. They don't take up much space and we put them against the wall next to the radiators. Clothes are usually dry by the end of the day if we do laundry in the morning, even including flannel sheets and duvet covers (sometimes those take a little longer but never more than a day and a half). There's an added benefit that your clothes add a bit of humidity to the air as they dry on the rack, which here in Canada is always welcome in winter.


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PostPosted: Thu Apr 19, 2007 9:36 am 

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Turn down the heat on your water heater...

That should work right?


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PostPosted: Thu Apr 19, 2007 9:55 am 

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DonoInBolivia wrote:
Turn down the heat on your water heater...

That should work right?


Yes, but it does create a small risk of bacterial infection, particularly Legionnaire's disease. Hot-water tanks usually have a pretty healthy population of harmless bacteria, but the harmful ones can gain hold if you turn the heat down too low.

If you're concerned about this risk, you can at least save money by insulating your hot-water heater (kits are available for not much money).

A better (but much more expensive) solution is to replace a hot-water tank with an instantaneous hot-water system like the ones used in Europe. These cut down on your bill enormously because you're not paying to have a hot water tank run 24/7 just to have hot water for the few minutes a day when you need it. In the old days instantaneous heaters didn't work very well--I've had my share of cold showers in England--but the kinks have been worked out well and good since then.


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PostPosted: Thu Apr 19, 2007 9:57 am 

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brad wrote:
DonoInBolivia wrote:
Turn down the heat on your water heater...

That should work right?


Yes, but it does create a small risk of bacterial infection, particularly Legionnaire's disease. Hot-water tanks usually have a pretty healthy population of harmless bacteria, but the harmful ones can gain hold if you turn the heat down too low.

If you're concerned about this risk, you can at least save money by insulating your hot-water heater (kits are available for not much money).

A better (but much more expensive) solution is to replace a hot-water tank with an instantaneous hot-water system like the ones used in Europe. These cut down on your bill enormously because you're not paying to have a hot water tank run 24/7 just to have hot water for the few minutes a day when you need it. In the old days instantaneous heaters didn't work very well--I've had my share of cold showers in England--but the kinks have been worked out well and good since then.


Yeah, down here in Bolivia we actually use an electric shower! I know, electricty and water down mix, and sometimes I get a little shock, but other than that they work fine!


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PostPosted: Thu Apr 19, 2007 10:35 am 
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Quote:
A better (but much more expensive) solution is to replace a hot-water tank with an instantaneous hot-water system


Kris and I are looking into these. It seems a shame to replace our current water heater — it came new with the house three years ago — but it sucks. The water temperature is unpredictable, and so it the quantity of warm water. I like to bathe. And I like my baths to be hot. I haven't really had a hot bath since we moved in. It's enough to make me weep!

But you're right — these are expensive. I need to crunch the numbers to see if, like compact fluorescents, they can pay off in the long-term.


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PostPosted: Fri Apr 20, 2007 8:25 am 

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jdroth wrote:
I like to bathe.


Phew! We are SO glad to hear that, JD! ;)


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PostPosted: Sat Apr 21, 2007 5:44 am 
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I just read this one over at Tricks of the Trade:

Fill any excess freezer room with O.J or milk containers full of water. The less free space you have in your freezer the less it will run, and the more you'll money save in the long run.

Plus, if there's ever a power outage, the blocks of ice will remain frozen for a while, allowing you to keep food in there much longer than you'd otherwise be able--and, as the ice melts over time, it won't flood the freezer, because it's already in a sealed container.

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