Thursday Thirteen No. 5 Thrift

Thursday, December 06, 2007

Winter is here. Up go the bills, especially the heating bills. I've been thinking of ways to be more thrifty with energy use and other things around the house. I hadn't thought of organizing these thoughts until now. I'll put them in a Thursday Thirteen format! Maybe some of these ideas can help you, and maybe you can come up with some ideas yourself! Please share them, if you do.

1. Eliminate vampire appliances. Vampire appliances are those appliances that eat up electricity even when they are off or not being used. Examples are the newer televisions (if you have a remote that will turn the TV on, then your TV is a vampire), VCR and DVD players, computers, coffee makers, cell phone battery chargers). If you have vampires, unplug them when not in use. I know, it sounds menial, but you'd be amazed at all the energy you save. I have asked my kids to be the pluggers and unpluggers, so I don't need to worry about it.

2. Draft doggies. You know what they are? Those serpentine cloth things filled with silicon pellets. Some people make them into very cute critters. These draft doggies lay in front of your closed doors, to block drafts that come in at the bottom. My doors are very old and have gaps, so I need to quit procrastinating and make some doggies!

3. Turn down the water heater. During the summer, I keep the water heater as low as the family will let me. I am inclined to turn it up in the winter, because it gets so cold here. But 120 degress is the recommended temperature. I think that is too high, even for winter. Ten-degrees less will save money.

4. Make stews and soups and homemade breads. These kinds of foods are very economical, and cooking them all day helps keep the house warm. Running a crockpot uses less energy than an oven, too. Stews and soups are often the repositories for our leftovers, so we are frugal in an extra way, too.

5. Buy clothes at the Thirft Store. I almost never buy new clothing. The children just go through their clothes too fast. My son is shooting up like a weed and grew out of three sizes this summer. I had just bought him new pants, too! So much for that. Thrift stores are also great places to find things like snowsuits and winter coats. These things are usually in good shape, and you are saving untold hundreds because they are so expensive brand new. I do buy new shoes and underclothes for the kids, but for outerwear and play, the Thrift Store is the way to go!

6. Sew insulated curtains for your windows. I've seen those infra-red photos, have you? They show with their brilliant colors all the heat escaping from the house. The biggest heat escapes are the windows and the eaves area. That is certainly the case here. I have heavy lined curtains for my windows. Brand-new curtains are terribly expensive. Since curtains are so easy to sew, it makes sense to exercise thrift with window treatments. Oftentimes, places like the fabric center at WalMart have discounted fabric.

7. Insulate your walls. This is no quickie fix. When I gutted and restored my Living Room over the summer, I bit the bullet and paid extra to insulate the room. The rest of the house in uninsulated. :S Not good. But a little at a time is better than nothing. Insulating the walls is probably the best thing you can do to save on the heating bills.

8. Hang heavy drapes in the doorways. OK, Martha Stewart I'm not. But I don't have Martha Stewart's six-figure income, either. I close off the upstairs and half of the downstairs during the winter. This way, we really only have to heat the downstairs half that we live in during the day. Still, our heating bills are pretty high (it is a 150-year old house, after all), but any little bit helps.

9. Dress warmly. Duh.

10. Buy slippers for all the children, and make them wear them. Most children seem allergic to slippers. Mine do, anyway. Then they complain how cold they are! But I got good, solid slippers for them and this is a key component in keeping them warm! I also got them all "snugglies," which are a type of blanket/sleeping bag that buttons from the bottom to the top and into wide sleeves. While the kids do their lessons, they are curled up in their snugglies. Wearing their slippers.

11. Put perishables outside. Here in New York, it can get quite cold for extended periods of time. I sometimes stuff extra loaves of bread, frozen veggies, and other frozen foods in a cooler in my garage. The garage is not heated and temperatures are very similar to the outdoors in there. Some people even haul their refrigerators out to their garage and shut them off. I don't know if I'd go that far. For one, if the weather suddenly turned balmy, I couldn't just hoist up the fridge and drag it back in. Moving that behemoth is a major project. And two, my garage is quite a ways from my kitchen. So everytime I'd need something from the fridge, I'd have to go on a trip to get it.

12. Replace the air filter in your furnace. "Experts" say to do this every three months for "phenomenal savings"! I change it twice a year. Every six months. That's not too bad. At least I change it!

13. Go to bed early and rise early. Of course, this kind of thrift depends largely on your lifestyle. But if you can do this, it does save energy! Energy rates are at their highest after 5pm. That's why energy companies urge homemakers to do all their laundry, dishes, etc during the day. This saves energy which saves the green stuff!

If you have any tips that have worked for you, be sure to leave them. I am always open to new ideas.

7 remarks
hh said...

I agree with all your ideas. Something else we do is use the garage entrance in/out of house as often as possible. We have a "people" door to the outside as well as the "car" door on the garage, so it cuts down on the amount of cold air coming in. :)

8:10 AM  

Great Thursday post! Come take a sip of my blog up before someone else drinks it all!

8:10 AM  
threecollie said...

All great ideas...although most of my windows are uncurtained. I simply love the light

11:43 AM  
Mrs Mecomber said...

That "vestibule" door idea is great, HH. I'd use it myself, but everyone seems to prefer the back door which opens right up into the house. :(

Thanks, DMMGOMFM. I'm sure there's plenty of your blog to go around. Google is pretty expanded these days...

I know whatyou mean about light, TC! I just HAVE to have my curtains open during the day in my Living Room, cold or not. Since we remodeled the LR, the window frames changed and I need to sew new curtains anyway. Just another thing to do!

2:26 PM  
Mrs. W said...

Here are some of our methods for reducing our energy bill:

- Install a programmable thermostat. We find this saves us plenty! The heat is set at 68*F at the most during the times of day we are up & around--getting ready for work, dinnertime and evening 'together time.' Otherwise it is programmed to be at 64*F or lower, depending on the time of day and day of week.

- A heated mattress pad in the bedroom allows us to be toasty warm without heating the whole house.

- Close off unused rooms. No need to heat rooms that go largely unused.

- I have a twin-sized fitted jersey knit sheet that I wrap around my front door when I'm not expecting anyone to come by. It looks ugly, but keeps drafts from sneaking into the living room. Casual friends and family enter by the side door into a vestibule so less heat escapes.

- Plastic over windows cut down on drafts.

- Motion-sensing outdoor lights mounted onto our garage help us light the driveway without leaving it on unnecessarily. A simple attachment in the regular socket from the home superstore--no special wiring.

- Those new CFL light bulbs are great in lieu of regular bulbs.

PS--Draft doggies are $3.99 at Christmas Tree Shop in Syracuse,(well, Mattydale, actually) if you go there!

7:32 PM  
Mrs Mecomber said...

Mrs. W, those are some outstanding ideas. I'd forgotten about plastic over windows. In an apartment we'd had years ago, I got a winterizing kit that had a terrific set of plastic tabs and clear plastic sheets. You zipped the sheets with the tabs like a ziploc bag. I loved it. Unfortunately, I had to leave the system behind when we moved, and I've been unable to find anything like it since.

The programmable thermostat idea eludes me. I've seen it in all the magazines, etc. I am home all day, do I need a programmable thermostat? Is it's only purpose to be a fail-safe should you forget to turn the thermo down? I've never been sure of its purpose beyond that.

Thanks for the great suggestions! I'll have to look into finding more of that plastic.. that sure would help us here.

7:54 PM  
Mrs. W said...

Wow--those ziploc sheets sound fabulous. I've never seen anything like that... alas, we are forced to use that hideous tape.

I'm home all day, too, but I still love the programmable thermostat. It was under $20, and it keeps me accountable... meaning, if I'm cold and jack up the heat on an impulse, it only stays at my setting for 2 hours maximum--then reverts back to the programmed settings. Plus I don't have to get up out of my toasty bed when we have it at 60 when it's time to turn it up to 64. Get my meaning?

By the way, I've tagged you for a meme...

12:46 PM  

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