For the most part, when becoming a homesteader a person saves more money because they are making a lot of the products themselves versus buying them. So how does one save on items that we absolutely have to pay for, such as our vehicles, different energy suckers in our homes, and more?
Here are some ways that I have found will be helpful to our own personal energy crisis, which saves us money and might help our Earth to boot!
How to Save Energy Around the House
1. Thermostat- Turn it Up in the Summer, Down in the Winter
The house is where we spend a lot of our time. Saving energy can be done fairly easily, it just takes a little bending and learning. For example, my husband and I had an all-bills paid first apartment so he happily kept the air conditioner at sixty-eight degrees all summer (and I stayed under a blanket when we were at the house).
The following summer we had moved a thousand miles away from our first place and were paying for our own electricity. Much to my pleasure, the temperature in the house was seventy-two the first month of summer and seventy-four the following. We learned that by turning it up two degrees our bill went down by about ten dollars a month. Well worth it for the money saver!
Likewise, though, we turn it down in the winter. So seventy-four is our happy compromise for the summer and sixty-six is our compromise for the winter. I also make sure that when I finish doing my winter baking, I open the oven so the heat can get out. I might even stand by the oven if I am super cold!
Another thing to consider if you are okay with devices that are tied to each other via wifi is adding a nest thermostat to your list of things to purchase. The great thing about this thermostat is you have control of it from anywhere. So, during the day while you are at work, you can have it set higher (in the summer) or lower (in the winter) and then have it change an hour or two before you get home.
Lighting is more than just the lights you turn off and on during the day. Many people do not realize that using a thick curtain during the summer months to cover the windows can make the temperature in your home go down several degrees.
During the winter months, keep them closed until mid-day when the sun is hottest. This way the rays will keep you warm but the cold stays out.
If you haven’t changed your light bulbs in a while or switched over to using LEDs, CFLs, or energy-efficient incandescent bulbs then I recommend doing that as soon as possible. This could save your electric bill anywhere from thirty to eighty percent, depending on the current bulbs you are using. Not to mention, these light bulbs last a long time.
Also, don’t be afraid to wait a little bit and find them on sale. My husband recently went to Walmart and found some LED light bulbs that were $1 for a pack of four on sale. He bought them all- all twenty went in his cart. Needless to say, we do not need light bulbs for a long, long time!
In addition to changing your bulbs, make sure you are turning them off as much as possible. One great way to make sure everything you can get in your house is being turned off is to get a multi-plug outlet and turn it off all at once.
Washing your laundry in cold water instead of hot can save you up to sixty-three dollars a year and I’m a firm believer that everything helps. Not to mention, using cold water means your clothes will not shrink.
So the question then becomes, can your clothes (especially those whites) really get clean in cold water? The answer is a resounding yes. Thanks to modern appliances and laundry soap getting more cold-water friendly, your stains will go away hot or cold.
The only concern is smells. If you find that cold water is not getting the smell out, I recommend doing a pre-rinse twenty minutes after you walk in the door with those sweaty clothes on!
If you can handle hanging your clothes to dry, this will save you thirty-six cents per forty-five minute load in the dryer. I, personally, prefer to dry most of my clothes in the dryer (the exception is non-dryer clothes and delicates) so this is a matter of preference, as is most of the items on this list!
For some, this can seem like a good idea because you may only need one of two rooms heated and if you are next to them you stay very warm; however, they suck energy worse than a regular heater and they are very unsafe. A couple of years ago I worked with a friend who chose to have space heaters instead of paying the energy company. While at work, her roommate had them on. Their house burned down with the roommate inside.
If you use window units that only do air conditioning, I recommend taking them off during the winter months as there are multiple areas that the outside air can seep through. One of these areas is in between the unit and the window and the other area is the unit itself.
Also, if you don’t have central AC, purchasing a whole-house fan to bring the hot air in the attic down can cool your house down by five degrees in less than ten minutes. This fan costs less than twenty-five center per day!
Turning your water heater down to one hundred and thirty degrees will help save on your electric bill as well as wrapping the water heater with a blanket specifically designed for your water heater. Another benefit to having the heater turned down is you and your family is less likely to get burned.
If using water for your garden or anything outside, creating or purchasing a rain barrel is a good idea. This way you are not using water from an outside source. During the summer months where I live, we often get water restrictions and are only allowed to water our yard so many days a week (normally it’s around three). Having a water barrel means that I do not have to follow this restriction.
When using the dishwasher, it is recommended to have a full load. If you are a single or a couple, having a full load may be hard so when picking a dishwasher, I recommend one that splits in half, where you only have to fill half of it when needed or the whole thing when you have company.
As far as using water to clean yourself, I recommend taking a shower as often as possible. Filling a bathtub uses twenty gallons of water and a five-minute shower uses about seven and a half gallons. Also, switch to a low-energy shower head. You still get the same water pressure and use less water at the same time. This could save you two hundred and fifty dollars a year!
5. Oven Pre-Temp and Time of Year
I recommend not worrying about preheating your oven. Instead: turn it on, do the prep, and then place it in the oven. If it does not say it is up to temperature, that is okay.
During the winter months, keep the oven door open after you turned the oven off. During the summer months, if you feel like baking, I recommend doing it early in the morning or late at night as this is the coolest time of day.
6. Keep Your Appliances Clean
If your oven is dirty that will probably not affect your energy bill; however, if your refrigerator core is full of dust it will not run as well.
The same thing applies to your air conditioner, spending the two or three dollars on the filter every three months will save you money in the long run. The reason for this is because the dirt slows down the airflow in the house.
Keeping the light fixtures dusted means that you have more lighting from one light and, therefore, do not need to turn another one on.
Sealing any air leaks means the heat or AC will stay in and the outside air will stay out. Keeping the house up-to-date is beneficial for many reasons.
7. Consider your Fireplace
The fireplace is a great thing to have. My in-laws recently replaced theirs with one that keeps the house very warm and eliminates their need for electric heat for most of the winter. It is important though that you keep the area maintained and do some (or all) of the following:
- If it is a wood burning fireplace, have the chimney cleaned out regularly. We did this at our rental house before using it the first winter we were there and found that during the time it was not used a bird had built a nest inside of it. I am so glad for the bird and ourselves that we had this checked.
- Check the seal on the damper. Checking the seal is as simple as closing the damper off and hold a piece of tissue paper inside the firebox. If drafts blow the tissue around then you need to have the damper repaired or replaced.
- If you do have the thermostat on, turn it down to about fifty-five degrees when the fireplace is going. The reason for this is so that the warm air from the fire place does not go straight out of the chimney.
- As with other areas of your house, make sure the fireplace is properly sealed both inside and out.
- When not in use, make sure the damper is closed and doors are as well. My husband and I also chose to put a thick curtain over the fireplace during the warmer months.
How to Save Energy with Your Vehicles
8. Keep your Vehicle Taken Care of
Keeping your vehicle tuned will save you money in the long run. Keeping it tuned does mean oil changes and other maintenance issues, but it also means doing simple things such as checking tire pressure. My husband, who is a technology school certified automotive technician, tells me to check my tire pressure every time I go to the gas station to fill up.
Having proper tire pressure and doing maintenance as needed does save on gas; however, doing such maintenance does save lives as well. I keep going back to check the tires but for good reason. June 2004 changed my life. A friend of mine, who was also a co-worker, was coming home from picking up her car from the auto body shop. Her mother was in the car with her, her father behind her. A tire was not properly inflated and it blew. This caused her to swerve into a tree, killing her mother instantly and she died twenty-minutes later on the way to the hospital. Her father witnessed the whole thing.
During National Car Care month (which is April, right before summer road trips begin) Rich White noted that,
During last year’s National Car Care Month, we found that about eighty-five percent of the cars inspected had some sort of problem and needed some work.
9. When you Purchase a New Vehicle Consider the Specs
Considering the gas mileage if you are on the road is very important.
Another consideration is purchasing the right size vehicle for the towing capacity that you need. If you plan to haul animals, a camper, or other heavy duty items then I would aim for a higher towing capacity than you might need. Better to have a vehicle that can tow more than you need than one that will tow too little and cause a struggle for your gas mileage and your drive.
How to Save Energy – Do an Energy Audit
Before I say adieu on this post, I recommend getting an energy audit if you haven’t done so recently. Knowing where to save energy in your home is beneficial for a multitude of reasons, including saving you money. Saving money on everyday things means more in your pocket for the things you want without sacrificing your living style.