8 ways to lower your monthly bill

Reduce Your Electric and Heating Bill

by Brian Chow

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With increases in utility rates recently, we will have to find ways to reduce our energy consumption to save money. Here are 8 tips that I have compiled from different sources to help you cut down your utility bills.

Tip 1: Adjust your thermostat to different temperatures during the day and at night
The heating system uses the most energy of the house; therefore, you need to find ways to limit its operations. Consider adjusting your thermostat to 68F (20C) during the day and 61F (16C) at night. Don't forget to change the furnace filter frequently so that air can efficiently flow through the system. One article I have found mentions you should change it every month, while another suggests every 6 months. Regardless how often you change the filter, you should always do it regularly.

Tip 2: Convert your furnace room into a dryer
You can tie ropes from one end to another end of your furnace room, and hang your laundry on them for drying. By doing this, you will save the electricity required to run the dryer. T-shirts take about one night to dry, and jeans take about two nights. Avoid hanging the clothes too close to the furnace unit so that air can circulate properly.

Tip 3: Seal all windows and fireplace
Use anti-draft plastic sheets, available at home renovation centres, to seal windows. You can also place rolled-up towels around window ledges to prevent air from escaping. When you are not using your fireplaces, remember to close the vents or seal the front of the fireplaces with plastic sheets.

Tip 4: Turn or shut down your water heater overnight
After everyone in your household has taken a shower, turn down the temperature of your water heater. You can even shut it down because the tank water is still usually warm enough for uses in the morning. If you properly schedule the turn off time, you can save up to 20 hours of energy use.

Tip 5: Use your microwave oven more often
Over 80% of the energy of stove burners is lost to heating the surrounding air. On the other hand, microwave oven directly heats up the food so using it often can save you up to 90% of the electric use. Find recipes that allow you to use your microwave oven.

Tip 6: Leave breathing room for your refrigerator
Your refrigerator works constantly to keep your food cold, so it is a heavy user of electricity. To help your fridge runs more efficiently, leave room in the back and on the top for air to circulate. An efficient fridge uses less electricity to keep a constant cold temperature.

Tip 7: Use your back porch as your refrigerator
When the temperature reaches 32F (0C) or less, you can store fruits and vegetables outside instead of your fridge. Use plastic bins to store these items, and place them away from sunlight. By leaving more room in the fridge, you don't have to turn down the temperature as low to keep your food cold. If you live in cold enough climate, you can even turn off the fridge and use your backyard exclusively. You should always store your meat in your freezer. If you do turn off your fridge, remember to clean the inside and leave the door open for at least one night to let it dry to discourage mold growth. A family in Calgary, Alberta has actually managed to unplug its fridge 6 months every year.

Tip 8: Change all of your light bulbs to fluorescent (or halogen) bulbs
Although fluorescent bulbs cost at least 5 times more than regular bulbs ($5 for fluorescent vs. $1 regular), they are 3 times more energy efficient, 4 times brighter, and 10 times longer lasting. An 11W fluorescent bulb gives off as much light as 60W incandescent bulb. At my local IKEA, you can get an 11W fluorescent bulb for CAN $5.95 (= USD $4.10).

Sources: Ming Pao Saturday Magazine, BC Gas, BC Hydro

Brian Chow operates Free Stuff Page. You can get lots of free stuff such as free T-shirts, free beauty samples, free phone cards and more. You can also get other frugal secrets and articles in the "Frugal Center" section. copyright 2001 by Brian Chow

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