Wednesday, January 31, 2007

Saving Money - Part I

On the path to early retirement the single biggest challenge you will face is controlling your spending. I take it for granted how I handle things, so I thought it would be useful to share a few things that I found cut back on my spending.

Since this is a fairly large area to cover I'm going to break this up into sections. Part I is about cutting back on your utility bills.

Power Bill
-use CFL lights in the house and LED Christmas lights
-turn off that computer when you are done (NOT power save mode)
-unplug anything you are not using right now to reduce phantom loads (for example: if your coffee pot has a clock on it, it's using power, so unplug it when it's not being used)
-if it won't drive you nuts, put all your TV, DVD players, VCR's on power bars and turn them off when they are not being used
-when you have to replace a major appliance look at energy star models
-when the oven is heated up try to cook more than one thing
-if no one is in a room turn off the light (I'm currently treaching my son this one)

Water Bill
-use low flow shower heads (2.5 gpm or less) that allow you to turn off water while soaping up (this also saves on your natural gas if you use it for hot water)
-change your aerators on your faucets to low flow versions (1.5 gpm or less)
-consider getting a rain barrel to save on summer watering of plants
-water the lawn early in the morning to save on evaporation
-buy a front load washer (they use less water and your clothes are dryer coming out so use less power in the dryer)

Natural Gas
-get a programmable thermostat and turn down the heat over night. If you find it too cold use a a few extra blankets on the bed.
-If there is only one bedroom being slept in you might want to consider dropping your house temperature even further overnight and using a space heater for the one room.
-turn down your water heater (the idea is to have warm water not very hot)
-when you leave the house for a few hours turn down the thermostat while you are gone
-install weatherstripping around your doors and if you have old windows use that plastic sheets to stop drafts
-during the warmer months look at your attic hatch to see if it seals well and also check out the insulation in your attic if your less than R40 you might be able to make some serious savings if you upgrade it.

Well that is a few of my tips. If you have more, please leave a comment and share.


byno said...

One thing I would highly recommend is to get an energy audit done on your house. We did this a few years back when the majority of the cost was picked up through different government incentives.

The audit was able to pinpoint deficiencies in our house which included:

1. Basement windows were leaking in cold air. We put the plastic over the windows and this has saved us a ton, not to mention the basement is warmer.

2. We took all of the light switch and electrical outlet covers off on all exterior walls and placed a foam insert to insulate the hole and then put the covers back over...what a difference this made.

3. We caulked all of our windows in the house as every one of them was not sealed very well.

4. Added insulation where noted by the auditor.

Admittedly we did not make any huge changes as our house is fairly new, but for someone with an older house, an energy audit can help save big time. If anyone is thinking of doing so, make sure you learn about the new details coming out of Ottawa on the new program where the government will kick in up to $5000 to improve the efficiency of your home.

Corey said...

Under the water section I would recommend replacing your most frequently used toilet(s) with low flush (6L flush) or dual flush versions. Toilets account for a pretty large percentage of water usage in your home. You can get them reasonably priced and some areas (Calgary, for example) offer rebates ($50/toilet) if you retrofit an older toilet. Just make sure the toilet you get is on the approved list of toilets if you're trying to get a rebate. Some people claim the 6L toilets are nothing but trouble (I think they had problems when they first came out) but we've had no trouble with the two we installed.

Mike said...

A note about turning your water tank temperature down - there is some debate about the risk of bacteria forming if the temp is too low:

pragmatic said...

There's a line between being obsessive and saving money. Unplugging too many things only to plug them back in when you use them sounds like it makes sense, but how much power are you really saving each month with a few applicances? Does saving say 5 dollars a month really make that much a difference to gain so much hassle? Like anything that helps you save money, it's gotta be practical. Otherwise it will drive you, your wife, and your family insanely obsessive and not enjoy life! JMHO

Middle Class Millionaire said...

Just curious, but have you calculated how much money you've saved by implementing those simple changes?

Canadian Dream said...

Well this seems to be a bit of hot topic for comments, so let me try to address them as they were posted.

Byno - I recently found out I have to replace my furnace so I was looking into that program. It starts April 1, 2007.

Corey - Good point. I've got some 13L/flush beasts that I'm looking to replace hopefully this year.

Mike - Thanks for the link!

Pragmatic - Too true. I'm just pointed out options. I know my wife can't stand using a power bar on the TV, so I bought an energy star DVD and TV and we leave it plugged in. The phantom loads can really add up depending on your house. I just point out the coffee maker, because I personally don't mind doing it at all. It takes two seconds a day. To get a good idea of your phantom loads check out your power provider and see if they offer an online calculator. (I know has a great one.)

MCM – It’s a bit hard to tell on some of these changes because I found these tips over the years and slowly did them and I moved a lot, so I did not get too much good data. Based on conversations with other people I know my power bill is roughly half of most people in similar sized houses. So that’s about $40/month in savings, then based on my natural gas estimated bills I would say I’m about $20/month (averaged over a year) lower than the previous owner. My water bill I don’t really sure how much lower I am, but I would guess around $20/month. So combined I’m saving close to $1000/year.


MCM said...

Wow $1000 year is pretty good (honestly more than I thought). I was just wondering because I'd have to show significant savings to get my wife on board (without constant accusations of being "cheap" anyways;)

Canadian Dream said...


Perhaps you sell the idea to her in a different package like 'stop global warming' or 'if we do a few things around the house we can save a bit more and use it to paint the bedroom or new 400 thread count sheets' after which your still saving, but she feels like she gets something out of it.