Better Ideas for Better Times

Saving Big Bucks on your Energy Bill in the Summer

Doing what you can, with what you have, where you are.


Take care of the pennies, and the dollars will take care of themselves.

The fact of this matter is -- you have control over your life! You can make small changes in the ways that you do things that add up to big savings every month. It won't happen without some effort, but aren't we all tired of high utility bills? Which would you rather do -- give your money to a big corporation, or spend it on something nice for yourself or your kids? It's your choice. Even if you're renting, there are many things you can do to save money on your monthly energy bills.

Use Less Hot Water

Turn the thermostat on the hot water heater to 120 degrees. Install low-flow showerheads and faucets. Take quick showers, not baths. Wash clothes in cold water. Insulate the hot water tank, but don't cover the top, bottom, thermostat, or burner compartment. You can buy a "jacket" designed for insulating a water heater at many home supply stores, or the tank can be wrapped with insulating materials secured with duct tape. Not fancy, but serviceable.

Keep the hot air out and the cool air inside.

Find your air leaks. Turn off the air conditioner, and hold a lit incense stick by doors, windows, electric outlets and switches, counters, sinks, places where plumbing goes through walls. Watch for drafts. Use caulk (very cheap) and weatherstripping to stop leaks. Home supply stores sell pads to put behind switches/outlets to stop drafts. Insulation in the attic and the walls is one of the best ways to cut your bill. If you are renting, ask your landlord about this. If you own your home, contact a social service agency about programs for insulating and weatherizing homes.

Shade is your friend. Keep the sun's heat from hitting windows, doors, walls.

Install window shades on the outside of your house. Be creative and you won't spend much money. An inexpensive bamboo roll-up window shade works fine, and there's always aluminum foil. Keep the sun from actually hitting the windows to lower the heat building. Inside, one or more curtains will help, and choose white or another light color (sheets are do-able and cheap, & more is better). Don't forget the doors. The best choice for your wall shade is vegetation. Although it takes many years to grow a tall tree, vines grow in just a few weeks. Morning glories provide plenty of shade plus flowers that are beautiful to look at. There are many varieties of pole beans which will climb right up your walls as well as cover windows. Hang some twine down the wall for each plant to assist their climb, or put up a trellis or some cheap chicken wire. Plant a new vine every six inches and in a few weeks you will not only have shaded walls and windows, you will have tasty fresh green beans to eat!

Lighting.

Remember your grandmother's advice: turn off the lights when you aren't using them (no, it doesn't take more energy to turn them off and on than it does to leave them on, that's an urban myth). Switch from incandescent lights to flourescent. Not only do they use less electricity, they are also cooler -- 90% of the electricity used by an incandescent light bulb is converted to heat. The best choice is "compact flourescent". Although they are more expensive than incandescent (starting at $8), they will last 10 times as long, and each saves about $45 of electricity during its life. (Best prices are at discount/warehouse stores, and bulbs are available that will fit ordinary light fixtures and lamps.) Don't use overhead lights when a table lamp will do. Use less lighting during the day when natural light is available.

Refrigerator.

Set your refrigerator thermostat so the inside is at 37º-40º, and the freezer compartment is 5º; if you have a separate freezer, keep it at 0º. The refrigerator is most efficient when it is full, but not over-crowded (food holds coolness better than air). The same is true for freezers; if your freezer is half empty, fill it with 2 liter pop bottles of water (leaving the bottle about 1/4th empty for ice expansion). Fill empty spaces in your refrigerator with frozen water bottles. Check the temperature with a thermometer. Don't let the frost build up -- when it is 1/4 inch deep, defrost the freezer. Move the refrigerator away from the wall once a year and vacuum the coils -- they work most efficiently when they are clean. Make sure the coils are not up against the wall. Let hot foods cool before putting them in the refrigerator, and make sure that all dishes and foods are covered in airtight containers. Don't hold the door open while you stand there deciding what you want to eat. Locate the refrigerator away from the stove and out of direct sunlight.

Pay attention to details.

Many modern appliances have "ghost loads" -- such as instant-on circuits that draw power all the time, even when you think it is "off". When an appliance isn't being used, make sure it is turned completely off, unplug it if necessary -- especially the television (which consumes lots of energy and generates lots of heat). Never use the television for "background noise" while you're doing something else; a radio consumes less power. Go barefoot in the house, and wear loose-fitting light clothes made from natural fabrics like cotton. Don't cool unused rooms, keep them closed unless necessary for air circulation in your house. If your air conditioner is in the sun, shade it -- but don't block its air circulation. Wash dishes by hand, don't use the dish washer. Dress lightly for sleeping, and use cotton sheets and a cotton mattress pad (or several cotton sheets if you don't have a pad). If you smoke, do it outside. Hang your clothes out to dry, especially heavy items like jeans and towels. (No dryer can duplicate that great smell of clothes that have been dried on the line outside.)

Cooking

If you have an electric stove, whenever possible use a crockpot, toaster oven, or electric frying pan, all of which use much less electricity than the stove. When using the stove, turn the burner off several minutes before the cooking is done. The recipe will finish as the burners cool down. Use a pressure cooker. Cook with the smallest pan necessary to do the job. Cover water you are bringing to boil. Keep the inside of a microwave oven clean. Whenever possible, cook outside or eat meals that don't require a lot of cooking. Cooking inside adds a lot of humidity and heat during the summer. Using a grill and/or camp stove outside. If you do cook inside, do so early in the morning while it's cool. You could really go for the gusto and build a simple solar oven and bake bread or cook a roast or casserole using the hot afternoon sunlight (yes, you can really do this, and you don't need a degree in rocket science to make one). Contact us at 405-557-0436 for more information about this.

Turn the thermostat up.

If you have a central air conditioner, every degree you turn the thermostat up saves you money. If you are going to be gone for several hours, turn it up ten degrees. If you have a window unit, turn it off while you're gone. Don't run the air conditioner in the morning when it is cool.

Let cool air in.

If the weather is such that it cools down at night or in the morning, ventilate your house. Put a box fan in a window on the north side of the house to draw in cool air. On the south side of the house, put another box fan in a window so that it draws warm air out of the house. Many older houses are designed so that air circulates freely if doors and windows are opened properly. A ceiling fan can help circulate air creating an effect where the temperature seems several degrees cooler. For other indoor uses, box fans are inefficient and usually noisy, rotary fans are better. Variable speed fans will help you get the right amount of air. Use a fan (the exhaust fan, if there is one installed) to move cooking heat outside, but be sure to turn it off after the burners cool down, or you'll send your cool air outside.

Keep hydrated.

Drink lots of water. Sugar, caffeine, alcohol, and big heavy meals will make you feel warmer. Caffeine and alcohol will dehydrate you, so even if you drink a super big gulp soft drink twice a day, you still need 6 to 8 glasses of water. Large amounts of very cold drinks will fool your body into thinking you are cold, so your body's thermostat will try to warm you up. The idea that an ice cold soft drink is the perfect solution for your thirst on a hot summer day is something you have been brainwashed to believe by billions of dollars in advertising. Water is better. Keep a spray bottle of cool (not cold) water handy, and give yourself a little spritz every once in a while.

Learn how to read your meter.

Your most recent electric bill has the last meter reading. The back of every OG&E bill has instructions explaining how to read your meter. If you subtract the new reading from last month's reading, you will know how many kilowatt hours you have used since the last bill. Multiply this figure by 8.3 cents (the average price for electricity including taxes and etc in the Oklahoma City area). Example, if you had used 612 kilowatt hours: 612 X .083 = $50.79, which would be the price of the electricity you have used thus far that month. Be very realistic about what you will be able to pay for electricity, and then check your meter reading often. If you are unemployed, you may need to turn the air conditioning off during the day and go to an air conditioned library or other public space to meet your energy budget. Even if you did this only once or twice a week, every week, you would save money, plus you would gain the many advantages of spending time in libraries. It's not for nothing that people say: "Read More, Learn More."


Eleven Good Ideas

Read more. Learn more. Keep books in your home. Use maps and dictionaries -- often. Read to your children every day. Ask many questions. Learn many things. Teach others. If you always do what you always do, you will always get what you always get. Be wary of the tendency to resort to bad habits when you are under stress. To avoid fools, take steps!


To achieve your dreams, remember your ABC's.

Avoid negative sources, people, places, things and habits. Believe in yourself. Consider things from every angle. Don't give up, and don't give in. Enjoy life today. Family and friends are hidden treasures. Give more than you planned to give. Hang on to your dreams. Ignore those who try to discourage you. Just do it! Keep on trying. Love God, yourself, and your neighbor. Make it happen. Never lie, cheat, or steal. Open your eyes. Pray without ceasing. Quitters never win. Read more, learn more. Stop procrastinating. Take control of your circumstances. Understand yourself. Visualize it. Want it more than anything. Xccelerate your efforts. You are unique in God's creation. Zero in on your target. Found on the internet.

Prepared by Robert Waldrop, Oscar Romero Catholic Worker House, 405-557-0436, http://www.justpeace.org. The world will be saved by Beauty! This flyer may be reprinted for free distribution.

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