How can a modern family or individual save money? Many people associate saving in this economy with sternness and expense. Those who read this article will not. Here’s how to waste less water, expend less electricity, and spend less money to get the same products.
How Much Water?
Low-Flow showerheads, faucets and toilets
If your showerhead is older than 1991 or fills a gallon bucket in less than 20 seconds, you could benefit from a new low-flow showerhead. Recent models use 2.5 gallons or less per minute compared to 5.5 gallons per minute (gpm) on older versions. Replacing the showerhead will cost typically between $10 and $20 and save 25% or more on your water bill.
The same concept applies to bathroom and kitchen faucets. For a kitchen faucet at least 1.5 gpm is preferable, while bathroom faucets can use as little as .5 gpm without sacrificing water pressure.
A standard toilet in the average American home consumes about 20 gallons of water per day. A low flush toilet uses half the water of a traditional model, and the technology has improved in its ability to, well, get the job done. Dual-flush toilets offer the option of a flush using .8 gallons or 1.6 gallons to suit your needs.
Combat “phantom energy”
Energy usage meter, power strips, rechargeable batteries
Most of your home appliances and electronics use energy when you think they are turned off. Up to 10% of your electricity bill is due to this “phantom load.” To find which appliances and electronics drain the most energy, an electricity usage monitor will tell you quantitatively how much electricity each uses. Once you know the worst offenders, you can begin to take action.
One way to eliminate phantom load is to plug groups of electronics into power strips and turn them off when not in use. If you know you won’t remember, several gadgets can help. “Smart” power strips can turn off all items plugged in when one specified appliance is turned off. This can eliminate phantom energy in an office by turning off a printer, scanner, speakers or other peripherals when the computer turns off. Other power strips are remote-controlled or shut off automatically on a timer.
For kids or travelers who use a lot of disposable batteries, switching to rechargeable is a sure source of savings. Rechargeables cost a bit more up front but will pay for themselves after a few charges, since after the initial purchase you pay only for the electricity instead of an entirely new battery. A charger costs just $10-$30 and a single rechargeable battery will last 500-800 charges.
Technology for Less
HDTV for Free, ditch the landline
In June 2009, TV stations began broadcasting in digital formal. Bottom line: You no longer need cable to receive local broadcast HDTV channels. All you need is a digital antenna, plus a converter box if you have an analog television. Antennaweb.org can tell you based on your zip code how many local digital channels you will receive. You won’t get paid cable channels anymore, but will you really miss them? When there’s nothing good on TV, it doesn’t matter how many channels you have; there’s still nothing good on. In addition, if you have a computer at home, you can check your favorite network’s website and watch TV shows, news broadcasts and talk shows for free. A video-streaming service like Netflix is another affordable means of entertainment.
Fewer and fewer homes have landlines as cell phones supplant rather than supplementing them. If you prefer to keep your home telephone, internet telephone service could slash your monthly phone bill. Internet telephone simply means using an adapter which connects your home phone to your wireless internet. You can keep your own number and get many of the same extras like caller ID, voicemail and call-waiting for as low as $15 per month. VoIP.com, Phone Power and Lingo are some examples for comparison.
Caribou Coffee Syndrome
Home Brewing Systems
It’s clear that if you brown-bag your lunch instead of eating out every day, savings add up quickly. The same goes for making your own coffee at home instead of stopping at pricey coffee houses every morning. But what if you just can’t take a plain cup of joe to replace your favorite tall double shot mocha-frappe-latte with extra foam? Good news; there is an alternative to buying the expensive drinks besides not having them at all. High-end coffee and espresso machines from the Keurig product line produce single servings of coffee, tea, hot chocolate and specialty coffee beverages from your own countertop. If the barista at Caribou Coffee knows your name and your “usual,” this investment ($80 – $100 depending on brand and model) will pay for itself in a matter of months. If that seems excessive, a battery-operated milk frother can be had for about $20.
What Won’t Bring Significant Savings:
Programmable thermostat: If you manually set one temperature for times when the house is empty, one temperature when you are home, and one temperature for nighttime, you’ve done all that a programmable thermostat can do. The Energy Star specification for programmable thermostats was suspended in 2009 due to continuing questions about the net energy and actual monetary savings.
High Efficiency Washer: This is a toss-up based on the age and efficiency of your current washing machine and the price of utilities in your area. If you have an older model, you could see significant savings by simply upgrading to a newer standard model. Since high efficiency models tend to be much more expensive to buy and to repair, replacing a washer that is already cost-effective with a high efficiency model doesn’t make sense. If electricity and water costs are high in your area, the analysis will lean in favor of the HE model, but all things considered, it’s a wash.