Thursday, June 26, 2008

Nickel and Dimeing It

Seems that unless you're independently wealthy, income doesn't matter any more. Everyone is broke.

* Our electric co-op got permission to raise their rates 2%, and our bill includes a "fuel surcharge", which they're trying to use to distribute the increased costs of fuel to generate electricity. Last month's bill for a family of 4 in 848 square feet: $248. Last year, same time, same average KWH per day: $152.
* Our condominium fees are going to go up over $90, because the cost of fuel oil has more than doubled in the last year, and shows no sign of stopping much less getting lower.
* Gasoline, even the basic stuff using a fuel club discount card, is $4.22 a gallon.
* Even food is up. Everything is higher by 50 cents to a dollar across the board, and that's not even bringing meat into the equation. Our Wal-Mart just went Super, hopefully that will help, but no one is sure how they will keep their prices down with shipping considerations.

Uf-da.

So, I started looking for places to tighten up even further. Besides what we're already doing - compact fluorescent light bulbs, turning off stuff in rooms when we're not in them, running as many errands in one trip as possible, eating a lot of casserole. It's getting tough.

One thing we did was install a hot water heater timer. I would have liked a tankless (also called "in-line") hot water heater, but the thing is only 4 years old and I'm not ready to replace it yet. A timer and the wire to hook it up cost about $50, and Hubby was able to install it. Our hot water heater is now off for 19 hours a day. That last tank of water stays reasonably hot for ages, so there's still water for washing up during the day. Since the water heater isn't sitting there just keeping a water hot all day, conservationist sites claim you can save 5-12% of your electric bill this way. Even 5% of the electric bill is looking pretty darn good right now.

Hubby also discovered, thanks to the MPG estimator in his car's computer, that by slowing down and running his car at lower RPMs he's saving about three miles to the gallon. In his car that's like an extra gallon of gas. (Yeah, I told you were were nickel and dimeing it).

Now, we don't pay our heating costs directly (it's divided 36 ways), but our weather stripping is getting old. A contractor who was around bidding on work for the condo association noticed that my front entry door was a particular model Peachtree Door. Turns out we no longer have a local Peachtree Door dealer, so I found them online and dropped them an e-mail. A kit to replace my weather stripping cost me, with shipping, $32. (We were looking at replacing the door for around $500.)

Our back door is also drafty. It's wood and warped from age, but it's an odd "atrium" door and would be expensive to replace (since anything done to the outside of the condos must be "architecturally similar" to the rest). I was able to make standard C-fold weather stripping, available in 8-foot lengths at about any hardware store, work to cover both the wide gap at the warp and the regular narrow gap. There may not be any direct savings, but there won't be any nasty drafts this winter like last year.

Another thing I'm doing is trying to use my laptop instead of my main computer unless I'm gaming (the laptop won't handle gaming). Laptops use roughly 50% of the power of a desktop computer.

Oh, any electric thing that's non-essential has been put on a powerstrip or switch. At night everything is turned completely off. See, anything that needs warming up (your old television tube), has a digital display (your VCR), or a timer (your coffee pot) is using "ghost power". This includes chargers, like your phone or laptop charger, even if they aren't actively charging! Turn off that stuff when you don't need it, by cutting off it's electricity.

What are you doing to squeeze some more money out of your budget?

2 comments:

Mimi said...

I read. A lot. There are a few book exchanges on island so that helps. I cut off my cable. So no TV. That really helps. I'm reading more and have tons of time to actually do things in my house. Reading (with the exception of blogs) isn't eating any power in my house. Especially cause the sun is up so long now.

Jack said...

Hubby here....

The section on my fuel savings says that I'm saving 3MPG. Actually, my computer is currently showing an increase of 4.5 mpg. I drive a 6 cylinder car that is not a hybrid. The EPA sticker when I bought it said 25 mpg city and 32hwy. Before I changed my driving habits the average shown on my dash was 23.5 mpg. This morning (6/30/08) the number hit 28.0 mpg! This is a combo of city and highway driving. I'd say it's 75% highway.

What I am doing, is keeping it below 60mph, and trying to keep the rpm at less than 1600. (Your vehicle may vary as to how many rpm corresponds to what speed.) The trick is to find the fastest speed you can go yet keep rpms in the 1200-1600 area. This should be a good spot to increase milage. (Using cruise control helps me to avoid my lead-foot!) This theory is the same for non-highway. Find the speed that is legal for the road you are on, yet keeps your rpms in that magical range.

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