Author Topic: My Guide to Saving Lots of Energy - with little to no up-front investment  (Read 29698 times)

Bakari

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I'm sure some of you will recognize this from my Instructable
I'm posting it here in the interest of encouraging feedback. 
There are lots and lots of different living situations and climates, and I'm sure I missed stuff just because it doesn't apply to me personally.  What would you add?

Bakari

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Introduction:


Everyone has a reason to use less energy.
-For the environmentalist, obviously, all forms of energy have some ecological impact, and the ones we use the most (oil and coal) happen to be the ones which are most destructive.
-For the patriotic, using less energy means less dependence on foreign oil (and natural gas).
-For the selfish (I don't mean that in a bad way), it means lower bills, and therefor more money in your bank account (or cash under your mattress) that you can spend on other things.

Using less energy is definitely a win all around.
And yet, as much talk as the idea gets lately, few seem to be very serious about it.

There are probably dozens, if not hundreds, of articles consisting of tips and tricks to conserve energy and be a little more ecological.
While they have plenty of valid ideas, a great many of the most common suggestions are things which either:
1) cost a whole lot of money upfront (with a promise of saving money in the long run), making them impractical for most people - things like "buy a hybrid" or "replace older appliances with Energy Star models; or
2) are tiny steps which will save an insignificant amount of energy.  You may as well do these things, but you aren't going to see reflected on your next bill, and they aren't going to change the world - things like "clean your air filter" or "turn up the thermostat a few degrees" or "keep your car washed for less wind resistance".

These suggestions seem to be geared towards a very specific demographic, implying that being "green" is limited to middle class families who can afford to be.
In reality, the change to be more environmentally friendly means spending much LESS money than the typical American consumer; not only in the long run, but upfront as well.

I will not suggest that you buy a new hybrid or turn down the heat a few degrees.
If you take some of the steps to follow you will reduce your "carbon footprint" and have more cash in your wallet as well.

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Step 1: Buy less stuff

It seems that the "green" craze has finally caught on in America.
But first and foremost, this is the land of consumerism, so of course just about every company is jumping on the bandwagon, and marketing their product as "green"

This leads people to think that being environmentally conscious means paying a premium.

Nothing could be further from the truth.
Because, no matter how much better a "green" item is than whatever it is replacing, not buying either one is always the most environmentally benign choice of all.

The truth is that, due to technology, Americans today have access to more stuff for less money than any point in our 500 million year history.  Even the poorest among us can afford cars and TVs.  And we have long past the point where getting more stuff actually leads to any tangible long-term increase in happiness.  We basically buy stuff for no other reason than that we can.

The really great thing about it is, by doing right by nature (by not buying lots of crap, which necessitates stuff being mined, manufactured, and shipped - frequently from the other side of the world - only to eventually end up in landfill a few years later) you also end up saving a truly shocking amount of money.

Personally, I was turned on to this concept less than a year ago, by Jacob of Early Retirement Extreme http://earlyretirementextreme.com/

All of my life I have made a fairly low amount of money.  Due to various life events outside my control, combined with my low income, I had varying levels of debt all my life (or so I thought!).
Well, I finally paid down the last of my debt about a year ago, and started saving a little bit, just before I stumbled across Jacob, who was promoting the idea of early retirement via spending less money.
Not that I was ever an ultra-consumer to begin with: outside of the occasional broken down auto, cross country move, new motorcycle, or going back to school, I generally lived within my means.

But once I discovered this new idea of becoming rich simply by not buying stuff, I started to pay much more attention to what I spent my money on.
So far its only been 8 months. During that time I made about $26,000.
In that time I have saved $17,000 dollars.
And in all honesty, going from spending 100% of my income to spending less than 50%, I haven't really felt any change in my lifestyle.

The trick is really simple.

Literally anytime you are about to reach into your wallet, stop for a second and ask yourself a few questions:
1) is this purchase going to last at least the next 10 years?
2) will this purchase continue to make me significantly happier for the next 10 years?
3) is there an alternate way I can accomplish the goal that buying this will serve, without spending money?
4) can I borrow this item from someone?
5) can I buy this item used?
6) if this is a replacement item, have I tried to fix the old one?

If the answer is "no" to questions 1, 2 or 6, put your money away.
If the answer is "yes" to questions 3, 4, or 5, put your money away.

If the answer is "yes" to 1 2 and 6, and "no" 3 4 and 5, put your money away anyway!
Wait for a month or two.  Then ask yourself the same questions again.  If after two months you still want whatever it is, go ahead and buy it.

Obviously this does not apply to food - although you can save both money and environmental damage by buying less pre-prepared food and by eating more plants and less animals.  As with all shopping, food fits into this general rule for acquiring things:
"If you want it: grow it, raise it, build it, or fix it yourself." (that was taken verbatim from PS118 in the comments)
This concept should seem like a given to readers of Instructables.

For some of the most accessible and fun elaboration on the topic of getting rich by buying less stuff that I have found, try the Mr Money Mustache blog. (When you feel confident enough to call yourself Mustachian - or at least understand the idea - go on to the more advanced and sometimes esoteric ERE blog)



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Step 2: The Hybrid Alternative

Buying a Prius will cost you around 23 thousand dollars.

Contrary to what auto ads might have you believe, that is an incredibly enormous amount of money to spend on something whose sole purpose is to transport you from where you are to where you want to be.

A good quality bicycle will cost you between $100 and $1000, and it will serve the exact same purpose!
If you don't already own a good commuter bike, I have some tips on getting a good one used, here:
http://biodieselhauling.blogspot.com/2012/01/buying-bikes-from-craigslist.html

Unlike a hybrid, or even electric car, it causes zero air pollution during use, and caused only a tiny fraction of the environmental cost of a car during manufacturing.  At the same time, it saves you at least 22 thousand dollars up front, followed by saving you an additional $3000-$7000 per year in gas, insurance, maintenance, repairs, parking, tolls...

Over a decade, choosing to buy a good bike in place of a hybrid saves you almost $75,000!!!

Now I know, I know, you are going to say that for whatever reason, that just isn't an option for you.
But I'm going to say - without knowing anything about you - that unless you use a walker to get around, you can replace at least some of your driving with bike riding.

Live in a snowy climate?  Ride in the summer!

Live 25 miles from work?  Ride to get groceries or other errands
(and the next time you move or change jobs, make living within 15 miles of your work one of the top priorities!!)

Have kids?  Get a childseat or trailer for babies or their own bikes for older kids!

Don't have time?  Riding 15 miles to work will take about an hour, as opposed to 20 minutes by car.  However, when you consider that your commute has also just become your daily exercise and your daily recreation, it turns out you are actually saving time overall:

Option A) d\Drive to work and back (40 minutes), workout at the gym (60 minutes, plus 10 minute drive each way), recreation time
(because running on a treadmill or picking up weights and putting them back down isn't much fun - 30minutes).
Total time spent between the three activities: 150 minutes.

Option B) combine all three activities into one, by riding a bike to work (60minutes each way).
Total time spent: 120 minutes.
So you free up half an hour.
Then there is always option

C) don't get any daily exercise at all, spend your life weak and tired and pathetic, and most likely die early of a totally preventable disease.

I realize that option C is kind of the American Way, but if you are reading this you are most likely a DIYer, and that makes you special.  You have already opted out of the mainstream consumeristic "buy it ready-made" doctrine...

Afraid of traffic?  Statistically, driving is one of the most dangerous activities you can do, (its just so ubiquitous that we take it for granted.)

In fact, according to various studies, you are anywhere from 2 to 6 times as likely to die on a given trip done by car than had you done the same trip by bicycle:

Death rate per million miles traveled...
By Bike - 0.016        By Car - .039
http://www.kenkifer.com/bikepages/health/risks.htm

Death rate per million miles traveled...
By Bike - 0.2            By Car - 1.3
http://neptune.spacebears.com/opine/helmets.html
(Note that the numbers vary widely depending on the source of the statistics.)
Other statistics find bicycling to be more dangerous per mile.
However, none of those studies correct for the fact that you don't need a license to ride a bike and traffic laws are rarely enforced on bikes, both of which lead to cyclists doing things which are obviously unsafe and would never be tolerated by car drivers- things like riding on the wrong side of the road, riding on the sidewalk, and blowing through red lights without even slowing down.
Somewhere between 70 and 90% of cycling accidents are a direct result of the cyclist breaking the law and being unsafe.
As long as you ride properly, you can correct the statistics to find your own risk, and even the studies which conclude bicycles are more dangerous, when corrected this way, will end up showing you are far safer riding a bike then driving a car.
Which should come as no surprise, because the single largest factor in the severity of any crash is speed, and while a car can easily go 80MPH or more, most riders top out at about 25MPH (and that's going downhill)

Please read: http://biodieselhauling.blogspot.com/2012/06/please-ride-your-bike-in-street.html for tips on how to stay safe on a bike (and an actual study to back up the claim that most bike accidents occur due to bike riders riding unsafe)

Especially since the majority of households have 2 vehicles, most of the potential excuses don't pan out.  Using a bike instead of a 2nd car still gives all the same benefits, while allowing you to drive those times when you really need it.
« Last Edit: October 10, 2012, 08:16:02 PM by Bakari »

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Step 3: Turn the thermostat to "OFF"

This is actually one of those "plugged into the Matrix" things which everyone takes for granted for no other reason than because everyone else takes it for granted, and it is what we have done all our lives.

When I first heard this idea a few months ago (From Jacob of Early Retirement Extreme) it seemed pretty radical to me.

But, by the time I finished reading the blog article, I was ready to try it.
It only took a bit more to convince my girlfriend to go along with it.
I thought it would be difficult, but actually, believe it or not, I went the rest of the winter without missing the heater once.

This is the actual issue:  it is winter time, and you feel cold.
The traditional solution: heat up the ENTIRE HOUSE, including about 15 thousand cubic feet of air space, just so that you will be warmer.

The (should have been obvious) alternative: conserve your existing body heat.

Say its winter time, and you want to go to the store.
Do you rig up a portable propane powered radiant furnace that you can carry with you?  Of course not!  You just put on a jacket and hat, and you go to the store, feeling quite comfortable in even the coldest of weather (assuming you have lived in your climate long enough to own the right clothing).
Come to think of it, there are those radiant propane heaters at fancy-pants hoity-toity type restaurants, so that you can take off your jacket and eat out on the patio in the dead of winter.  And you end up paying for such silly luxury when you get a bill 45 times more expensive than the same ingredients would have cost you at the grocery store.  As an occasional treat, sure, eat out.
But wasting that much energy everyday, at home?
Now that's just crazy!

Instead of using gas or electricity to heat up the entire house, just put on a jacket, a hat, some warm socks, and maybe a scarf.  Problem solved.  You end up equally as comfortable, while using zero energy.

The same principal applies  to cooling (although, granted, it is easier to stay comfortably warm in cold weather then to stay cool in extremely hot weather).  Instead of using the A/C, start by wearing less clothes.  There are a few steps you can take to keep your home cooler (which will be in the next step) but by dressing the way you would if you went outside, you reduce how cool you need the air to be in the first place.  If 89 degrees (F) outside is considered nice weather, there is no conceivable (legitimate) reason one would ever need to turn an A/C thermostat lower than 89.

At the same time as you are saving the earth, you are also saving hundreds of dollars a year in utility bills ($900 for an average US household, assuming you turn off both the heat and the AC permanently)

CAVEAT: If you live in a place where the indoor temperature will drop below zero, you should set your thermostat to 35 degrees, as pipes and appliances can be damaged if water freezes inside them.  Also, if you have pets, their water bowl could freeze.  I've had that happen!

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Step 4: Keep the heat out

Running your old inefficient A/C 24/7 all summer is both expensive and bad for the ecosphere we depend on to live.
But buying a brand new energy efficient A/C or heat pump is really expensive, and it requires additional mining, manufacturing, and transportation, so its not exactly benign either.

If you read the last step, you realize how idiotic it is to turn the A/C thermostat down to 65 (or even the frequently recommended 72), and then wear a sweater indoors, in the summer.  If you consider 89 to be a nice comfortable day outside, it would be silly to set the thermostat any lower than 89.

Depending on your climate, and with the right steps, that may mean the A/C never needs to go on at all.

Of course, as any energy saving advice list will tell you, you should weatherize doors and windows.  This is fairly inexpensive, easy to do, and in many places you can get it done for you for free from the local utility company.
But don't stop there!

Start by figuring out the path of the sun over your house each day.  Whichever window it comes in in the early afternoon is the best place to start.
A roll of heat blocking film costs $15 at the local auto parts store.  A roll of plastic wrap is about $2.
Squeegee on the heat-block film-tint following the directions on the box.  This blocks up to 90% of infrared light  (solar heat).
(As an added bonus, you can now walk around naked with the shades open in the day time.)

Next, stretch some plastic wrap across the window frame, leaving as large a gap as possible between the glass and the plastic (you could use any kind of plastic sheeting, but I find plastic wrap to be cheap, readily available, and clearer to see though than most other options).  Tape it to the frame around the outside, using as many strips as necessary to cover the entire window.

This will keep heat out in the summer, as well as keep heat inside in the winter.
Will it be as effective as a brand new double-pane?  Certainly not!  But double panes will cost anywhere from $500 to $1000 - each.
This project costs less than $5 per window.  The time it takes to make that back in energy savings is considerably shorter, even if the energy savings isn't quite as high.
And if you already have fancy new double panes, you can still use this trick, to save even more energy!

Once you have finished the window that gets the most afternoon sun (and found how easy it is) you might consider doing other windows in your home as well - but keep in mind, you will want to open some windows at times for breeze and temperature control, so while you can tint every window in the house, the "poor person's double-pane" trick is appropriate for only windows you don't need to open.

Fans have become under appreciated as A/C and electricity have become so (relatively) cheap, but an exit fan in the attic to draw heat out of the building and a small fan in an occupied room to provide a breeze go along way toward cooling the whole building and making any given temperature feel more comfortable - while using under 100 watts (compared to 3000 to 5000 watts for A/C  - 30 to 50 times as much power).

If you live somewhere hot and dry, an evaporative cooler can lower temperatures as much as 30 degrees, and uses no more energy than a similarly sized fan.
You don't need to necessarily go out and buy something new.  Just hang a thin towel or sheet so that the bottom lies in a container of water.  Then set up a fan to blow across the wet cloth into the area you want cooler.
(Do a search on instructables for 10 pages of DIY evap coolers)

If you live in a humid climate where an evaporative cooler won't work, a dehumidifier will make it feel much cooler inside, and uses far less power than A/C

In the night time, when the sun is down, it gets cooler outside - often even cooler than it is inside.  Take advantage of that by leaveing your windows open at night
(depending where you live, you may want to install locks that allow the windows to open partially without opening all the way, to avoid accidentally inviting anyone in!)
Put a fan at one end of the home facing the window, to blow hot air out of the house, and another at the opposite end facing in to suck cool air in.  (If you have more than one floor, put the exit fan on the top floor and the in fan at the lowest floor, because heat rises)
Then close the windows again in the morning, trapping the "cool" inside.  As soon as the outside is cooler than the inside in the evening, open the windows back up.

If you have a gas furnace, shut off the pilot during summer.  Use the microwave instead of the oven.  Don't leave computers or electronics on any more than necessary (of course, if you are trying to save energy, you should be doing this anyway, but in addition to wasting electricity directly, they also generate heat)

Slightly more involved, and potentially more expensive (depending how creative you are in acquiring used items) would be make shift awnings above the windows that get the most summer sun. A patio umbrella placed right beside the building would be perfect, if your yard happens to have just the right orientation.   When it comes time to redo the roof, use a reflective material for the outer layer.  I have a white rubberized coating on the roof of my home, and painted the roof of my truck reflective silver.

Keeping the air inside from getting too hot in the first place makes a lot more sense than trying to get rid of it using A/C once its there.  It makes a lot more dollars too.

Here are a lot more great tips for staying cool without using A/C:
http://www.instructables.com/id/Stay-Cool-Without-AC/
I was tempted to steal his ideas and list them here, but Bindlestiff deserves credit for his excellent instructable

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Step 5: Cut the cord

In addition to providing us with 10-14 hours of free light every day, the sun also provides us with heat, at no additional charge.

Can you imagine anything sillier than spending one's hard earned money on generating heat when you can get it for free just by walking outside?
Today I did the laundry.  I walked down to the laundrymat, ran my 2 week's worth of clothes through the super-size washer, and then walked back with them - still wet - to my side yard.  Then I hung a bag of clothes pins in the middle of the clothesline I put up (for all the neighbors to use) and hung up the wet clothes to dry.  That was a few hours ago.  As soon as I stop typing this instructable I'll go and take them down, just as dry as if I had spent $10 worth of quarters in the machine.  Plus, since they were hanging straight down instead of being tumbled around, I won't have to iron anything (who am I kidding, I wouldn't have anyway).

True, it takes a bit more effort.
However, that was time I spent in the sun, getting (a little bit of ) exercise, instead of sitting indoors at the laundrymat, watching terrible daytime television.

In the right climate, the same thing works in the winter, although it will take more hours for the clothes to dry.  If the temperature is below freezing outside or it is raining, you can dry your clothes indoors.

Wash your dishes by hand.  It takes no electricity, and considering the "pre-rinse", it takes about the same amount of effort.
When some people claim it uses more water to wash by hand, they are assuming you turn on the water and then just leave it running the entire time you are washing!  That's just stupid.  Why would anyone do that? Just wet a sponge, put a little soap on it, use it to wash all of the dishes, and when they are all washed, then turn on the water and rinse them all off.  This will use far less water then any commercial dishwasher.  Did I mention it also uses zero electricity?

Nearly every "labor saving device" is a way to use electricity to do a task which more than likely was not that hard to begin with.   Power locks, windows, and steering on a car comes to mind.  Nobody minded doing these things by hand before the automatic version was invented, yet now it seems that we think we are physically incapable of opening a window or pushing a lock by hand.
Even the most sedentary of activities, watching TV, feels impossible to many without having a remote control, to avoid the herculean effort it would take to stand up, and walk across the room to change the channel or volume by hand.
(And we continue looking for genes, hormones, and food additives for answers to why America is becoming so obese...)

Use a wisk instead of a mixer, a broom instead of a vacuum, the sink instead of the gentle wash cycle, a swiss army knife instead of an electric can opener, a razor instead of a trimmer, earplugs instead of a noise machine. Mix it, open it, move it, clean it, yourself.  You save energy, you don't have to buy so much stuff, and you get a little bit of exercise, all at the same time.
Its win/win/win.

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Step 6: Go to bed!

I don't quite understand why I seem to be the only one who has thought of this one.
It is completely free, and can save a very significant amount of energy over time.

Go to bed no later than 8 hours before the sun comes up each morning.  If the sun rises at 6am, go to bed by 10pm at the latest.  If the sun rises at 5am, go to bed by 9pm.  (If you need more than 8 hours of sleep, go to bed an hour earlier, or 9 hours before the sun rises).

Because, you see, if you aren't using lights at night, you don't need to use them at all! In the daytime, there is this great big old ball of burning hydrogen that you get to use for FREE - no strings attached. It turns out there is such a thing as a free lunch after all, and it's called "the sun". All you have to do to enjoy its massive power is open the curtains on your (newly insulated!) windows.
When it gets dark, go to sleep.
When the sun comes back up, wake up, and pick up where you left off. You spend exactly as much time sleeping either way, which means you have the exact same number of waking hours to get stuff done, but you never need to use electricity to see.

As an added bonus, you don't have to spend any upfront money to buy florescent or LED bulbs which would supposedly eventually "pay for themselves". Your old incandescent will use even less power - if you never turn them on.
The average US home will save just shy of $20 a month by cutting light use down to zero.

There is an extremely common myth that some people are "naturally" night owls.
But there is nothing "natural" about using electric lights to see all night, and then blocking out the sunlight with curtains until late in the morning.  That's just using energy to artificially turn night into day and day into night.

I challenge anyone who claims to be a "natural" night owl to go the next month using no electricity - nor any other form of artificial light - after the sun goes down.  That means not only no lamps or ceiling lights, but no flashlights, lanterns, or candles either.  It also means no TV or computer after dark, as these things also produce light.
In addition, you must not use any form of light blocking curtain or sleep mask after dawn in the morning.

I bet, outside of  few rare individuals with actual neurological conditions, everyone would begin to adapt to the real day night cycle that the universe and our biology set up for us.  If we were really meant to be nocturnal, we would be able to see in the dark as well as a cat, and hear as well as a bat.   What self professed "night owls" really are, is people who never out grew that toddler age feeling that if they go to bed they might miss something.  Its just that once they grow up, they don't have anyone telling them its bedtime, so they stay up all night.  I bet I'm going to offend a few people with that last comment!   

My real point is just that in addition to the extra energy and health you may get from not fighting your biology, you also end up using less electricity, which is better for both the planets health and the health of your pocketbook.
« Last Edit: March 12, 2013, 03:39:37 PM by Bakari »

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Step 7: Turn it down

Not the heat thermostat, we already established that should be set to 35 degrees max, if it isn't just turned off altogether.

The water heater thermostat.
Water heating is generally the single largest use of energy in a home after heating and cooling (which we know better than to do now)

Here is another situation, much like the heater issue from step 3, where I feel like I have been in the matrix all my life, and only recently unplugged.

Part 1) I noticed about a year or so ago that when I washed my hands, I would turn on both the hot and cold taps, and then start washing my hands.  Since it takes a while for the hot water to travel through the pipes, I would end up finishing before the water ever got warm.
So all I was really doing was pulling hot water into the pipes, and then letting it radiate out of the pipes while the water heater worked to heat up fresh cold water.  It was serving no purpose.  And I realized that I actually didn't mind washing my hands in cold water one bit.
So I went around the house and removed part of the handle of all the hot water faucets at sinks (only part of the handle, so that it would remind me not to mindlessly turn on the hot if I didn't really need it, but still allow me to turn it on when I really did want to).  For the past year all of my hand and dish washing has been with cold water only, and I haven't missed the warm one bit, not even in winter.

Part 2) When you get into the shower (or fill a bath), what do you do?  You turn on the hot water, wait until the water heats up - and then turn on the cold tap to balance it out and adjust it to be comfortable.  Tell me this is not insane!
Imagine doing the same thing with the heat and AC: you turn the furnace up to its maximum setting, and then you make it comfortable by turning on the AC at the same time.  Or the same analogy in a car:  you floor the accelerator at all times, and then to regulate your speed you step on the brake at the same time.
Why not just heat the water to the temperature that you want it in the first place?

A nice hot shower is between 100 and 105 degrees.  Turn the water heater down to 110 degrees - just barely high enough so that with the temperature lost in the pipes, you get between 100 and 105 out at the shower head.
In addition to using less energy, you also spend less time fiddling with the handles every time you take a shower.  You just turn the hot tap on, and the temperature is perfect!

Before anyone brings it up in the comments: yes, you increase your risk of incubating Legionella bacteria in your water tank if you turn it below 120 degrees.
This concern is pretty much akin to the hysteria over bird flu - and then swine flu - and next monkey flu, or whatever, who knows...
Legeionellosis affects 0.006% of the US population annually - almost all of whom are elderly or have otherwise compromised immune systems and many of whom are smokers as well.  It kills 0.001%
There will always be innumerable places where water is stored at less than 120 degrees (pools, lakes, rain barrels, fountains, dehumidifiers, windshield wiper fluid tanks...).  Considering the amount of stored water we come into contact with every day, and how rare the disease is, increasing the chances of incubating it still means the chance of contracting it are very remote.
Most water systems are not contaminated with it in the first place (and in order to grow in your water tank, it has to get in there from somewhere).  Most people who do come into contact with it aren't affected.  Most people who do contract it, recover.

If you live with elders, or anyone with a condition that leads to a compromised immune system, or you are just concerned and want to be extra careful, all you have to do is turn your water heater up to 150 for a few hours once a month, thereby sterilizing the inside of the tank.  This is enough to kill any growing population of bacteria that may be there.
Then turn it back down so you aren't wasting enormous amounts of energy the rest of the time.
When it comes time to replace your water heater, go with a tankless (instant) water heater, and you don't have to worry about the (extremely unlikely) possibility of incubating bacteria in the tank.

And remember, there is a much higher risk (especially to young children and people with restricted mobility) of serious injury due to scalding from having the temperature too high than there is of contracting legionellosis.

 
Turning it down to 110, instead of the industry standard 140, will save you 15% of the energy (and therefor the cost) of heating that water.  Using less of it (by only using hot water to shower) will save you 60% of your water heating energy.
Together, an increase in efficiency of 75% is far more than upgrading to the latest Energy Star model would save, and it cost you nothing!
For an average household, that 75% translates to somewhere around $400 a year.

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Step 8: Take the bus

Flying from one place to another is one of the most inefficient ways you can get from one place to another.
Even driving in a Hummer is more efficient (as long as you take along a couple of passengers).

This should come as no surprise, since in addition to the energy it takes to transport your body and luggage, there is also the energy to transport a 47 ton vehicle, as well as the energy needed to make a 47 ton vehicle fly through the air!!
If that were not enough, it does so at speeds of over 500MPH.  Just like highway mileage for a car, air resistance increases with the square of the speed, so going 500mph, even in something as aerodynamic as a plane, comes with a huge added energy cost.

A plane requires 4 to 7 times as much energy (per passenger) to transport people than a bus going the exact same distance
(depending on how full each is, and how long the trip is)

And not only does the ecosphere pay the cost of the luxury of getting from CA to NY in 6 hours, you pay a pretty penny premium for it as well.

The most environmentally friendly way to travel long distances is also often the cheapest (notice a pattern?)

For example, a one way trip from NY to Chicago by plane, booked 2 weeks in advance, costs anywhere from $130 to over $500 (depending on the airline).  That trip on Greyhound is $80.
A plane trip from SF to LA will set you back $90.  On the Chinatown Busline, its only 20 bucks.

(Unfortunately, for long trips, such as coast-to-coast, bus lines can't compete with the highly subsidized airline industry for cost.  They are still the better option for ecological impact.  If you want to be greener than flying, but not pay more money for it, consider looking for a rideshare by googling "rideshare")
« Last Edit: October 10, 2012, 10:12:29 AM by Bakari »

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Re: My Guide to Saving Lots of Energy - with little to no up-front investment
« Reply #10 on: October 10, 2012, 10:01:20 AM »


Step 9: The hybrid alternative (version 2)

I realize that as a country, we have gotten so spoiled by cars that expecting people to give them up is just not realistic.
Heck, even I have both a truck (that runs on biodiesel) and a motorcycle (that gets over 70mpg).  Sooner or later most of us are going to buy a car.

Many times the question has been asked, "does the amount of gas a hybrid saves make up for the higher price?"

The answer is no.

A hybrid is not worth it.
The reason this seems like a reasonable question is because it is always posed as a false dichotomy:  a  new high-efficiency hybrid vs. a new moderate efficiency non-hybrid.

What if I told you you could have a car that gets about the same mileage as the Prius, and only cost about $2000?
The purchase of which, unlike the first two options, caused zero additional ecological damage in the form of mining materials, manufacturing energy, and transporting the final product.

Buy a used sub-compact car from the local paper or Craigslist.  The Geo Metro got around 50mpg.  The Chevy Sprint, Ford Festiva, and Suzuki Swift all got around 40.  These numbers are EPA ratings, but if you put even a minimum of thought into how you drive, you can easily get much better than the EPA rating in any given vehicle
(I'll elaborate on that in a future instructable, but for now, you can see how I get 100% better mileage out of my truck here: http://www.instructables.com/id/Vehicle-efficiency-upgrades/ )
You should easily be able to beat the Prius for mileage in any one of these cars.

PREEMPTIVE RESPONSE TO THE OBJECTIONS:

1)"Small cars are unsafe".  This extremely pervasive myth comes from the fact that in crash tests which simulate a head-on collision, a vehicle with more mass fairs better (all other things being equal).
This is due to physics, and can only partially be mitigated by the design of safety restraints and crumple zones.

However, how a vehicle fairs in a head-on collision is only a small part of overall safety.

For one thing, head-on collisions are the not the most common type of collision.  In a rear or side impact collision, a roll-over, or a single-vehicle collision with an inanimate object, vehicle mass has little or no impact on passenger safety.  I won't get into the details, but, again, this relates to physics more than car design.
If you live in a rural area with high-speed undivided roads, you may have reason to worry about head-on crashes.  Most of us live in a city or suburb where freeways have dividers down the middle, and city street speed limits are too low to worry about fatal crashes.

The other reason crash tests are misleading is that not all vehicles are equally likely to get into a crash.
Think about it - which would you rather:  get into a crash and survive; or avoid the crash altogether!?!?
A vehicle with twice the mass takes twice as long to stop (physics again!)

You don't believe me do you?
OK...

This is from a 2000 NHTSA study of actual fatality rates by different vehicle classes.
If being heavy really made a vehicle safer, then fatality rates would drop in proportion to weight.  That isn't at all what happens:

Class                          avg weight in lbs    fatalities per bil. miles
Mid-size 4-door cars           3,061                9.46
Small 4-door SUVs             3,147                10.47
Compact pickup trucks       3,339               11.74
Mid-size 4-door SUVs         4,022                13.68
Large 4-door SUVs              5,141               10.03

The reality doesn't exactly match up with conventional wisdom.  A 3,000lb mid-size car turns out to be safer than a 5000lb SUV when you look at fatalities per mile instead of just crash test ratings (and these results include all situations, including the undivided highways that most of us don't travel on very often)
Mid-size cars are safer than any size SUV.

Assuming you aren't at high risk for head on collisions, the things to look for are braking distance, maneuverability, and lack of blind spots, and a small car beats out a large SUV on all three points.

2)"The car is too small for my needs".  Considering most American households have between 2 and 5 people and one car per driver, and the majority of US car trips have one passenger or less, it's hard to understand why anyone would think 5 seats and a trunk wouldn't be enough.
Instead of sizing for a trip that comes up a few times a year, consider your day-to-day use.  On those rare occasions you actually need something bigger, rent it.

3)"Used cars are unreliable".  Fair enough.
Say, after a year or two, you need to do a major repair - say, it needs a new engine or transmission.  It costs you a couple grand, at the most - as much as you spent on the car.  On the other hand, you are not paying for full-coverage insurance - which would have cost you a couple grand within a few years.   You are also not paying interest on a car loan.  Or making any payments, for that matter, because what you would have spent on just the down payment of a new car was the total purchase price of the used car.

Simply put: for the cost of one new car, you can buy five to ten 20-year-old used cars.
It doesn't matter how much you sink into a used car in repairs, you will NEVER come close to breaking even with the cost of a new car with a warranty.

Worse case scenario, the car is totaled, and you don't have full coverage insurance.
Now you have to buy a new car.
But again, the new (used) car costs about as much as 2 years of full coverage insurance would have cost you.
Unless you total a car every two years, you come out ahead.
(And if you do total a car every two years, you really should have your license revoked)

This stands to reason, since (like with all insurance) the insurance company is in business to make a profit, and they set the price to insure that 90% of people pay them more than they will ever get back in claims.  You can beat them by buying a car that doesn't warrant full coverage.
« Last Edit: October 10, 2012, 10:16:14 AM by Bakari »

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Re: My Guide to Saving Lots of Energy - with little to no up-front investment
« Reply #11 on: October 10, 2012, 10:02:27 AM »


Step 10: Small change

As I mentioned in the introduction, there are many other lists online (including on instuctables) of ways to save energy.  They do give valid advice, but most of it consists of small changes (and/or expensive changes).  I do recommend looking up a few, and following the suggestions you find.  Small changes do add up.

Here is one example: http://www.savewithces.com/365in2008.html
It is very thorough (although some items are listed more than once).  It also has some pretty screwy suggestions which you should ignore: turn the AC to 78 degrees when nobody is home!?!?!?!?!  Really?  That's way lower than it needs to be when people are home.  When nobody is home it should be OFF!  And, "hang up your clothes after running them through the drier"?  Is that a joke?  If you are going to take the time and effort to put your clothes on a clothesline anyway, why not just put them directly from the washer to the clothesline, and use zero energy (or money)? Despite these shortcomings, I put the link here because I don't feel like typing out their 200 or so good suggestions.
The following are smaller changes than the previous pages, but they are left off of other lists altogether, and every little bit helps.
I'll most likely add to this list as I think of things (and/or people make good suggestions in the comments)

-Plug everything with a plug into a power strip. Plug that power strip into a timer that shuts off automatically - but has to be turned on by hand.  The simple cheap dial ones you can get at the grocery store or pharmacy work perfect for this.  They have a tiny red tab and a tiny green tab.  Take the tiny green tab out and throw it away.  Set the red tab for about an hour after you normally go to bed (9 or 10, maybe earlier, if you are following step 5).  This way, if you forget to manually turn off the power to anything, it will not stay on all night (and all the next day when you forget to turn it off again before going to work).  It also serves as a reminder of how late its getting when you stay up working or watching TV.

-If you cook, get a pressure cooker. It will cut cooking time dramatically, saving you both energy and time.  Dry beans, for example, cook in 5 to 10 minutes in a pressure cooker, as opposed to an hour or more in a pot.   ok, I admit it, this means spending more money upfront, so that you can save money in the long run, but a good quality pressure cooker should last forever, and it has a concrete benefit, so it passes the tests in step one.  If you don't cook, use the microwave.  It only heats the food, not the air, so it is more efficient than a stove.  Either way, preparing your own food is both more ecological and cost effective than buying prepared food or eating out.

-Rechargeable batteries; again, this requires an initial investment in a charger as well as the batteries, but price per amp hour has dropped dramatically over the past decade, to the point where it doesn't really make any sense to keep buying use-once-and-throw-away batteries anymore.  Plus, you can find them anywhere alkaline are sold these days, so its not even any additional trouble to get them.  There is basically no excuse for not using rechargeables.

-Use the battery powered version over the plug in version.  When things come in both battery and plug-in form, the battery version usually uses much less total power (even considering the loss in the charger).  The most common example is the bedside alarm clock.  A plug in alarm clock uses around 2-5 watts.  A battery power alarm clock uses about 0.01 watts.  (Of course, a wind up alarm clock uses 0 watts, making it the best option of all).

-When you go to the store for a few things, and realize you forgot to bring your cloth bag, just carry things loose in your hands.  You avoid another plastic bag, and you can usually talk the cashier into giving you the "bring your own bag credit" that most large chains offer these days (saving you a few cents each time)
« Last Edit: March 12, 2013, 03:52:31 PM by Bakari »

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Re: My Guide to Saving Lots of Energy - with little to no up-front investment
« Reply #12 on: October 10, 2012, 10:03:50 AM »


Step 11: Some big changes

These are not things which anyone is going to go out and do right after they finish reading this webpage, but they are things to keep in mind the next time a major life transition comes up anyway.

-Move! As in, move to a new house. One which is no more than a 10 min walk from groceries and/or public transit, and no more than a 15min bike ride from work. This is a big step, but one which will save you thousands of dollars in the long run (assuming you keep the same rent/mortgage) and perhaps even more importantly, will save you hundreds of hours of time. Hours of your life which are currently wasted sitting in your car in traffic.  Living close to work and food makes following step 2 (hybrid alternative) a realistic option, and for that reason it may be cost effective even if it means paying slightly higher rent.  Even just the maintenance, insurance, gas, and registration on a fully paid for car amounts to thousands of dollars a year (and generally the highest negative environmental impact that each of us makes), so moving out of the suburbs so that you can sell your existing car may be worth considering.  If you already live within walking distance of groceries and/or public transit, you could also consider getting a new job closer to home, or finding a way to telecommute or otherwise work from home.

-Move! (part 2). As in, move to a new house. One which is as small as you can practically live in. Notice I used the word "practically", not "comfortably" - because comfort is subjective based largely on expectations and what everyone else around you is doing. Nobody felt cramped in 1000 square foot homes 40 years ago, but today the average new home is over 2500 square feet... even though the average family size has gotten smaller since then.
As a very rough generality, I'd say you don't really need more than 100 square feet per person to be comfortable (so long as you don't go over to your neighbor Jones' house across the street and see what they have).  A smaller home means every form of energy use and every home related expense drops.

-12v solar, non-grid-intertie-system. This takes an initial investment, but tens of thousands of dollars less than a typical grid-intertie residential system. I will make a detailed instructable about this topic in the near future.Done: http://www.instructables.com/id/NON-grid-intertie-independant-solar-photovoltic-/

-Live in an RV.  RVs are designed to allow someone to go "off-grid" into the woods for weeks at a time, and still maintain all the comforts of civilization.  In order to facilitate that, they are built to use water, propane, and electricity more efficiently than a normal household.  For example, if you wanted an ammonia-gas-absorption-cycle refrigerator for your house you would have to pay a premium of several hundred dollars over a conventional compressor fridge.  In an RV they come standard.  They also have tankless toilets, 12v low wattage lighting and a small amount of total cubic air space to heat or cool.  Because they already have a 12v electrical system with battery backup, adding in a non-grid-intertie system is very easy.  And in addition to saving energy and water, you also pay a fraction of the rent you would pay in a similarly sized studio apartment by staying in a trailer park.  In some areas trailer spaces (with full hookups) can be had for under $200 a month, while even in the most expensive areas of the country (just outside of San Francisco CA or NYC) spaces are less than $500.
MAJOR CAVEAT:  RV living only saves energy and money if you find a place to put it and leave it there!  RVs are terribly inefficient when it comes to driving around.
See this video tour of my RV home for more:
(There are some errors in this video.  I didn't prepare for this video in advance at all. I also had a faulty electric meter at the time, that was reading low.  My actual electric use is about 1/10th the national average, not 1/30th.  My water use s about 1/4 the national average.  And I have about 250 square feet, not 150.  On the other hand, my girlfriend now lives with me, so our per capita energy/water.space consumption is only half of those numbers)

-Run your auto (if you still have one) on used vegetable oil.  In keeping with the trend of this instructable, I'm not suggesting you go out and buy a diesel engined vehicle just so you can run it on veggie grease.  But if you are shopping for a new car anyway (or if already own a diesel), get a diesel and find a restaurant that currently has to pay to have their old oil hauled off, and offer to take it for free. I'm sure there are already plenty of instructables that will walk you through the details of the conversion process.

Bakari

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Re: My Guide to Saving Lots of Energy - with little to no up-front investment
« Reply #13 on: October 10, 2012, 10:05:08 AM »


Get rich by saving the planet

If you have been following along, and adding up all the numbers, you may have discovered that by following these steps a household could save over 30 thousand dollars a year, while at the same time doing a whole lot less damage to the world around them.
That was not a typo.  $30,000!

For many people (like me!) 30 thousand dollars is more than an entire years income.  I doubt there is any one reading this who would mind waking up a year from now to discover an unexpected 30grand smiling back at them from their bank statement (well, would you?)

This flies directly in the face of the conventional wisdom that says you have to choose between saving money and saving the planet.
Consumer marketers hope to tempt you into believing you can buy forgiveness, much like the medieval Catholic church sold "indulgences" (today they are called "carbon offsets").

Too often "green" means "moderately less destructive version of something nobody really needed in the first place".
The true alternative is doing without it all together.
There is a certain freedom that comes with not having mountains of stuff to look after.  (Not to mention a certain freedom that comes with a spare 30Gs!)

In addition to the massive amount of money you are saving, by combining your commute, exercise, and recreation into a single step (by riding your bike to work), spending less time at the mall, never having to fiddle with the shower temperature again, using a pressure cooker, and maybe even moving closer to work, you are saving a couple hours of time every week.  Hours you can spend however you want!  In a country as wealthy as our own, time is probably more valuable than money. Just as the health of the planet goes hand-in-hand with the health of your bank account, so to it goes hand-in-hand with the health of your appointment book.

Some of this may sound like major lifestyle changes.  But most of it comes without any commitment.  Try some!  See how you like it.  Sam ended up enjoying his green eggs and ham.  But he would have never known if he had never tried.
You don't have to sell you car tomorrow.  Just try riding your bike to work one time.  Try washing your dishes by hand, or hanging up clothes to dry, just one time.  Turn down the thermostat for a couple days.  If you don't like it, you can always go back to your old ways.

kkbmustang

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Re: My Guide to Saving Lots of Energy - with little to no up-front investment
« Reply #14 on: October 10, 2012, 12:02:24 PM »
Bakari- This was awesome, thanks!

smalllife

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Re: My Guide to Saving Lots of Energy - with little to no up-front investment
« Reply #15 on: October 10, 2012, 02:45:37 PM »
You are amazing, just saying.  I've done some of those and I'll try some others!

PaulM12345

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Re: My Guide to Saving Lots of Energy - with little to no up-front investment
« Reply #16 on: October 10, 2012, 03:21:11 PM »
Thanks! These super informational guides are really helpful to have around here for future reference (similar to I. P. Daley's communication and tech guide).

TLV

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Re: My Guide to Saving Lots of Energy - with little to no up-front investment
« Reply #17 on: October 10, 2012, 09:28:03 PM »
Quote
Go to bed no later than 8 hours before the sun comes up each morning.  If the sun rises at 6am, go to bed by 10pm at the latest.  If the sun rises at 5am, go to bed by 9pm.  (If you need more than 8 hours of sleep, go to bed an hour earlier, or 9 hours before the sun rises).

Because, you see, if you aren't using lights at night, you don't need to use them at all! In the daytime, there is this great big old ball of burning hydrogen that you get to use for FREE - no strings attached. It turns out there is such a thing as a free lunch after all, and it's called "the sun". All you have to do to enjoy its massive power is open the curtains on your (newly insulated!) windows.
When it gets dark, go to sleep.
When the sun comes back up, wake up, and pick up where you left off. You spend exactly as much time sleeping either way, which means you have the exact same number of waking hours to get stuff done, but you never need to use electricity to see.

Any tips in this category for those of us further north? At winter solstice it's still dark when I get to work in the morning and dark already by the time I leave.

happy

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Re: My Guide to Saving Lots of Energy - with little to no up-front investment
« Reply #18 on: October 11, 2012, 01:36:58 AM »
Excellent thankyou.

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Re: My Guide to Saving Lots of Energy - with little to no up-front investment
« Reply #19 on: October 11, 2012, 06:36:37 AM »
Amazing! I'd love to see the RV tour video. Do you have a link?

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Re: My Guide to Saving Lots of Energy - with little to no up-front investment
« Reply #20 on: October 11, 2012, 07:31:11 AM »
Great job!

I'm beginning to wonder whether MMM needs to add a Wiki for this type of information. It could also be used for the popular Phone Guide thread.

Bakari

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Re: My Guide to Saving Lots of Energy - with little to no up-front investment
« Reply #21 on: October 11, 2012, 10:08:30 AM »
Any tips in this category for those of us further north? At winter solstice it's still dark when I get to work in the morning and dark already by the time I leave.

No, afraid not.  I know that's the situation for some people, and it just sucks.  My point is to never be asleep when the sun is up - some people live at latitudes where its dark 15 or more hours in winter, and they still sleep until noon on the weekends.  For you, CFLs and LEDs are much more likely to be a cost effective investment.  That, and saving up enough money that you can afford to work part-time in the winter! :)

Amazing! I'd love to see the RV tour video. Do you have a link?

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=EJc8973GURk
(I didn't prepare for it in advance, just started talking off the top of my head, and made a couple errors.  My place is about 250sq ft, not 150, electricity use is 1/12th the national average, not 1/30th, water use is about 1/4.)

also, from the same documentary filmmaker who took that short video:
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=UkFXgg2XnI8
and
http://youtu.be/qBo7k_9zxBs

AJ

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Re: My Guide to Saving Lots of Energy - with little to no up-front investment
« Reply #22 on: October 11, 2012, 11:35:45 AM »
At winter solstice it's still dark when I get to work in the morning and dark already by the time I leave.

Blech! I'm not as far north as you, but we go through this same thing part of the winter. It is so depressing to get to work in the dark, watch the sun cross the sky while you're cooped up inside, then leave in the late afternoon and have it be dark again already. Boo! I don't have any helpful advice...just wanted to commiserate :(

Orvell

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Re: My Guide to Saving Lots of Energy - with little to no up-front investment
« Reply #23 on: October 11, 2012, 11:56:19 AM »
At winter solstice it's still dark when I get to work in the morning and dark already by the time I leave.

Blech! I'm not as far north as you, but we go through this same thing part of the winter. It is so depressing to get to work in the dark, watch the sun cross the sky while you're cooped up inside, then leave in the late afternoon and have it be dark again already. Boo! I don't have any helpful advice...just wanted to commiserate :(
Me as well...
I've found lighting candles doesn't do a whole lot for lighting (unless you go crazy with them) but they can help alleviate some dark-weather-blues :)

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Re: My Guide to Saving Lots of Energy - with little to no up-front investment
« Reply #24 on: October 29, 2012, 12:28:00 PM »
While I appreciate all the positive feedback, I was really hoping that people would add in their own ideas.
All I have is my own circumstances, home, and climate to deal with. 
Other people live where it snows, or have kids, or have a bigger house.
Surely other people have things they do that I didn't mention.  Surely! 
Feel free to share.

cthulhu

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Re: My Guide to Saving Lots of Energy - with little to no up-front investment
« Reply #25 on: October 30, 2012, 11:13:12 AM »
One thing I might add to the hot water situation would be to get an insulated wrap for the hot water tank.  Its keeping all those gallons of water at whatever mustachian temperature you've selected, 24hrs a day, and anything that helps it not work so hard is going to be a bonus.  The colder your heater location is within your house, and the colder the climate you live in the more savings this would produce.

If you're moving somewhere new and have the option - the tankless hot water heaters are pretty cool, and they heat water on demand so you don't pay to keep 50 gallons of water at 100 degrees all the time. 

Al

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Re: My Guide to Saving Lots of Energy - with little to no up-front investment
« Reply #26 on: November 18, 2012, 07:44:39 PM »
This is a great post Bakari!  Thank you for taking the time to organize such a large amount of helpful information.  I'm going to watch your video now, because I've always wanted to live in an RV.  I like small spaces.

carolinakaren

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Re: My Guide to Saving Lots of Energy - with little to no up-front investment
« Reply #27 on: November 18, 2012, 08:41:20 PM »
I really liked all three of the videos.....thanks for linking them here.  I love fair companies' videos!  We have spent many hours watching for entertainment, but always end up learning something very cool along the way.

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Re: My Guide to Saving Lots of Energy - with little to no up-front investment
« Reply #28 on: November 19, 2012, 10:42:58 AM »
At winter solstice it's still dark when I get to work in the morning and dark already by the time I leave.

Blech! I'm not as far north as you, but we go through this same thing part of the winter. It is so depressing to get to work in the dark, watch the sun cross the sky while you're cooped up inside, then leave in the late afternoon and have it be dark again already. Boo! I don't have any helpful advice...just wanted to commiserate :(
Me as well...
I've found lighting candles doesn't do a whole lot for lighting (unless you go crazy with them) but they can help alleviate some dark-weather-blues :)
One thing that could help a lot (although I haven't been able to do this in recent years due to having fixed work hours) is to pick a work schedule that allows you to work during the dark hours. This obviously only applies to people who have some flexibility in their work schedule (i.e. freelancers) or do shift work and can pick their shift. For example, where I live we only have direct sunlight from about 08:00 to 16:00 at this time of year. The ideal for me would be to work from about 16:00 to 24:00. This would let me sleep till about 8am, get a full day's worth of activities and lounging around at home during daylight hours, and then go be stuck at work while it's dark out and keep my lights off at home. I did this when I was young and working in a restaurant, and it was great.

Another thing to consider is the actual amount of light you need for any activities you do at home. Most people's default is to light the entire room (or even a few adjacent rooms) when they're at home, but most of the time that is unnecessary. When I'm at home reading, for example, I just have one small light on behind my reading chair. This provides lots of light on the book, but leaves the rest of the house dark. Sometimes I like to listen to audiobooks or just listen to music (active music listening is something that needs to be revived in my opinion), and I will usually leave the lights off entirely in that case. The latter is not something I do to save energy per se, that is just an added benefit.

Lastly, for people in the northern latitudes, try to force yourself to learn some outdoor winter activities if you don't already do some. I would suggest inexpensive ones such as snowshoeing or cross country skiing as opposed to alpine skiing at resorts. Getting out into the sunlight every weekend, and especially camping out in a snow cave or the like can do wonders for your spirit, which may help alleviate some of the winter blues that you feel during the week.

Gerard

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Re: My Guide to Saving Lots of Energy - with little to no up-front investment
« Reply #29 on: November 21, 2012, 08:00:11 AM »
A few more cold-winter suggestions:
*Get outside for a walk on your lunch break, any day that's not a blizzard.
*Prioritize heating over cooling for your home. I live somewhere (Newfoundland) that's NEVER too hot, so I live in a dark-color-painted house with south-facing windows... if I ever rebuild or move, I'll make sure that the northern walls have a "backpack" of storage, hallways, etc. to act as another layer of insulation. And I'll get even bigger south-facing windows. And maybe passive solar water heating.
*Spend some time outside on nice days without a ton of clothing on, especially in the fall and spring. If I sit in the sun and out of the wind on the south side of my house, I can be shirtless when it's 2-5 degrees celsius outside. Lots of vitamin D and SAD-fighting light.
*Live somewhere that the neighbours don't mind you being shirtless outside.
*Walk or bike to work, to get extra air and light and exercise.
*Bakari's suggestion that you live in a much smaller home becomes even more important as you move farther north.
*"Never heat your house" works a lot less well when it's really cold out... it's one thing to have your house drop to just above freezing at night, then go out into the 10-celsius day (like in the Bay area), it's another thing to come in from a minus-20 day to a just-above-freezing house. But you can still try this in the spring and fall!
*Listen to your body and eat more fat and carbs in the winter. Yes, you'll put on a couple of pounds, but you'll lose them when the sunlight and vegetables return. At least I do.
*Try to design "three season" space into your living arrangement -- somewhere that can be heated by the sun in all but the coldest months. Solarium, spare room, outbuilding, sleeping loft... you contract your life into your small snug space for three cold months, then expand back out the rest of the year. And even an unheated solarium will let you start plants in the spring, or carry some herbs and greens through most of the winter.
*Carpe freakin' Diem. If you get a warm or sunny day in February, go play outside. All day, if possible. Don't make excuses (i.e., don't be like me).

Togoshiman

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Re: My Guide to Saving Lots of Energy - with little to no up-front investment
« Reply #30 on: November 21, 2012, 10:23:42 AM »
Some ideas which, unfortunately, come from an inspired friend of mine rather than me.  But I'm getting there.  This fellow bought a rural property which had no dwelling on it, which resulted in low purchase price for a beautiful property.  He then had a survey done and a permit issued to build a new home.  This allowed him the right to erect an A-frame temporary dwelling.  But careful reading of the local laws shows that there is no time frame for this.  So, the permanent home never gets built and was never intended to, while the A-frame stays on the property legitimately.

Now, the A-frame is beautifully constructed, more of a tiny log home rather than something you'd be uncomfortable or ashamed to be in.  The space is very well used (this was professionally designed, not some hack job).  The top of the A, if you will, has two loft-style spaces accessible by ladders a la very large bunk beds.  This creates two queen-sized bed spaces above the living space, one for this fellow and his wife, and one for guests.  The main floor of the A-frame is well designed with an L-shaped kitchen on one side and an L-shaped seating area with large table on the other.  A Macbook with a rocket stick (cellular wi-fi) and a flat screen TV mounted on the wall, a wood stove and custom furniture which fold up or spreads out as circumstances demand and this space is lovely to be in.  Finally, all through the ceiling/roof are custom 'light bulb' sky lights which are wider on the outside but which concentrate sunlight into smaller 'bulb's on the inside, giving normal light.  Electicity is supplied by a nice solar panel array, a luxurious log cabin themed outhouse (no, really, it is nicer than anything you'd imagine and even has a sauna attached), and so on.  This is all in Canada as well, lest you think it wouldn't work in winter climates.

Fellow gets his mileage on an old Volvo wagon paid for by his employer (national parks service as a biologist).  He leads birdwatching tours in the Amazon with pasty-faced doctors and lawyers, returning from holidays with more money than he left with.  He 'took over' the local rural bar band by with slightly subversive blues, country and rock music on Saturday nights, free beers being his payment.  And he fixed up an old sailboat which is anchored in the inlet in front of his house and which is accessible only by diving down to get the anchor.

Yes, this person is richest person I know both materially and non-materially.  I thought some of the readers here would appreciate all this.  Wish it were me.



Togoshiman

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Re: My Guide to Saving Lots of Energy - with little to no up-front investment
« Reply #31 on: November 21, 2012, 10:28:48 AM »
By materially, I mean he's earned a six-figure income as a scientist for 10+ years while living the lifestyle described.  His savings rate is completely nuts.  He has said that he only works and leads the jungle tours because he enjoys it, not because he needs money.

totoro

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Re: My Guide to Saving Lots of Energy - with little to no up-front investment
« Reply #32 on: November 21, 2012, 10:41:48 AM »
What an inspiring post. 

I'm not ready to give up the dishwasher yet but we have done some of these things already.  The biggest impact has been moving from a 2000 square foot house to a 1050 square foot space (family of five plus dog).  Almost no heating costs.  When we cook it heats the house at night and we don't need heat when we sleep in our climate.  We spend more time together in the same spaces now, which I like.  Less cleaning too.

Another thing with moving is that we moved closer to stores.  I shop on foot each day.  I walk down the avenue to the local grocery store (five minutes away) and buy what is on sale.   I usually visit the library once a day by foot too (ten minute walk).

One of the bigger savings for me is that I work from home most of the time.  I have few clothes to wash and no commute - except when I travel to a client which is paid for by the client.  Our climate means I don't need the heat on for most of the year.

My next dream is to build a 400ft2  south-facing solariam attached to our home and install a woodstove for heat and walls to collect heat from the sun.  We can get free wood around here and I would love to work in this space with plants growing all around me.   We also plan to build raised beds for us and the tenants and install a clothes line (working on that now). 

Now, this is not about energy efficiency, but our space is actually part of a triplex.  Our cost of living is subsidized by the other two units. 




Bakari

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Re: My Guide to Saving Lots of Energy - with little to no up-front investment
« Reply #33 on: November 21, 2012, 11:29:08 AM »


Now, this is not about energy efficiency, but our space is actually part of a triplex.  Our cost of living is subsidized by the other two units.

Yes it is.  Living in an apartment complex causes less energy used for climate control than a separate single family house for the same square footage, because the units on each side and above and below all provide insulation for each other.  A triplex is the same thing, just not as much.  I believe that is a large part of why city dwellers tend to have a lower overall footprint compared to rural dwellers (along with centralized distribution networks and public transit)

Bakari

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Re: My Guide to Saving Lots of Energy - with little to no up-front investment
« Reply #34 on: December 13, 2012, 02:58:55 PM »
Two new ones:

I got this idea from a different thread on the forum: https://forum.mrmoneymustache.com/mustachianism-around-the-web/saving-energy-by-recovering-heat-from-wastewater/msg43211/#msg43211

In winter time, avoid pouring hot water down the drain.  Then the water you paid to heat up is just warming up the sewers.
Pour cooking water into a separate pot instead of the sink, and leave the shower plugged up when you have a hot shower or bath.  Let the water radiate out into the house, and that's less work for the heating system.  Once its cooled off naturally, then go ahead and pour it out (or better yet, use it to water some plants or flush the toilet or something)


This one I've been planning to do ever since I had to replace my refrigerator last summer, but I only just came across the plastic sheet to do it:
http://www.instructables.com/id/Increase-your-refrigerators-efficiency-in-10-minu/

Aperrone

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Re: My Guide to Saving Lots of Energy - with little to no up-front investment
« Reply #35 on: November 01, 2015, 01:01:51 AM »
I found this article through google but have visited the forums before. Why isn't a great article like this stickied or something?

PtboEliz

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Re: My Guide to Saving Lots of Energy - with little to no up-front investment
« Reply #36 on: November 01, 2015, 06:11:32 AM »
Replying to follow. Great ideas!

MonkeyJenga

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Re: My Guide to Saving Lots of Energy - with little to no up-front investment
« Reply #37 on: November 01, 2015, 07:27:12 AM »
Great write-up!

My own small ideas, which come from working in an office building and living in a rental apartment with no choice in appliances, type of toilet, awnings, etc.:

  • WATER: To save water when flushing the toilet, we put a couple large wine bottles in the tank.
  • ELECTRICITY: I charge my cell phone at work, which saves a little money although not electricity use overall. What I used to do when I got home, though, was leave it on and connected to wifi, then charge it all night because the wifi drained the battery. Now I leave my cell on airplane mode most of the time and don't need to charge it until the next day.
  • ELECTRICITY: Similarly, when I'm not using my laptop, I turn it off and unplug it, instead of leaving it plugged in and on sleep mode.
  • ELECTRICITY: Rarely use overhead lighting. The Man loves ambient lighting, so has a lot of little lights scattered around the apartment. This is an easy option for lower electricity costs (if you must artificially light your home at all, hah) - use a small one-bulb lamp instead of the multi-bulb overhead fixture. Bonus: it's easier to change a lightbulb when it burns out.
  • ELECTRICITY: I try to open the fridge and freezer doors as minimally as possible. If I'm going to be cooking, I'll go in and grab everything at once, then wait until it's all done to put it all back.
  • WATER/HEAT: Using less heat during my showers. In the summer I managed cold showers, and in the fall/winter I'm transitioning to lukewarm. With a truly cold shower, it's easier to turn off the water while you're washing yourself, since you won't need time for it to warm back up.
  • WATER: I wash my hair every other day, so half of my showers are blazingly fast. This is helpful when you're trying out a cold shower in November. It won't work for all hair types, though.
  • ELECTRICITY/WATER: I stopped dry-cleaning any clothing and will hand-wash/air-dry delicate items. For sleeveless tops and dresses that were barely worn, I'll hang them on a door instead of throwing them in a hamper. Most of the time they're good to wear again within a few days.
  • PAPER: I brought a hand towel to work so I can dry my hands in the bathroom without using a million paper towels. I also keep Tupperware and silverware at work for lunch, and I let those air-dry after I wash them.
  • PLASTIC: My default purse is a backpack. Whenever I stop by the grocery store without advance planning, I can shove things in there without having to remember a cloth bag.
I'm going to start doing these:

  • Turning off the stove pilot light in the summer.
  • Saving shower water to pour into the toilet tank. (I would include watering the plants, but it's best for everyone if I have no responsibility for living things.)
  • Using cloth napkins. I'm going to stalk craigslist for a while to see if I can get them from someone who's moving.
  • Get a pressure cooker. Again, craigslist will be involved.
  • Bike to work, if I can swing it. I already take the subway, so this will save more money and sanity than energy.
  • Look into adding a faucet aerator in my rental.

GuitarStv

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Re: My Guide to Saving Lots of Energy - with little to no up-front investment
« Reply #38 on: November 01, 2015, 08:12:38 AM »
b]WATER[/b]: To save water when flushing the toilet, we put a couple large wine bottles in the tank.

More mustachian option . . . make prison wine in these bottles.  :D

RetiredAt63

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Re: My Guide to Saving Lots of Energy - with little to no up-front investment
« Reply #39 on: November 01, 2015, 10:17:15 AM »
Another Northerner here.

Grocery bags - http://www.leevalley.com/en/garden/page.aspx?cat=2,42194&p=62658  - yes you need to buy one (and use it as a pattern for more) but it folds small and is easy to keep with you - two bags live in my not very large purse all the time.  They wash easily.

If you live in a time-of-use billing area, pay attention to the times.  Here we are off-peak 7 PM to 7 AM weekdays, and all day on holidays.  The peak and shoulder times flip-flop between summer and winter - so what was shoulder on Friday (October) is now peak (November).  It makes sense to watch when you use electricity - if you are going to run something, run it at low price times.  For cooking, do as much prep as possible ahead of time so that little cooking is happening during peak prices.  I know this does not cut down on total energy use, but low prices means the power plant output is not being fully used, and the electricity is probably being produced anyway.  The more even the power load, the less need for extra production units for peak demand.

House - I put bubble wrap on my North-facing windows, it really does help.  I can put my hand an inch away from a window and not feel the cold.  Of course this assumes you already have double-pane windows (most houses here do) and good caulking.

chops

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Re: My Guide to Saving Lots of Energy - with little to no up-front investment
« Reply #40 on: November 10, 2015, 05:18:09 PM »
Great ideas here!  Has anyone ever tried turning their hot water heater off completely when not in use, then increasing it to 120 degrees (or 105 degrees :) just when you need it?  Or put it on a timer ahead of time if you take a shower every morning, for example.  I've been considering that for added savings...

 - Chops

enki

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Re: My Guide to Saving Lots of Energy - with little to no up-front investment
« Reply #41 on: November 10, 2015, 05:54:16 PM »
I'm going to see how well the water heater change flies at my house. Our plumbing runs through a non-heated basement and PEX loses heat at an amazing rate. I know my GF likes hot showers, I'll just have to tweak the settings. Maybe just a few degrees a week until I hear about the water being too cold. Our heat is already set to 66 in the winter time. Going much lower than that I fear the pipes would freeze, my vermiculture box would be completely unproductive, and we're already at my GF's cold tolerance level. These are all great ideas and would help us squeeze a bit more savings without having to change much.

Gerard

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Re: My Guide to Saving Lots of Energy - with little to no up-front investment
« Reply #42 on: November 11, 2015, 08:36:05 AM »
Has anyone ever tried turning their hot water heater off completely when not in use, then increasing it to 120 degrees (or 105 degrees :) just when you need it? 

I do this in a longer-term sense... I'm often away from home, usually from 3 to 10 days, and for the past few years I've turned off the hot water heater whenever I travel. I save about $12 a month in electrical costs.

Plus, extra bonus, because the hot water is gonna cool off anyway, I take a "free" deep luxurious hot bath the night before I leave, just after turning off the water heater.

RetiredAt63

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Re: My Guide to Saving Lots of Energy - with little to no up-front investment
« Reply #43 on: November 11, 2015, 08:52:24 AM »
I turn off my hot water tank at the breaker board if I am going away.  I find that if I am back in less than a week, the water is still warm (well-insulated tank).  It is as much for peace of mind - if anything went horrendously wrong, I would not burn out the heating elements in an empty tank.  For longer trips I also turn off power to the well pump, unless someone will be watering my garden.  For winter trips, I just leave water in buckets for whoever waters house plants, and turn the water off.  Of course the thermostat setting goes way down as well.

I have the tank set at 120.  The only time I wish it were hotter is when I am washing raw fleece (lanolin doesn't dissolve well unless the water is hotter, no matter how much detergent is in there).  But that is what kettles are for.

Sibley

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Re: My Guide to Saving Lots of Energy - with little to no up-front investment
« Reply #44 on: November 11, 2015, 12:22:08 PM »
I do find it amusing that the guy who says to turn off the heat lives in California. Move to somewhere with a real winter and then I'll listen to you on that one. Probably won't do it, but I'll listen.

FYI - setting the heat to 35 isn't going to be enough to keep pipes from freezing. People have pipes freeze (and burst) when the heat is set to 65 or higher.

I'll read the rest later. Gotta work unfortunately.

ETA:
Been avoiding work, reading this instead. Some good ideas here. Some of them are more extreme than others, and not everyone is willing to go to those extremes.

I'm still going to object to the guy living in California telling those in dark, cold areas to turn off the heat and don't turn on the lights. But there are incremental steps that can be taken to help. And you're completely right about night owls.
« Last Edit: November 11, 2015, 12:56:19 PM by Sibley »

Dollar Slice

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Re: My Guide to Saving Lots of Energy - with little to no up-front investment
« Reply #45 on: November 16, 2015, 11:39:54 PM »
  • ELECTRICITY: Rarely use overhead lighting. The Man loves ambient lighting, so has a lot of little lights scattered around the apartment. This is an easy option for lower electricity costs (if you must artificially light your home at all, hah) - use a small one-bulb lamp instead of the multi-bulb overhead fixture. Bonus: it's easier to change a lightbulb when it burns out.

I'm amazed at the amount of built-in/overhead lighting there is in my tiny Manhattan apartment. The kitchen has ~20 sq feet of floor space and has four big recessed halogen bulbs plus a bulb in the range hood. Between the outrageous grocery and electricity costs here, and the 240W I have lighting up the kitchen, maybe it's true when they say it's cheaper to eat out in NYC!

I just did the math and it would take roughly 250 hours for a headlamp to start saving me money over the overhead recessed lighting. :-P  (Yeah yeah, I know, just take a couple of the bulbs out.)

partgypsy

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Re: My Guide to Saving Lots of Energy - with little to no up-front investment
« Reply #46 on: November 18, 2015, 01:37:50 PM »
I do find it amusing that the guy who says to turn off the heat lives in California. Move to somewhere with a real winter and then I'll listen to you on that one. Probably won't do it, but I'll listen.

FYI - setting the heat to 35 isn't going to be enough to keep pipes from freezing. People have pipes freeze (and burst) when the heat is set to 65 or higher.

I'll read the rest later. Gotta work unfortunately.

ETA:
Been avoiding work, reading this instead. Some good ideas here. Some of them are more extreme than others, and not everyone is willing to go to those extremes.

I'm still going to object to the guy living in California telling those in dark, cold areas to turn off the heat and don't turn on the lights. But there are incremental steps that can be taken to help. And you're completely right about night owls.

I was going to say, I like a lot of those suggestions. But for people (not living in CA) you may not be able to turn off heating/cooling. When I lived in Iowa in a drafty house, in winter to save money we turned down the heating to 55 degrees. But I never felt warm (especially my hands). I went to the library to work and take naps. It took me a long time to fall asleep, and then when I woke up I didn't want to get out of bed! I think the impact on my productivity may not have been worth the savings. Also if you have babies or very small children they are not able to thermoregulate as well as adults.

sloth bear

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Re: My Guide to Saving Lots of Energy - with little to no up-front investment
« Reply #47 on: November 18, 2015, 02:03:57 PM »
I do find it amusing that the guy who says to turn off the heat lives in California. Move to somewhere with a real winter and then I'll listen to you on that one. Probably won't do it, but I'll listen.

FYI - setting the heat to 35 isn't going to be enough to keep pipes from freezing. People have pipes freeze (and burst) when the heat is set to 65 or higher.

I'll read the rest later. Gotta work unfortunately.

ETA:
Been avoiding work, reading this instead. Some good ideas here. Some of them are more extreme than others, and not everyone is willing to go to those extremes.

I'm still going to object to the guy living in California telling those in dark, cold areas to turn off the heat and don't turn on the lights. But there are incremental steps that can be taken to help. And you're completely right about night owls.

Love the summaries Bakari, but I have to agree with Sibley here. I live in New Hampshire and I generally keep my heat at 56-58 (daytime) and 52 (nighttime). Nevertheless, I had a pipe freeze this past winter. I'm not sure that setting your heat to 35 will keep pipes from freezing in cold climates!

Bakari

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Re: My Guide to Saving Lots of Energy - with little to no up-front investment
« Reply #48 on: November 19, 2015, 09:23:37 AM »
I do find it amusing that the guy who says to turn off the heat lives in California. Move to somewhere with a real winter and then I'll listen to you on that one. Probably won't do it, but I'll listen.

FYI - setting the heat to 35 isn't going to be enough to keep pipes from freezing. People have pipes freeze (and burst) when the heat is set to 65 or higher.

I'll read the rest later. Gotta work unfortunately.

ETA:
Been avoiding work, reading this instead. Some good ideas here. Some of them are more extreme than others, and not everyone is willing to go to those extremes.

I'm still going to object to the guy living in California telling those in dark, cold areas to turn off the heat and don't turn on the lights. But there are incremental steps that can be taken to help. And you're completely right about night owls.


I live in CA now.  Haven't always.  When I was in NJ, I learned you have to regularly clear the snow off the solar panels on the roof or you lose power, outside sewer and water lines need electric heaters and insulation, and if you don't leave the heat on (low) all day while you are at work the cats' water bowls will freeze over, and then they will constantly jump up on the counter to drink from the dishwater.


My point is the same regardless of the temperature outside: however you dress outside, dress that way inside and you won't need to turn the heat up nearly as far.


If pipes are freezing even with the heat up in the 50s or 60s obviously that heat isn't reaching them.  In which case the heat setting isn't especially relevant.  Insulate the pipes and get an electric line heater to go inside that insulation.


Glad to see this thread get resurrected!

JLee

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Re: My Guide to Saving Lots of Energy - with little to no up-front investment
« Reply #49 on: November 20, 2015, 02:04:05 PM »
I do find it amusing that the guy who says to turn off the heat lives in California. Move to somewhere with a real winter and then I'll listen to you on that one. Probably won't do it, but I'll listen.

FYI - setting the heat to 35 isn't going to be enough to keep pipes from freezing. People have pipes freeze (and burst) when the heat is set to 65 or higher.

I'll read the rest later. Gotta work unfortunately.

ETA:
Been avoiding work, reading this instead. Some good ideas here. Some of them are more extreme than others, and not everyone is willing to go to those extremes.

I'm still going to object to the guy living in California telling those in dark, cold areas to turn off the heat and don't turn on the lights. But there are incremental steps that can be taken to help. And you're completely right about night owls.


I live in CA now.  Haven't always.  When I was in NJ, I learned you have to regularly clear the snow off the solar panels on the roof or you lose power, outside sewer and water lines need electric heaters and insulation, and if you don't leave the heat on (low) all day while you are at work the cats' water bowls will freeze over, and then they will constantly jump up on the counter to drink from the dishwater.


My point is the same regardless of the temperature outside: however you dress outside, dress that way inside and you won't need to turn the heat up nearly as far.


If pipes are freezing even with the heat up in the 50s or 60s obviously that heat isn't reaching them.  In which case the heat setting isn't especially relevant.  Insulate the pipes and get an electric line heater to go inside that insulation.


Glad to see this thread get resurrected!

NJ isn't really cold either.

Source: Someone who grew up in northern NH and now lives in NJ. :P

I have a house in Phoenix and when I was there, I did try to hold off on the heat as long as reasonably possible - but I'm not nearly as dedicated as a lot of you guys. If it was in the low 50's inside, the heat went on.
« Last Edit: November 20, 2015, 02:07:51 PM by JLee »