My Frugal Life: Focus On What's Important (Part 4)

If you live in an all electric house it can get very expensive, even with new energy efficient appliances. So think a timer for your water heater. It will save you as much or more than a expensive solar panel on the roof. The timer just stops the water from rewarming all night or day long when your sleeping. I worked night shift, bathed the kids at night, bath morning and night my self.


But setting the timer to stop at 11PM and restart every morning at 7AM (for my hours) saved me over $30.00 a month on a 30 gallon heater. If you live in a house with 220 and a washer room with a heater, it may even be wise to check into converting to a electric water heater, when the old gas heater goes out.

I haven't found much energy saving with the new more expensive light bulbs and they burn out faster than anticipated, but when my grandkids are coming over (most every day) I just unscrew all the bulbs and allow one for every room. It helps them learn to save on electricity and forces them to just use one light instead of twenty. Same with surge protectors. They allow savings on big appliances if you live in a area with electric surges, but also allow multiple plug ins for lamps, computers and other items that can all be switched off all at once and back on again when you want. Air purifiers, vaporizers, lights and computers can all be put into those long surge protectors and used as needed.


We live in a rural suburb in the mountains. Consequently snow storms and winter are a expensive time for heating with propane or electric. So, in 1980 with two small girls, I sold an old fixer upper house in town and had a energy efficient house built without all the interior finish work done. The girls and I painted, stained and trimmed windows later.

The best investment I made was putting a large wood stove in the main living room. That stove is now 30 years old. We learned how to cut and stack wood and, at the beginning, even learning to start the fires in the late afternoon. But, it was also a fun, frustrating and ultimately great learning experience for the girls in needing heat and being responsible for heating. The main thing was the savings. During 1982, one week of electric heat cost me $350.00 a month. something I didn't anticipate or have money for. After that, it was buy or cut 5 cords of firewood a winter at $100 a cord and heat the house for about $500 all winter.


Now the house is propane and the heating bill can run just as high if I only use the furnace. With some wood stacked for the winter, I save quite a bit because wood is used as a supplemen. Best of all. it is still cheaper than the new pellets and gas stoves. Better yet, my wood stove can be used for water, coffee (alone with barby) and heat, when the electric goes out, something the pellets stoves don't do.

If it sounds like we were woodsy, earthy do it yourselfers, forget it! I worked in town and was driven by necessity, and the house is still modern, updated and convenient when reappraised over the years. Our old wood Shrader stove is dependable and cheap compared to every other type of modern furnace type. Worst case scenario, living in the country or the woods, as many people do, remember if you don't have any money one month for fuel (been there done that), you can cut your own wood.


Our ancestors did it and so can we. In emergencies, even the courts and law enforcement look leniently on the poor or stranded who have to break ordinances and laws. Only the EPA seems to have become jealous of the air we breath and the status of our pocketbooks.

Now, windows. I have over the last 30 years, refinanced and borrowed and bought 3 sets of double pane windows and there is a slight difference in looks and heat savings. The mistake I made from the beginning, was choosing a aluminum black double pane that I never liked the color from the beginning. For the first 10 years with a 17% interest rate on the house, energy efficient or not, I could have cared less about color. The difference in heating after changing to a better window and color was negligible. Two years ago, I just put up big roll down, padded and insulated shades over these large passive solar windows that was part of the house design in the late 70's.


The passive solar in winter is great and saved on heat all day. But, at night, they lose heat. In summer without air conditioner, the windows draw heat. So, the padded roll down shades have been the most or best investment over the windows. If I had though about it when we first moved in, I could have made them myself and saved some more in winter heat.

Regardless of the house you live in or if you rent or own, if you are trying to save money on heating, sometimes the old ideas are better or the best. Shutters, shades or just plain old blankets at windows and doors can save a room and cozy up the night. In the long run, it is cheaper than investing in a new set of windows that may or may not improve the insulation of your house. If you don't sew, they are easy to learn how or many sewers and seamstresses want to make extra money and could be cheaper or less expensive than commercial insulated shades. Think about it.


By Leslie from Albuquerque, New Mexico

Editor's Note: Because Leslie's essay is longer than our usual submissions, we are publishing it in 6 sections. We will post the next section soon.Here are the previously posted sections:

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Better Living Frugal Living My Frugal LifeMarch 7, 2011
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