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 Frugal Utility Tips



Keep your attic cool, and your whole house will stay cooler. One options is to install attic fans. They will cool down your attic, and reduce the temperature in your home significantly. You should also have vents in your attic to let out the air.


If you live in a hot climate, and have windows on the west side of your home, consider installing awnings over the windows. You will use the rooms more, and they will pay for themselves over time.


In the summer we barbecue a lot to keep the temperature down in our homes. However, there is another option. Most of us love our slow cookers. We also have power in our garages. Think about making a feel meals in the slow cooker in the garage. If your garage is attached to your home, it won't be difficult- and with the lid on all the food should be protected.

Dimmer Switches

If you are handy, it is an easy job to install a dimmer switch to operate some of your lights. They save electricity and prolong the life of your light bulbs.


Your dryer uses a lot of energy, and runs up your electric bill. To shorten drying time, be sure and keep the lint screen clean. Wash your filter with soap and water on a regular basis to make sure it is totally clear. You may also want to buy one of the flexible brushes that will go down through the lint screen, and catch lint further down in the vent. This can be a fire hazard, and you just can't see it. Your dryer should be vented to the outside, and not under the house. You can check to make sure air is coming out when it is running, but there could still be built up lent.


If you have heat that comes up ducts in the floor, be sure and use a flashlight and see if there are gaps between the ducts and under your house. Not only do you lose heat, but insects will come up from under your home. This is easily fixed with spray foam and silicone.

Evaporative Coolers

If high humidity is a problem in your area, and you don't want to run an air conditioner, think about using an evaporative cooler.. Air always feels cooler when it is less humid. Evaporative coolers, also known as "swamp coolers" work by running cold water over air, and then circulating it through your home or room. They do a good job of keep your home cool, unless it is humid outside.


Last year we purchased a freezer that was not frost free because of the energy savings.  I was worried that it would be high maintenance, but the ice does not build up quickly, and we have yet to manually defrost it.

LED Lights

I've heard it said the 40% of the electricity you use in your homes is from items that are not even turned on. That seems high to me....but if you truly want to save money on your electric bill, unplug everything with an LED light (that is in standby mode) until you use it.

Letting Clothes Sit

Another way to reduce the amount of time your dryer needs to dry your clothes is to always give your clothes an extra spin in the washing machine before you dry them. I always let my towels sit over night in the washing machine before I dry them. They are still damp in the morning, and it takes much less time to dry them.

Lights and Motion Detectors

If you get tired of telling everyone to turn off the lights when they leave a room, install motion detector light switches. They will pay for themselves in a short time, and your family life will be more harmonious. Another option- use florescent bulbs and just leave the lights on. The bulbs are most expensive, but last 4 times as longer and are meant to be left on for long periods of time so they don't break.


If you have an electric stove, you know that it remains hot for several minutes after you turn off the burners. Most of us turn the heat off before the last few minutes of cooking time. Another way to cut cooking time is to use dark pans of substantial weight. Anything dark absorbs heat better, and the same is true with pans. The dark color in the pan will warm it up quicker and start the cooking process faster. Also, always be sure to match the size of the burner to the pan you are using.


Consider installing timers on your bathroom lights. Children are not very good turning off lights.  Free yourself up from having to run around turning off lights after family members, and when you have company.  This is particularly convenient when you have a bathroom upstairs.

Upgrading Your Machines

If you have the money...the new washing machines are very energy efficient. The washing machines spin so fast that the clothing is very dry and requires much less time in the dryer.


Don't forget to thoroughly clean your furnace before winter. A well maintained furnace operates at peak efficiency, and can cut your heating bill by as much as 10 percent. Change your filter every 3 months, and have a professional inspect your furnace every few years for safety and efficiency.


Improve your heating bill with landscaping. If you have trees on the southern side of your home, they should be deciduous. The leaves should come off in the winter to let in the sun, and be on it to shade your home during the hot summer months. Take down a tree, move one, or plant a new one. Think of the future, and make changes now that you will appreciate in the years to come.

Light Bulbs

 If you have a newer home, you probably have a lot of recessed lighting. These bulbs are expensive, and there are probably many more than you need. Leaving some in that are burned out. If you still have adequate lighting, keep it that way.


If you have a window on the southern side of your home, it lets in enough light and heat to keep the room warm on a mild winter day without the furnace. Take advantage of rooms that have a southern exposure. Keep the drapes open, and let the sun work for you.

Calling Cards

When money is extremely tight, just drop your long distance all together and use phone cards. You may also be able to get rid of all the taxes and fees that go with long distance carriers- depending on the State or county where you reside.

Cell Phone Chargers

Many people have dropped their land lines, and only use cell phones to save money. However, others are afraid to do it because they are afraid if they lose power in their homes, their cell phones will not charge and they will lose their phones. There is a simple remedy for this. Buy an emergency cell phone charger. They are not expensive, and many models can also charge flashlights and radios.


Cell Phone Protection

Here's a recycling tip for those who wear glass and carry cell phones. Most of us keep the last couple of pairs of glasses we've owned for emergencies. However, the older ones we finally let go. Toss the glasses, (or turn them over to charity) but keep the case. It should be firm enough, or well cushioned, and do a good job of protecting your cell phone in your purse.

Finding Phone Numbers

Save the cost of directory assistance by using your computer. If you need a phone number, just Google it. It is quick, easy, and free.

Modem Lines

Do you have a phone line that you use exclusively for your computer? Be sure and call your phone company and see if they will take the long distance off that line. You may be able to save fees and taxes for a service you are not using.

VOIP Technology

 If you don't want to use a cell phone, one of the most inexpensive ways to make long distance calls is to use VOIP technology - Voice over Internet Protocol. There are several companies that offer this service.

Write it Down

Here's a tip to save a little money when you make a long distance phone call. Always write down ahead of time the things you want to discuss. When you are talking you might get distracted, and will forget all the things you wanted to say. You will waste a lot of time trying to remember what they were.

Trash Collection

Many disposal companies offer different rates depending on the size or your trash can. Be sure and call and ask. Compress your items before you throw them away, or use a compactor to save money. This isn't an option for all people, but you can save money by disposing of your own trash. If you have a truck and can easily access a facility or place to take it, you might think about it. If you don't have a lot of trash, you can even take your trash to a friend/neighbor/relative's house, perhaps sharing the expense.

Brushing Teeth and Showers

Approximately 14 percent of our energy bill comes from heating our water. If we turn off the tap water while brushing our teeth, and install low flow shower heads, we can save as much as 30 percent on our hot water consumption.


The biggest expense in running your dishwasher (80%), is the money that it takes to heat the water. Most dishwashers use the same amount of water, no matter how many items you put in them. Make the most of your money by always running your dishwasher as full as possible.

Frozen Pipes

Do not not turn the heat completely off if you leave your home. If your pipes freeze, insurance will not cover the water damage to your home if they break.


Be sure and check your water meter to make sure it is accurately reflecting how much water you are using. You can lose water when one of your pipes gets a leak, either under your home or in your front yard. Turn off all the water in your home, and write down the reading on your meter. Then run your tap water in your kitchen. Measure it carefully, and make sure you remove enough water to show up on the meter. If the amount of water you have run from your tap and the change in the reading on your meter differ, you may have problems. You can run up a huge bill if you have a leaking pipe in your front yard, and it is not covered by insurance.


Be sure and test your toilet periodically to make sure it isn't wasting water. Just put a little food dye in the tank, wait 30 minutes, and then see if any of it has transferred to the toilet bowl. If it has, you have a leak, and may need to replace the flushing mechanism.

Turning off your water

If you plan on leaving your home for more than a couple days, be sure and turn off the main water valve that leads to your home. Everyone should know where it is, and keep a wrench handy, so that you can turn it off in case of an emergency. Pipes get old and break, and if you are gone, you can come home to find your house in two-feet of water, your floors warped, and your possessions soaked.

Water Conservation

No matter where you live, water is a valuable resource, and should not be wasted. It also costs money. Here are a couple of tips to save on water.

1. Always water your plants and lawn in the morning, so you don't lose water through evaporation. It is also best for your plants. If you leave water on your plants overnight, it can lead to mold and fungus.

2. Keep a milk jug handy to save cold water while you are waiting for the hot water to come through in your faucet. Recycle that water for in or outside your home.

Water Heaters

No one needs their water heater set higher than 120 degrees Fahrenheit. Tap water at 156 degrees can cause third degree burns to your skin in only one second. For each 10 degrees Fahrenheit reduction in temperature, you'll save 3-5 percent in heating costs. Be safe, and save money.

Water Heater Blankets

Save money heating water by putting a water heater blanket around your water heater if it is an old model. Going without a blanket around your water heater is like not having any insulation in your exterior walls. The money you will save from insulating your water heater will more than make up for the cost of the blanket in just a short time.  If you have a newer unit, they are already insulated on the inside. 

Water Heater Maintenance

Be sure and drain the sediment out from the bottom of your water heater once a year. Your water heater will last longer, and run more efficiently. Just turn off the power to the water heater, and open the valve at the bottom of the heater to let out the water and particles from the bottom of the tank. Attach a hose to the drain valve and let the water drain out in your yard. One word of caution- the water that comes out will be hot. Be careful not to scald yourself.

Water Valves

Most of us are familiar with the valves behind our washing machine that let us control the flow of hot and cold water into our machines. What you may not know is that you can also control the water pressure in your bathrooms. If your children are letting the water run too often, turn the pressure down. Less water will come out, saving you money.

Air Leaks

Everyone is always looking for new ways to reduce their heating bill. Most savings come from turning down the thermostat or insulation. Here are a couple things that are commonly missed.

1. Check to be sure animals have not gotten under you home or into your attic and messed up your insulation.

2. Insulate your plug and switch covers by cutting styrofoam trays to fit the inside.

Ceiling Fans

Ceiling fans are not just for keeping you cool in the summer. Most ceiling fans have 2 directions, one to push air down, and one to pull air up. In the winter, heat rises. Set the fan so that it pushes the heated air in your home down lower where you need it to stay warm. Your furnace will run less, and you will stay warmer.

Cold Beds

No one likes to crawl into a cold bed in at night before they go to sleep. There are a couple of things you can do if your bed gets really cold. The first one is to use flannel sheets. The are soft, cozy and warm. The other idea has been used for centuries. Take a brick and warm it up in your fireplace. Then place it in your bed for a short time before you get into it.

Energy Audits

How are your heating bills? Do they seem too high, especially when you compare your bills with your neighbors' comparable homes? If so, think about getting an energy audit from your utility company. They usually do these audits for free. They also may offer incentives for improvements to make your home more energy efficient that will save you money. As smart as we sometimes think we are, if you have an audit, you will probably be made aware of an area where you are losing energy that you have missed.


While fireplaces may look great burning wood, you are not really saving money unless you have a glass covering over the opening of your fireplace to prevent your household air from being sucked into the fireplace and out the flu. A fireplace insert is a good investment. If you like to look at the fire, buy one with glass doors. I also like the ones that have a shelf, so that you can cook on them if the power goes out.


If it is very hot, and you either don't have air-conditioning, it is broken, or don't want to use it, your best chance to get to sleep is to sleep in a hammock.  I'm not talking about canvas hammocks. The ones that work are made out of a netting type material. They use them in the tropics.


Here is a substitute for a humidifier for when it is very dry inside. Use a slow cooker. Fill it with water, and turn it on low. There are a lot of health reasons to keep the air from drying out in your home. Also, moist air is easier to heat.


Boost the heating quality of radiators by making reflectors from aluminum foil. Most radiators are placed near windows. Cover a piece of cardboard with foil, and place on the wall to deflect the heat into the room.

Space Heaters

Unless your house is very new, and very well constructed, chances are you are going to have some areas that just do not heat as well as others. If you spend a lot of time in those areas, you may want to turn up the heat. A better alternative is to get a space heater. The safest and most economical to run are the ones that are filled with oil. I have 2 of them in my home. When the weather is cold, I just flip the switch, and I am fine. It beats heating up the whole house.


Here's an energy statistic that might motivate you to save money. Turning the thermostat on your furnace down 4 degrees, or your air conditioner up 4 degrees, will save you as much as 40% on your bill. Also, there is no sense heating or cooling your home when you are not there. If you have extended periods of time when you are away from home, install a programmable thermostat. Program the thermostat to turn the temperature up or down 10 degrees while you are away. Some people also like to do the same when they are sleeping.

Turning Down the Heat

All serious hikers know that to keep warm when climbing in cold temperatures, you must cover your head and keep your feet warm. If you are going to turn down your thermostat, be sure that you at least keep your feet warm, even at night. Put on a pair of
stockings before you go to sleep, and you will keep much warmer. A knit cap is also a good idea.

Utility Deposits

If you paid a deposit on your utilities when you moved into your home, and you have been there over a year, check with them to see if you can have that money refunded. The money is usually refunded when you move, but if you ask, and you have established good credit with them, they may refund it early.

Wall Insulation

If you love quilts and pretty rugs, hang them on the outside walls inside your home to accessorize your home. they provide good insulation from the outside air. If you have a large fabric collection, you think about storing it on a shelf placed on an outside wall also.


If your windows are single pane, and you cannot afford to replace them with energy saving thermopane windows, think about covering them with one of the many plastics available at your home improvement center for the winter. You won't be able to open your windows, but this will provide an air barrier and you will retain a lot more of the heat put out by your furnace or other heat source.

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