Frugal Living, The Home 

10 Homeowner Secrets That Save You Money Now!

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This guest post comes courtesy of Fred at One Project Closer, a home improvement blog written by one of my friends. As a sign of how good of a friend he is, he still made to my wedding despite his basement being flooded by a burst water heater. And until I read his post, I had no idea he was late!

With rising energy prices, fear of a recession, and the stock market erasing the gains of the last six months, you’re probably looking to save wherever you can right? Well, today I have the opportunity to share ten fantastic tips you can use, many with hardly any up front investment whatsoever, right this very second to save yourself some money.

1. Insulate Your Hot Water Heater ($20.00 investment). Unless you have a newer tankless model, your hot water heater has a large reservoir of water it keeps constantly heated. Traditional hot water heaters are constructed with a relatively small layer of insulation between the inner water reservoir and the outer metal shell, requiring the heater to run frequently to keep the water hot. Manufactures under-insulate hot water heaters to keep the units small enough to fit into tight spaces. For about $20.00, you can find a hot water heater insulation wrap at your local home improvement big box. Upon installation, a typical homeowner will save between $3.00-5.00/month on energy costs.

2. Turn Down Your Hot Water Heater Temperature ($0 investment). Most people are very conscious of raising/lowering the thermostat on their central AC/heating system, but haven’t even considered lowering the temperature on their hot water heater. Your hot water heater should always be set to the lowest temperature that provides your household the hot water you need. Lowering the water temperature from 125 deg. to 115 deg. saves a typical homeowner about $3.00-$10.00.

3. Don’t Let the Water Run While You Wash Dishes ($0 investment). It sounds silly, doesn’t it? But the reality is that nearly all of the cost of running the water is in heating the water. Leaving the water running for 30 minutes could cost you as much as $3. Instead, use your dishwasher (just don’t use the built drying heater or a water heating option like sanitize rinse). Dishwashers use less than half of the water to perform the same task. Or, better yet, fill your sink basin and wash dishes with the water turned off. That method uses less than a quarter of the water of the first method.

4. Don’t Use Your Fireplace on Extremely Cold Nights ($0 investment). Traditional wood fireplaces require an open flu to allow smoke to escape. The air that’s leaving the house with the smoke has to be replaced with air from somewhere else. In most traditional setups, replacement air comes back into the house through pores open to the outside (outlets, leaky windows and doors, attic accesses, etc). On very cold nights, the cold replacement air coming into the house more than offsets any heat gained from the fire itself. As a result, using a fireplace on a cold night could cost $1.00-$3.00 in energy just to replace the lost heat.

5. Caulk Your Attic Access Door ($3.00 investment). Gaps in attic access doors allow heat to escape from the upstairs of your house. Since you don’t go up into the attic much anyway, caulk the rim of the door to prevent your energy from floating away. Estimated savings: $2.00-4.00 / month.

6. Replace Your Light Bulbs with Energy Efficient Models ($20.00-80.00 investment). Compact Fluorescent (CFL) technology has come a long way in the last 5 years. More than ever, CFLs look and behave just like incandescents. These bulbs use about 23% of the energy of their incandescent counterparts and last about 20 times longer. One 100-watt equivalent CFL can save a homeowner more than $60.00 over the course of its life. You shouldn’t wait for your incandescents to burn out either. Every day an incandescent burns, it wastes nearly 80% of the energy it uses. Since you’ll have to replace it when it burns out anyway, you should make the switch today.

7. Consider Replacing Your Refrigerator ($700-1000 investment). Refrigerators that are more than 10 years old use about 50% more energy than their modern counterparts. The older your model, the more inefficient it is. For models that are more than 20 years old, a homeowner can expect to recover the investment in as little as 2.5 years. If you can find a newer model on Craigslist or in the classifieds, you might realize a recovery period of as little as 1 year.

8. Change the Filter on your HVAC every 3-6 months ($5 investment). HVAC filters remove dust and allergens from your house as your HVAC circulates air for heating/cooling. These filters get dirty, eventually restricting air flow. When this happens, your furnace has to work harder to achieve the same temperature change – wasting energy. Changing the filter takes only minutes. If you haven’t changed your filter for more than a year, you can expect a ~$5.00/month savings in months where you run your HVAC the most.

9. Install (and use) a Programmable Thermostat ($50-$100 investment). Programmable thermostats allow you to adjust the temperature in your home based on the time of day, and day of the week. If no one is home during the day, it simply doesn’t make sense to keep the house at the same temperature. Typical homeowners can expect to see $10.00-$40.00 / month savings after installing these nifty little devices. Remember that a programmable thermostat will only save money if it’s programming features are actually used. So, get a programmable thermostat that’s easy to learn.

10. Set Your PC to Auto-hibernate ($0 investment). A computer, monitor, and printer can easily draw 300 watts. With electricity as high as $0.15/KWh, this equates to more than $1.00/day. If you only use your computer for 2 hours a day, setting the system to auto-hibernate (instead of leaving it on) saves as much as $25.00/month.

{ 9 comments, please add your thoughts now! }

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9 Responses to “10 Homeowner Secrets That Save You Money Now!”

  1. That One Caveman says:

    And as an add-on to #10: If your computer is over 3-4 years old, replacing it will also likely get you more power efficient components. A base model computer from a big box store will cost you under $1000 and will usually include an LCD monitor. Just by switching to an old CRT monitor to an LCD will realize great savings and the newer components will be more power efficient and will enter and leave hibernation mode easier than older components.

  2. Traciatim says:

    Also on #10 . . . never ever EVER! use a screensaver. Always set your power settings to turn off your monitor after 15 minutes or so, and spin down your drives after 15 minutes or so, then go in to standby after an hour or so (unless you have a specific reason to do otherwise).

    An idle machine with the drives spun down and monitor in standby probably is using around 50 Watts or less . . . with the 3D card going strong, CPU chugging away, and monitor showing a pretty picture to no one it’s probably 180-200 watts (or 300 for a CRT).

    For #1 that’s fine on older models, most newer ones come with more than enough insulation already.

    For #2. If you like breeding bacteria for fun that’s a great plan.

    For #3. Yippie, a bacteria breeding box, without heating the 115 water it will probably be 100-110 in there (since some comes out not hot and it stays in there a while), and moist and has lots of food. That’s a breeding ground for bacteria. A small tankless heater on the intake of your dishwasher (or internal heater) that gets your water to > 140 will be more than enough to kill mostly everything (but not all of it). Of course, you could probably use cold water if you run it all through a UV system and reverse osmosis filter anyway. Personally I like my dishes over 160, but I’m a little paranoid being on city water.

    For #6, don’t bother with CFLs in table lamps and floor lamps, or most inside lights if you heat your home. The ‘wasted’ energy from the cheap and easily disposed of regular bulbs is wasted as heat . . . if you’r heating your home the ‘wasted’ energy isn’t wasted at all. (The opposite is true if your running A/C all the time).

  3. andy says:

    #1 & 2 – If your water is already hot, why are you heating it? It’s a water heater, not a “hot water heater.”

    #2 – I tried, but the hot water supply goes through an unheated crawlspace and on the really cold mornings (single digits), the shower isn’t hot enough.

  4. EA says:

    I’m always skeptical of #7. My fridge is >30 years old, and while it’s probably not super efficient, it certainly has a greater bulk of insulation (the walls are much thicker than a normal fridge). If I buy a new fridge for $700 and it pays for itself in 2.5 years, that means my electric bill will drop by $23.33 a month. My total bill is under $30 in the late spring and early fall, when I’m not running heat or AC. Part of that $30 is a $4.62 charge for being a subscriber, so to save $23.33 a month the ENTIRE rest of the bill would have to be the fridge. Since I’m running fans, lights, washing machine, dryer, hair dryer, etc, I don’t think that works out. I run at least one, usually two computers 24/7, frequently leave the 100watt porch light on overnight, etc.

    The moral of the story is to check your electric rates and make sure it’s worth it. If you live in an area of very low rates and very high heating oil prices (like me) you might want to keep your fridge and lightbulbs that are helping heat the house. (And also keep the central temp low while heating just the room you’re in with an electric space heater.) I’ve been contemplating a switch to entirely electric heat, but the up front cost is the killer.

  5. Minimum Wage says:

    And where is the auto-hibernate setting on a PC?

  6. Raghu says:

    @ Minimum Wage

    If you are using Windows XP, follow the steps

    – Start Menu Bar
    – Go to Control Panel
    – Click Power Options
    – Go to Hibernate Tab ( 3rd tab )
    – Check on enable Hibernation ( if not already enabled )
    – go to Power Schemes Tab ( 1st tab )
    – Set the time for System Hiberantes option and click on Apply.

  7. High output LED Lights over CFL says:

    As a user of CFL’s for 5 years now, I’m dissapointed and CFL’s still pose an enviromental disposal risk and are especially easy to break.

    I started a year ago experimenting with longer lasting and lower energy consuming LED lights, these are the future, no warmup like CFL’s and no disposal issues either. Heck, you’ll never replace the LED lights, you children will be using them after your gone! Eventually all my CFL’s will be High output LED.

    They cost the most, but last nearly forever (unless overdriven). Oh … and CFL’s HATE dimmers, High output LED’s work great in them.

  8. Wow, lots of comments on this. I’ll reply to what I can here:

    #1 – Concur that newer water heaters would benefit much less from more insulation. Wrote about that in a similar post on my site.

    #2 – You should never set a residential water heater to 140 degrees. Scalding burn times at 140 are 5 seconds or less. Water that is hot enough to kill most bacterias will burn a human very fast. Perhaps you don’t have kids and so haven’t thought of a 4 year old stepping into a 140 degree bath and slipping, only to be covered in burns. If you’re concerned about bacteria, use anti-bacterial dish soap. Or let your immune system do its job.

    #3 – Dishwashers existed for a long time without “sanitizing rinse.” There is a difference between the normal heating a dishwasher performs and the 180 degree rinse. You cannot disable the first, you can the latter.

    #4 – Your statement here is true but misleading. Incandescent bulbs “waste energy” by producing electric resistive heat – while electric heat pump systems use a compressor system to draw heat from outside air – a much more efficient method. Also, as you note, it doesn’t hold true in the summer when you are actually paying to *remove* the heat generated by these bulbs with your A/C. You should get your heat from a system designed to produce it efficiently.


    #1: Good point.

    #2: You could insulate the pipes as well, but I understand this is a problem in some areas.


    Cost evaluation is key here. Your $30 electric bill given your consumption is amazing. KWhs are fluxuate between $0.11 – $0.15 per here in MD. A 100 watt bulb running around the clock would cost us about $9.00 / mo. It sounds like you’re paying well under half of that. And, it also sounds like you have a very well made refrigerator.

    Good tip on heating an individual room vs. the whole house, this can definitely save money; we do this at night.

    High Output:

    I’ll definitely check out LEDs. I’ve never seen them in use as a home lighting alternative…


    Thanks for reading and commenting on this. It was fun!

  9. andy says:

    I have insulated my hot water pipe (standard-issue pipe insulation, split down the side, slip right on) as far as I could. Unfortunately, I’m only able to reach at most half of the pipe in the crawlspace; beyond that point, it’s too small for me to get into.

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