How to reduce your energy consumption and lower your utility bills… Some practical tips for living green on a limited budget


Living green and saving money at the same time you ask?


Some may say this is impossible, however there are ways to go green on a tight budget.

As far back as the Great Depression people had to learn to get creative and discover new ways to reuse things and get the most out of their money. And it’s unfortunate that it sometimes takes hard times to get people thinking about ways to save money, but it is the smart person who looks at these times as opportunities to become more eco-friendly, while saving themselves money. And you don’t have to say that you are riding the bus because gas is too expensive either; just say you are trying out some environmentally friendly alternatives.

Here, we’ll be looking at some practical ways to help save your hard-earned dollars, reuse, replace, and reduce to become an environmentalist trendsetter. Welcome to living green!

Now I am not suggesting that you go all out and replace every single appliance, light bulb, light fixture, etc. in your home. However, if you find that it is time to replace something consider the energy saving options that are now available. In the long run you’ll notice considerable savings in your utility bills.

So, let’s take a look at where energy is used the most in a home. The largest portion of your energy is generally used in cooling or heating your home, approximately 60 percent. An average of 15% of energy is used in heating water; 13% in running refrigerators; and a relatively measly 12% by comparison, is used on everything else (such as TVs, lights, washer, dryer, cooking).




Shop the second-hand stores, thrift stores, flea markets, yard/garage sales for everything from clothing to furniture to household items. You may also consider sending your pre-loved items to these locations for others to use and make a few bucks. You may find a good sturdy sofa that has some stains or wear and tear; but you can still give it a second life with a slipcover. Or you may find the ideal kitchen dinette set at a yard sale that just needs re-finishing. These locations are also great places to look for linens, books, children’s toys, tools and much more.

So before you run down to the local superstore, ask yourself can you get that item for much less at one of these second-hand stores.

Here are some suggestions for where you can use reusable items as opposed to disposable ones:

  • sponges or rags vs. paper towels
  • reusable razors vs. disposable shavers
  • coffee mugs vs. paper or plastic cups
  • washable plates vs. paper
  • cloth napkins vs. paper
  • cloth diapers vs. disposable


And before you toss that newspaper into the recycle bin (or God forbid the trash!) have you had all the use out of it that you can?
Newspaper is handy for much more than reading, here are a few useful tips:


  • Use in your garden under mulch to discourage weeds. Do not use the glossy paper though.
  • Use comics for wrapping paper
  • Use for packing breakables
  • Cleaning glass instead of paper towels
  • Line litter boxes or birdcages
  • Drop cloths for painting




  • Light bulbs – replacing old-fashioned light bulbs with the more energy-efficient bulbs (the curly ones-yes they are more expensive but they last much longer, up to 5 years) is easy and if you make yourself get one bulb each time you do your major grocery shopping (twice a month for most) it is not a budget breaker.
  • Replace leaky water taps and fixtures with low water-usage ones. This can really add up if you have multiple showers, sinks and toilets.
  • Replace air filters regularly, once a month is the average suggestion.
  • Consider buying a laptop when you upgrade your computer, they use less energy than a desktop.
  • When replacing or upgrading any appliance look for the Energy Star label.
  • Use rechargeable batteries. But remember to unplug charger when not in use.
  • Replace old single-pane windows with double-pane insulated Energy Star windows.




  • Turn off lights when you leave a room.
  • Many appliances use energy even when they’re not “switched on”. Consider unplugging them or using a power strip to turn off when these appliances are not in use: televisions, VCR/DVD, stereos, computers, coffee pot and cell phone charges.
  • Turn your water heater off when not in use. If you are in need of a new water heater, check into the tankless versions, they can save bundles of money.
  • Shorten your shower times; take showers instead of baths.
  • Wash clothes on the cold setting, and only wash when you have a full load. Hand washing is still an option for a few items at a time.
  • Put up a clothesline outside, it does not use any energy and your clothes will smell like sunshine. (Use liquid fabric softener in the wash and your clothes will not be stiff). When using the dryer, clean the vent after each use.
  • Set your thermostats to one degree less than you normally would. Honestly, It doesn’t take that long to re-aclimatise. This will bring on enormous savings. Keep the fan on “auto” instead of “on”. Use a fireplace in the winter; in the spring and fall, open windows, air out the house and turn the thermostat “off”(Replacing older thermostats with programmable ones can significantly add to your savings too). When away from home, either for work or on vacation, go a little higher in the summer and lower in the winter to see additional savings.
  • In the summer close blinds and drapes to help keep your home cool and open them in the winter to let more sun in to help heat your home. Keep doors and windows closed while air conditioner is running.
  • Use ceiling fans, this keeps the air circulating making it easier to heat and cool.
  • Use your oven less and the microwave more, it uses less energy and doesn’t heat up the kitchen either.


Living Green… Other Tips


  • Check and replace/upgrade your home’s insulation. Make sure drafts are covered; check all windows and doors using caulk and weather-stripping to seal any leaks.
  • Check for air ducting leaks, or disconnected ducts. Duct leaks into the attic or under the house can double your cooling costs.
  • Close your fireplace damper.
  • Have your refrigerator heat pump checked; if it is low on refrigerant it will cause the pump to run longer and more frequently.
  • Periodically check the dryer vent to make sure it is not blocked; this will save energy and more importantly, may prevent a fire.
  • Use task lighting instead of lighting an entire room.
  • Install a skylight to make use of daylight and add warmth. Select an energy-efficient skylight and have it installed by a professional to minimize your heating, cooling and lighting costs.
  • Plant trees to shade your air conditioning unit, but not block air flow. Believe it or not, units in the shade use 10% less energy to operate.
  • Do not place lamps or lighting near your thermostat, the thermostat senses the heat and will run longer.
  • Insulate your hot-water heater and pipes to avoid losing heat.
  • Landscaping your home for energy-efficiency can reduce your costs. Plant trees for shade.
  • When planting shrubs, bushes and vines near your home, make sure to leave a one-foot space between plants and your home walsl. This creates dead space which insulates the home both in summer and winter.
  • Choose concentrated juices, laundry soaps and cleaners.
  • Purchase dry foods in bulk (health food stores have bulk bins great for beans, pasta, grains, etc.) or buy the larger sizes of products to reduce the packaging waste. When you are shopping in bulk – bring your own containers/bags and continue to reuse them. If you don’t have room to store bulk items, consider going in with a friend to buy in bulk together and split the items.

© Andy Robinson, Localad Services Handyman Assist

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