Black belt ideas to cut the cost of heating & A/C

Black belt ideas to cut the cost of heating & A/C

Joined: May 21st, 2006, 4:46 am

June 28th, 2008, 4:57 am #1

Posts from Lori in MA, about the price of heating oil, and Kim, about black belt frugality, make me think that this might be a good topic to explore in some depth. Please post all of your ideas for reducing these costs. As Dave Ramsey says, we all have choices...we just might not like any of 'em. Let's put them ALL out there now--good, bad or truly ugly. As we go through this process with different topics, I'll archive the threads.

My first suggestion is to reduce consumption. Each year for the last couple of years, I've upped the temperature for the A/C to kick on. I do this one degree a year, so no one really notices, and I'm up to 76 now. (I'm not sure how long I can keep doing this). During the heating season, I also turn my heat down at night. I also got to the current temperature--which is 60 at night--by taking it down one degree at a time. I actually made these changes much more quickly, and dropped 5 degrees in about 2 months' time. (I did this years ago, and now nobody can sleep if it is much warmer; however, I've tried going lower, and we all complain that it is too cold). I think it is important to make these changes gradually, so that your body has a chance to acclimate. Keeps the troops from grumbling quite so much.

Change where you sleep....
June 20 2008, 1:28 PM

My bedroom is downstairs (which is just slightly below grade) and there's a long, very comfy sofa in my living room. I sleep downstairs (where it's cooler) exclusively in the summer and in the wintertime I either sleep upstairs where it's warmer or I use the electric blanket on my bed downstairs.

Pile on the quilts
June 20 2008, 1:59 PM

that's what we are going to do this winter. I sometimes wonder, how people stayed warm when there was nothing but a fireplace, and houses with no insulation at all. I'm going to make sure everyone has nice cozy bedroom slippers, plenty of thick socks, and warm flannel pajammies this winter.

Heating, and the lack of it
June 20 2008, 2:01 PM

Temperatures rarely reach a level to need aircon in the UK - yes it gets hot, and yes, we would like aircon now and then but never for long - private houses don't have it.
So that is one problem I don't have to consider.

Heating - yes. We have been informed this last week that heating bills will go up around 40% this winter - a fair chunk!

This week we ordered a load of logs - a full load was £110, a saving on buying 2 x half loads @ £65 each.Ordering now means they are dry to start with and should be nicely seasoned by we need to use them. This along with what we have got for free and scavenged for free should last the best part of the winter to supplement the gas CH.

We hold out as long as possible before putting the heating on, and rarely have any heating upstairs ( on a seperate thermostat)If it is very cold it comes on in the morning sometimes)The heating is on a timer which comes on for a couple of hours in the morning and again around 5pm - 9pm. It is set fairly low - other people's houses seem very hot!
We are old enough to have been brought up without any CH and remember getting dressed under the bedclothes, when there was frost on the inside of the windows.

Warm pyjamas do a good job. I made mine from sweatshirt material ( that I had!)which is very cosy, socks( the soft ones they give you on long flights are warm)and my latest thing - a thick pile fleece dressing gown is much warmer than any I have had before.Oh, and if necessary - a hat!

Other suggestions.
Wear more than a T shirt around the house
Make a sausage draught stopper for draughty doors.
Tape bubble wrap to windows - to act as another glazing layer.
Leave the oven door open after use - cook when it is cold!
Leave water in the bath after use to heat the bathroom.
Close curtains and blinds as soon as the light goes to keep in the heat.
Spend time outside - the house feels really warm when you come back in.
Every extra person raises the temperature by 1 degree - have people round when its coldest!

Other UK related things - may work in US
Paying by Direct debit gives a 10%( I think) discount
Buying gas and electric from the same company gives a discount of some sort too, cant remember what

Polly has reminded me of another one
June 20 2008, 2:24 PM

I have a fuzzy fleece robe that I sometimes wear to bed if it's really cold (don't have an extra blanket). However, a lot of the time, it's just my feet that are cold. Often I will spread the robe out at the foot of the bed and it's like having another blanket where I need it most. When my feet are REALLY cold, I take a hot water bottle to bed...which is frugal only if you don't have to run out and buy a hot water bottle. I actually sleep better with this than a heating pad, because as the water cools off, my feet warm up (not a cause and effect thing, more a matter of timing) and I don't wake to turn off the heating pad when my feet get warm . Doesn't use any electricity, and hot water heat is more comforting (to me) than a heating pad. Also, for about 6 months of the year, I sleep in wool socks. Can you tell my feet are cold A LOT???

Rocks in bed with you at your feet
June 21 2008, 11:54 AM

If you don't have a hot water bottle, you can also heat a large rock in the oven--or on the woodstove if you have one--even better! You could time this just so, too...make a batch of cookies or bake tomorrow's bread at the same time, right before bed.

I remember reading about Laura and Mary Ingalls waking up to snow on their faces because they didn't have shingles on the roof--that was when they lived in the building in the city, I believe. Seems to me they took rocks to bed. I know the Amish put hot rocks or irons in the buggies at their feet in the winter.

Matthew 6:33

I grew up in a drafty cold old farmhouse without central heat.
June 20 2008, 3:36 PM

We had one stove that heated the downstairs. The upstairs where we slept was not heated. There was a door to keep the heat from going up the stairway. Sometimes when I went to bed, I could see my breath. I would put my head under the covers to keep it warm.

I remember when I was very young -- maybe 3 -- my mom would warm a brick in the fireplace and wrap it in a towel. She would place it in the foot of my bed for me to put my feet on to keep them warm.

We wore flannel pajamas and used electric blankets. Someone would get the job of running upstairs about 1/2 hour before bedtime to turn on everyone's electric blanket.

We dressed downstairs where it was warm.

Some things I do to conserve heat and AC. I close off rooms that are not in use such as my guest bedroom.

I have window AC units (2) and I only turn them on when needed -- not out of habit. And then I stay mostly in those two rooms. I try not to bake too much in the summer though I baked bread today.

When I lived in Florida, I kept my thermostat on 80 degrees though that feels too hot here in Ohio. In Florida we also had ceiling fans that we used and that helps a lot. I run a fan in my bedroom here to help cool it.

A smaller house is less expensive to heat and cool. So if you are house shopping, keep that in mind.

Ours wasn't a drafty old farm house,
June 21 2008, 5:59 AM

but it was heated with one propane gas heater in the living room and there was a very small one attached to the wall in the bathroom. I can remember my mom putting a quilt across the hallway to keep the heat in the front of the house and at bath time she would take it down and light the heater in the bathroom. By the time we went to bed it wasn't warm in the back of the house, but it wasn't freezing either. She turned everything OFF when she went to bed. My mom is/was a fire bug. She piled on the quilts, and we always wore fuzzy, footsie p.j.s with socks.

During the cold winters here
June 21 2008, 7:34 AM

and especially at times when we've not had any electricity, we've heated with our small wood stove downstairs - origionally we had no way to circulate the heat, and it wanted to escape upwards, and we needed to be downstairs... I closed off many doors, and hung blankets in doorways... to try to keep the heat in.

Last winter, I hung a large, heavy blanket in the garage to house doorway - the garage isn't heated, and seems when the door leading into the house would open, it brought in a cold draft - the blanket slowed most of it down. (but admittedly drove my dh crazy when he had to 'push through' it)

Sandy in MI
my parents do something similar with air conditioning
June 21 2008, 7:40 AM

They have a window a/c unit that only fits well in a few of their windows. So they choose the one most centrally located to the living space. They hang a heavy curtain in the entryway so when the door to outside opens and closes most of the hot air is trapped in the entry. They also close the bathroom and bedroom doors since the cold air would be wasted in there during the day. They keep all the window curtains closed during the day so it's like a cave in there. This would drive me crazy but they are happy with it. At night they turn off the air and open up all the windows. On the hottest nights they have the option of sleeping on the pullout sofa in the living room.

when I boil water for tea
June 20 2008, 4:46 PM

I turn the stove off as soon as it boils but then after pouring the tea I often put the kettle back on the same burner and open it up so I get some heat and some moisture in the room.

We are looking at buying the wood boiler that will heat our home and the water (but would only heat the water the 6 or so months a year we burn wood.

My mom just sent me plans for a hot water heater pre treater that would work aobut 4-6 months a year here. It is not a solar water heater but it supposedly reduces the amount of work the hot water heater actually does.

We spent the extra $ for the programable thermostats for all 3 zones of the house and we spent the money to zone the house when we put in the forced water heat. the programable thermostats work great. dh gets annoyed with me constantly tweaking them but I keep bumping them down till it is too cold then bump them back up a tad. I find at night we can have them drop pretty low, as long as it happens aobut an hour after the last person goes to bed (in that zone) and then have it turn back up jsut before we get up.

I also have the electric hot water heater on a timer.

I got a can of that spray in foam and kind of went nuts with it- sprayed it in all sorts of places I was afraid might have been leaking in cold air.

I see light coming in, in the garage, granted it is not heated, but it is right below the family room- so I want to find a way to insulate that before winter.

We use an attic fan
June 20 2008, 5:35 PM

to save on air conditioning cost - By turning the attic fan on in the evenings, and opening the windows, pulling air in - and turning the attic fan off in the mornings when the sun comes up, and closing the windows it keeps the house pretty cool in the spring/fall - it doesn't work well when the evenings are 80 degrees though... we have the airconditioner set on 76 degrees, dh use to think it had to be on 72, but he's not complaining this year. I do try to stay in during the hottest part of the day - that keeps me from wanting to turn the air down when I come in hot and sweaty.

We heat with wood - and have an outdoor wood furnace. It does a great job heating the house, but it uses a good amount of wood. Instead of using it, on those days when it's not really cold, but there's a chill in the air, and instead of using the propane furnace, we build a small fire in the indoor wood stove -it will warm the lower level of the house well. I enjoy my bedroom being cool in the winter - but we both want the bed warm when we crawl in... I'm still searching for an electric blanket (we didn't have one this year... I'm too stingy to pay $100 for one... and need one for a King bed. Hopefully I can make dh's day, and find one sometime this summer/fall. Last winter, we used hot hands a couple of times when the bed seemed too cold to crawl into the sheets.

Try for an electric blanket (nt)
June 20 2008, 6:56 PM

House cooling tip - if you have a basement
June 21 2008, 7:37 AM

Did you know, that if you have a basement, that has a door or window that's shaded, you can open the window, leave the doors open from the basement to the highest level of the house, and open a window in the highest point, and it will pull a draft, and cool the house down? It was the origional 'air conditioning' in the south, many years ago...but works today as well, if your basement is cool, you need to try it.

Sandy in MI
ooooh, I'm going to have to try that. thanks! nt.
June 21 2008, 7:41 AM

works on 2 story homes w/o a basement too
June 21 2008, 8:35 AM

especially if you have a shady spot to pull cool air from (an attic fan does wonders for the draft) - but IMO, the cool from the basement is the best.

Sandy in MI
I've been trying to figure out a way
June 21 2008, 9:28 AM

Our basement is really nice and cool and I've been trying to figure out a way to get some of that cool air upstairs. Just leaving the door open doesn't work since heat rises and cool air sinks. I tried positioning a fan at the bottom of the stairs and pointing it up toward the open door, but that didn't work. I have a couple of shady windows down there so I'll have to figure out how to open one up and try it with my attic fan on.

Hot air rises
June 21 2008, 9:37 AM

right out the upper windows, but there may need to be a breeze to get it started, if you have windows upstairs that are across from one another, or a wall of windows that will open up stairs,try opening them and letting the hot air out - that will draft and pull the cooler air up.

Heating costs I can help with!
June 21 2008, 8:15 AM

But not cooling costs because it usually gets down to a couple degrees above freezing at night and we just leave the windows open all the time.

In the winter, though, we use vapour barrier plastic as window plastic. It is more expensive, but it really makes a difference in how warm it is. It is not transparent, though, so FYI- there is the chance you can go insane from lack of daylight. Maybe that isn't as big of a problem other places as it is here, though.

This year we found sheets that are made out of polar fleece. So, I had polar fleece jammies and polar fleece sheets and I was TOASTY. We only used one blanket all winter. I don't know if people in other places can get good products like that- but they are worth the money. They were less money than cotton sheets at Wal-Mart, but local prices are often very inflated. For example, I don't care where the sheets came from- I'm not paying $80 for a set of Wal-Mart sheets!

Now, my best tip ever. This works anywhere. Drink water and dress in layers. Pretty simple!

My dd used plastic on her windows
June 21 2008, 8:28 AM

in her old farmhouse this past winter - we put it on the inside instead of the outside, and it wasn't really noticeable through the blinds because we stretched it tight.

Carolyn in TX
brush teeth in cold shower and stand under fan
June 21 2008, 10:36 AM

I figure I am running water anyway so I brush my teeth standing under the cold shower before I go to bed. I then stand under the ceiling fan to dry off. I am pretty cool by the time I go to bed.

Use the fan only setting on your furnace/a/c, plus more
June 21 2008, 12:13 PM

We often will turn the fan from "auto" to "on". That evens out the air. Granted, it tends to warm the basement, but it does cool the upstairs, too. Also, ceiling fans. You can buy them relatively cheaply if you don't already have them. They're not hard to install yourself. Just having that breeze can make the difference between turning on the air or not.

Close blinds/drapes when the sun comes up. Keeping the sunshine out of the house will help to keep it cool.

Even on the hottest days it often cools down considerably at night around here. Sometimes that air is on 24/7, but most of the time we can turn it off later in the day as the sun moves to the west. We don't have windows on the west side of the house, except the basement. We can often open the house up and turn on the ceiling fans.

Make it a family habit to close vents in the bedrooms as you leave them in the mornings and shut those doors. That way you're only heating and cooling the rooms that you're in. Go open them back up before bedtime.

More to save on a/c:

Shut computers down at night in the summer. This will help keep the house cooler.

Do baking marathons, and do the baking in the evenings when you know the temps are going to drop outside. Get the bread, cookies, casseroles, etc., for the week all baked and then just warm up in the microwave. Use the grill. If you don't have outdoor cats (we do), set a crock pot or roaster up on an outside table and do your cooking that way. Or, if you have a garage, use your crock pot or roaster out there. Anything you can do to keep the kitchen cooler helps. Do all the dishes in the evening. Run the dryer in the evening, or hang outside during the day.

Make sure the coils on your fridge and freezers are vacuumed regularly so they are only running as often as is absolutely necessary. Unplug Bunn coffee makers after that morning coffee. Plug back in 20 minutes before coffee time in the morning, or even just before bed.

Matthew 6:33

That's a sin.... LOL!
June 21 2008, 7:06 PM

Unplug the Bunn?????

We use it for tea, and it gets used 2-3 times a day, more if we have company,... we don't make coffee once a week in it...but I can't imagine unplugging it. Wonder if that'd save us vs. heating water on the stovetop?

I know! I miss mine!
June 22 2008, 12:25 PM

Ours was the one WalMart sold several years ago. It died. Bunn told me that they no longer sell to WalMart because WM required an inferior product so it could be sold for less. I want a new one, but can't justify it right now.

We used it for jello, instant oatmeal, tea, anything that required hot water! And coffee every single morning, sometimes two pots.

I really love Bunn!

Matthew 6:33

LOL! and ramen noodles
June 22 2008, 1:00 PM

We've bought several for a dollar or two at garage sales, and 'recycled' parts after a good cleaning... dh has kept it running well for over 10 years, probably closer to 15. LOVE IT!

a/c set at 83 and winter heat is often at 65
June 22 2008, 12:20 PM

so.. not much of a heating bill, not worrying about that one. Would like to have the house better in summer but the things I could do would cost so much!

Replaced two windows on the east side, that was the worst. The only other wall that gets full sun is the west wall. It is so close to the neighbors house it does not get much for long. Will replace all windows over time.

Planted two bushes outside east wall, where there it little room for a good tree but the bushes grow well in our arid climate (natives) and can get huge. They are well over my head now.

Hung shade cloth off west side of porch, lowered temps under the porch roof by 20 degrees in the summer heat. Want to put up a shade structure to cover more of the patio and help with backyard temps. Trees are not so doable due to overhead lines and sewer line etc.

Had extra insulation put in attic.

Keep closet doors closed
June 23 2008, 11:50 AM

Don't spend the $$ to heat/cool closets or any rooms/spaces that don't have heat or a/c vents. Unless you have something in there that needs to be heated/cooled, keep the door closed. I've gotten in the bad habit of not closing my bedroom closet all the way; same for the closet in my office/storage room that I am using as a pantry.

For cooling
June 23 2008, 11:57 AM

get every window that is not covered, covered... dark is the goal. When it ocmes to using AC, dark = cooler : )

IKEA sells a great set up for $15, lets you run a wire from any place to any place and I think you can make the wire up to 10 or 12 feet long, and it comes with clips, so you can clip the fabric up on it, does not even have to be a curtain, you can use doubled over bed sheets or just fabric- anything...

The other thing I have done is on glass doors where it would be hard or I don't want to install permanent hard ware- use a couple of suction cups then attach fabric, scarves or curtains to that. the other thing I am using like in the garden window in the kitchen is a tension rod, small, light, just works great- then I put a room darkening cloth over it and it seems to help a lot.

I don't know if this will make a difference
June 24 2008, 2:34 PM

but I just purchased a couple of tower fans to run instead of turning my air on. My house gets so hot even when it is cool outside! I've been opening my windows and it's helping but not a lot. I'm going to keep my eyes peeled for a deal on a couple of window fans (used to have them, before I had C/A, then I moved here and got rid of all my fans!).

Note from Max, while copying this thread on the board and moving it here
Here are some things my mother and grandmother did:
(1) When she baked in the winter, she always left the oven door open to cool. This puts extra warm air in the room. In summer, keep the oven door closed to keep the heat inside the oven and out of the room.
(2) Nobody had residential air conditioning in the '50s. (Although we sometimes went to air conditioned movies to cool off). My mom was very religious about keeping the shades drawn and windows closed during the hot part of the day, then opening the shades and windows at night, to draw in cool air. In the morning, she'd close them again and start over.
(3) This one is from my late father: Do not go to bed with the front door open. (You wouldn't do that now, but people in the '50s did it all the time because it was considered safe). If you sleepwalk at night, you might end up on the front lawn in your underwear or birthday suit. I would tell you how he learned this, but you can probably guess.
Last edited by MaxineS on June 28th, 2008, 4:59 am, edited 1 time in total.