Category: Family Finance

Go Green: 5 Tips for Saving Electricity

by Phillip Warren

After a few weeks of talking about ways to go green, I thought an episode on how to save electricity would be a great way to finish out this green series. Hopefully you’ve enjoyed learning ways to save water, to cut down on the amount of trash you create in your kitchen as well as some environmentally-friendly laundry tips.

If you’ve ever Googled “How to save electricity,” you’ve found out the hard way that there are hundreds of tips out there. Some of these tips are easy to implement, but some of the ways to save electricity that are suggested online are tips like, “Use candles instead of turning on lights.” While this will certainly save electricity, it’s not incredibly practical. That’s why I decided to put together a list of some of my favorite, easy-to-do tips to help you save electricity.

Tip #1: Save electricity by turning off lights

If your parents were like mine, you probably still have a voice rattling around your head saying, “Turn off the lights!” whenever you exit a room. Our parents had it right, because there’s absolutely no reason to keep a light on in a room you are not in. If you can commit to simply turning off the lights in every room when you leave it, you can save electricity immediately.

Whether you are going to return to the room in 10 minutes or 10 seconds, there’s no reason to have the light on while you’re not in the room.

Tip #2: Save electricity by turning off (and disconnecting!) electronics

Just like there’s no use in keeping lights on while you’re not in a room, there’s no use in keeping electronics on while you’re not using them. When you leave for the day, make sure all your electronics are off. This includes your TV, sound system, computer, and any other electronic gadgets you may have around your home.

Did you know that electronics that are plugged in, and not even turned on, can account for 5-10% of electricity used in a home?

Taking it one step further, did you know that electronics that are plugged in, and not even turned on, can account for 5-10% of electricity used in a home? Computers, printers, coffee makers, and even phone cords that are plugged in can be energy vampires, sucking electricity (and your hard-earned money) when they aren’t in use. So you may want to invest in a power cord that you can plug most electronic devices into. That way, you can simply unplug off just one switch when you leave for the day (instead of walking around unplugging things throughout your home). Yes, it might take 2 more seconds of your time to turn the power cord on than simply turn the electronic device on, but it can make a big impact in your electricity bill.

Tip #3: Save electricity by taking care of your air conditioner

If you live in an area of the world where you use your air conditioner a lot, this can play a major part in your energy consumption. If you want to save electricity, there are a few things that you can do to make sure your air conditioner is running as efficiently as possible.

First, have your air conditioning unit serviced annually. Most companies charge a nominal fee to have this service completed. It involves cleaning out the coils and checking for any small repairs that are making your unit work overtime. Next, make sure you change your air filters monthly. These filters catch a lot of dust and dirt, which starts to clog them. The more clogged the filters, the harder your air conditioning unit has to work to get the air to pass through the filter. If your filters are any color other than white, making a slight whistling sound, or worse yet, are bent because they are being sucked into the vent, change them immediately. This change alone will save a ton of wasted electricity from being used to cool your home.

Tip #4: Save electricity by making easy swaps

A couple of quick swaps in your house can help you save electricity. The first you may want to consider is using ceiling or box fans instead of running your air conditioner as much. Oftentimes, just circulating the air in a room will help the room feel cooler. Instead of running the massive cooling unit outside your home, a fan uses about the same amount of electricity as a light bulb. For every degree you can raise your air conditioner, you save about 5% of the energy being used. I live in the desert of Arizona and my fellow dessert-dwellers are very familiar with this technique. It costs an arm and a leg to cool a house in Arizona to 70 degrees, so most people set their thermostats between 77 and 81 degrees and run the fans to do the rest. It keeps us comfortable, both with the feeling inside our house as well as when we see our electric bills!

Another easy change is to switch incandescent light bulbs to fluorescent, otherwise known as CFL, light bulbs. CFL bulbs use just 25% of the energy of regular light bulbs, so when you combine that with always shutting them off, you can dramatically save on your electricity consumption. Just remember that CFL bulbs contain a small amount of mercury, so they need to be disposed of properly. Check with your local government agency to see how they require these bulbs to be disposed of.

Tip #5: Save electricity by keeping nature outside

The final tip on how to save electricity is to make sure you don’t have any drafts coming into your home. If you hold a feather around the edges of your windows and doors, the feather should be perfectly still. If it wavers, that means outside air is getting into your home. The more outside air that gets into your house, the more your air conditioner or heater has to run. Seal up your windows and doors with weather stripping, which is available at your local hardware store and is relatively easy to apply.

Also, during the summertime, keep the sunshine out of your house using room darkening blinds and curtains. By keeping the sun out, especially from south and west facing windows, you will keep your house from heating up, which will do a big part in helping to save electricity.

These are just a few tips to save electricity to get you started. 


Source: quickanddirtytips.com

17 Tips to Transform Your Outdoor Space

by Phillip Warren

Whether it's improving your garden or making your patio BBQ-friendly, these clever tips will have you taking your space to the next level, all for practically nothing.

Beautiful Natural Spaces

1. Bring in the Birds
Don’t throw out those net bags that onions and citrus fruits come in! In early spring, fill them with anything that might appeal to nest-building birds: pet hair, human hair, lint, plant clippings. Then tie off the bag and hang so birds can help themselves and nest nearby. You can use the same bags to serve suet to your feathered friends in the winter.

2. DIY Birdbath
Want to try a birdbath but don’t want the expense and commitment of those heavy commercial types? Simply use a sturdy tomato cage as your base, topped with a round drainage tray for potted plants. It’s easy to move and very affordable! Place some colorful marbles or pebbles in the tray before adding water—the brighter the color, the better to attract birds.

3. Get Reddy for Hummingbirds
These fast fliers are attracted to red. But if your garden color scheme is less fire engine and more pastel, you can fake it. Just wire some red silk flowers around the garden until they discover nectar-filled flowers you’ve offered in other colors.

4. Make Your Own Nectar
Don’t spend money on hummingbird nectar when it’s so simple to make! Just dissolve 1 part sugar in 3 parts water, then add a few drops of orange extract or orange juice. Use it immediately, or keep it in the fridge for up to 2 weeks.

5. The Butterfly Water Cooler
Butterflies like puddles to gather around and drink. Make a butterfly water station out of an old cookie sheet or big saucer lined with gravel. You can also “plant” an old mug up to its rim in the soil, and fill it with water when rainwater doesn’t keep it supplied.

6. Baby Your Garden
Got some old baby gear in the basement or attic? Make your family wonder by getting it out! Then take it outside. Baby gates, spindle cribs, and even the metal springs from cribs make easy trellises you can train flowers or vegetable vines to climb.

7. Stones From a Tree
Having a tree taken down? Put it to good use! Cut some “slices” (about 2 inches thick) to use as stepping-stones.

8. Mulch with Souvenirs
Every beach vacation, we bring home more shells and stones than we can use for decoration around the house. So we now bring many into our outdoor spaces. They make perfect mulch and accents around plants, just like purchased pebbles from home centers (without the steep price)!

Outdoor Problems Solved!

9. A Sweet Concrete Cleaner
Powdered lemonade mix can come to the rescue to help scrub away stains on your concrete! Simply add a few drops of water to the drink mix, just enough to form a paste. Apply the paste to a concrete stain and use a stiff scrub brush to scrub the area clean.

Entertaining Ideas

10. Lanterns for Much Less
Trendy outdoor décor stores sell lanterns for a pretty penny. But you can make your own with all kinds and sizes of jars—from baby food and minced garlic to pasta sauce and even large pickle jars. Once they’re clean with the labels removed, simply place a votive candle in the jar. You can add pebbles or sand to the jar to raise the height of the candle or steady a taller candle. Want a hanging lantern? Fine-gauge wire can be bent to form a handle, with the rest wrapped around the mouth of the jar to secure.

11. Create Your Own Luminarias
Have empty tin cans you can repurpose? Fill them with water and freeze overnight. Once frozen solid, you can use a large nail and hammer to punch holes in a decorative design on the cans. Need a guide? Draw the design you want with a dry-erase marker that you can wipe off later. After the design is complete, simply let the water thaw, empty, and dry the can. Light a tea light inside for your own custom luminaria!

12. Color Swatch Your Lights
White string lights can go from simple to sensational with a trip to the paint counter—or maybe even your junk drawer! Collect some paint swatch strips in fabulous, bright colors. Curl them into cylinders (with the color sides facing out) and secure with clear tape. Slip one sleeve over each bulb on your light string, and attach it to the wire with tape or a small binder clip. Magical mini lampshades for free!

13. Ladder Up
Need more serving space while entertaining? Place plywood planks across the rungs of a stepladder. Runners can cover the plywood for a fancier look. Now you have a tiered serving station for food or drinks that tucks away again until the next time you need it!

14. Protect Those Drinks
Keep bugs out of drinks by supplying cupcake liners. They easily slip over the tops of cans and glasses. And you can pop a straw through them if desired. Put a stack in a mason jar for a pretty display that you can label with the intended use.

15. Forget the Ice
Replace the ice for your drink cooler, tub, or kiddie pool with frozen water balloons. To make them, fill the balloons two-thirds full and stick in the freezer. When the drinks are gone and the ice has melted at the end of the day, have fun!

16. Condiment Cleanup
Repurpose inexpensive, clear soap dispenser pumps as condiment servers. You’ll upgrade your picnic table from plastic bottles, and make topping that burger or hotdog easier, with less mess.

17. S’more Solutions
Is it feeling crowded around the fire, or are flames rising too high for kids to toast s’mores? Line terra-cotta pots with aluminum foil. Then add charcoal and light. These handy little cookers allow each person to have their own fire to toast marshmallows with ease. Sticking with one big fire but need to toast a lot of marshmallows for the hungry masses? Use a clean metal rake to fit them all over the fire at once.


Source: quickanddirtytips.com