lower cost energy-efficiency investments? - Mothering Forums

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#1 of 8 Old 09-19-2011, 07:31 AM - Thread Starter
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I was thinking about this over the weekend: I'd be interested to hear in what lower cost investments you've made to make your home more efficient. I was thinking about this b/c we really want to do solar panels: but its a huge outlay of $$ at the begining (can easily be $15K ) something that's not so easy for us to come up with.


What are some less expensive investments you can make in your house to improve efficiency? Let's start with items that cost around  $500 or less, purchased new (because the used item market varies quite a bit by region).


The only thing I came up with is a good quality clothesline!  You can definetly get a nice quality clothesline for less than that, and if you have a good clothesline/rack, you're more liekly to actually use it!


would be interested in hearing your responses!

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#2 of 8 Old 09-19-2011, 08:53 AM
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I don't know if you live in a region where you need to consider heating your house. I live in Sweden, so making a home more energy efficient is almost always a matter of making heating as efficient as possible around here.


One way to do it is by investing in thermostats connected to your furnace, if you have one. In our case, we have a thermostat on the middle floor (away from any sunny windows, the kitchen or other heat sources) that tells the furnace the temperature of the room and the desired temperature of the room. When the temperature of the room drops below the desired level, the furnace starts. I think we got our thermostat for less than the equivalent of 50 dollars, but it was a long time ago.


We also have an accumulator tank, that helps the furnace work more efficiently in that it helps it heat the water in our radiator system/hot water more efficiently.


Each autumn, we go over all our windows. Checking for drafts and fixing them. Since drafts is lost energy.


Besides making sure your house is properly insulated, if living in a cold climate, you might want to look over all of your appliances ranging from that electric kettle to the back-up hard drive. Sometimes, it can be worth updating certain appliances before their time just because of the cost of running them. Don't forget all those lamps!


Toilets, taps and shower heads might also be a good idea to look over if you are looking at becoming more energy efficient. Especially if you are heating your own hot water.


Other than that...it goes without saying that you should of course try to avoid using electricity as much as possible. For instance, how often do you hoover? In my family, it's about once a month since we generally reach for the classical broom and dustpan for everyday surface cleaning. Do you turn the lights on in the bathroom, even if there's enough daylight to see by and you are not planning to do anything that really requires you to see properly? How about your computer, do you turn it off when you know you are going to be away from it, cooking dinner and tending to the household in large?


I firmly believe the biggest changes we can make to save money generally is changing our own habits.

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#3 of 8 Old 10-06-2011, 08:32 PM
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We got a low-flow shower head for about $30.


We are looking at getting a tankless water heater (~$100 - $600 by size) and a low-flow toilet ($200 - $2000 by model).

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#4 of 8 Old 10-08-2011, 01:33 PM
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When our low flow (under 8L per minute) shower head broke a few months ago, I got a super low flow replacement (under 5L per minute).  In addition to saving energy and water, this has the bonus of making us run out of hot water much less often.  Even ds doesn't use it all up with his showers.  I think it was about $20.


We have a clothesline, which was definitely under $500.


Electronic programmable thermostats are supposed to save energy on heating too.  I'm not sure about that, but they certainly keep the room a more consistent temperature, without the highs and lows of old style thermostats.  They also can be programmed to turn the temperature down at night while you're in bed and start to warm up the house again before you get up, which would save money on heating with little to no discomfort.

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#5 of 8 Old 10-08-2011, 03:04 PM
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#6 of 8 Old 10-10-2011, 04:11 PM
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My list for creating greater energy efficiency in our (rented) home, is kind of bland, but it really has been making a difference in our energy bill.  Here's things we're implementing or considering:



1. Reduce/eliminate light use during the day

2. Exchange old bulbs for CFLs

3. In fixtures with several places for bulbs, consider using only one

4. Live more in tune with the sun's rhythm, going to bed earlier, rising earlier (Bonus: I'm sleeping better!)



1. Hang dry, hang dry, hang dry

2. Use cold water setting when possible

3. Use small load setting when possible



1. Wear an extra layer of clothing during cold weather

2. Lower thermostat by a degree or two

3. Cover drafty places

4. Consider purchasing window treatments that help keep heat in

5. Take advantage of the cool summer nights to trap cool air in the house and eliminate need for AC



1. Own few and keep them unplugged when not in use

2.  Consider a high-efficiency fridge when current fridge breaks--it's the one appliance that must be running 24-7, so upping it's efficiency makes a lot of sense

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#7 of 8 Old 10-10-2011, 05:32 PM
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Low Cost

Heavy curtains

Draft busters under the doors

weather stripping around the doors


low flow aerators on all the sinks

low flow shower head

We got free leftover insulation and insulated the attic, we are using the little that's left and starting on the duct work under the house

line drying clothes

cold water for washing clothes

rain barrels for garden

putting phone chargers and computers on power strips and turning them off at night


Higher Cost

$800 for a used wood stove

$700 energy star fridge

Low flow toilet (already in the house when we moved in)

someday we will get a tankless water heater

we are considering a composting toilet

hoping to get an energy efficient washing machine and dishwasher


Large Cost

We want blown in insulation since our house has no insulation

solar panels

cistern and pump and filter for rainwater

hoping to get new windows

insulate crawl space/under floors


ETA: insulate hot water pipes

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#8 of 8 Old 10-12-2011, 04:15 PM
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Some things I have done:


Insulating curtains, wrapping windows, and blind blankets (essentially a pillowcase which ties to your blinds top and bottom creating added insulation. )  Cover those windows!!  We also block a couple of doors and cover them with  blankets - not attractive but effective.  We also put draft blockers everywhere.  bottom of windows, middle of windows.....


replaced incandecent bulbs with hallogen and led light bulbs (I hate CFL.  when it is cold here they take forever to warm up so we end up leaving some on all the time.  I don't have 30 minutes to wait for it to get bright.  They also break easy and only last about a year.  There ARE other BETTER options.  Not to mention the halogen and LEDs give much better light quality, better durability, last longer and look prettier in places the bulb is exposed.  The prices vary A LOT.  I found Lowes to be the most expensive and Ace hardware was also bad,.  Menards had the best selection and far and away the best price).  i also use lamps so that I have an option of turning a combination of bulbs to meet my needs.   We usually go with the equivilant of a  30 watt bulb in this room but could do as much as 330 watts of lightbulbs.  Also since I am using LED lights they are brighter which means I can use less.  If your fixture takes a lot of bulbs use less.  If they fo not have exposed bulbs my fixtures usually only have one bulb....regardless of of how many they can have)


Blankets and warm clothes.  Seriously.


clothes line


Down spout water collector.  I bought a very pretty one that had a combined planter.  It was just under $80 not including the soil and plants I bought ;)  You could easily make these for less if you are any kind of handy.  My friends got barrels from the carwash for $5 and the rest of the pieces cost about $10 total.  saved a ton of money.


 i was looking at a heater that is supposed to be very efficient and would heat my entire first floor.  It would be nice because that is where we spend most of our time and we could eliminate the furnace (which heats three floors inefficiently and poorly) for most of the day using it only when we all home and all spread out. 


If you have a window in your bathroom you can use solar showers to heat your water.  this is a fun one. LOL  fill them with water from your rain barrel.


plant a garden.


clean your ducts and change your filters.  Dirty vents and filters really decrease the effectiveness of your applieances and makes them less efficient.  Also vaccume your coils and be sure appliances have room to breath.


Shut doors and turn stuff off.  


Lower your standard.  During the winter we shower every other day and re-wear clothes if they are clean.



Mother Earth News had instructions for a forced air solar heater.  It seems like the whole project was under $100 and fairly easy to construct.  Essentially it was a big black box attached to the side of your house that drew in cold air from the floor and shot out warm air from the top.  It did not provide all your heat but it sure supplimented.  I would also lok into getting something like a corn burner or other more efficient heating source if you have a furnace that is less than stellar.  


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