No doctor’s appointments today thank goodness. Instead, we have the fellow who tends our heating and cooling system over for the six-month checkup. Theoretically, he switches us over from heating to cooling at this time of the year, although I have been running the AC for a week or so. I keep the house on 68 most of the year, which means we use less electricity in the cooler months, but more in the warmer months.
In recent years, we have installed new roof, new siding, extra insulation in the attic, and new windows, so the house tends to stay cool during the day in the summer as the temperature rises, but the house does not cool down rapidly at night during winter months.
We also have installed LED lights throughout the house to save energy from light bulbs. Amazingly, despite the low thermostat temperature in summer, our electricity bills are lower now than ever.
The other things we have done to save energy is allow trees to grow to mature heights and shade the western side of the house, and dress in layers of clothing year round to keep ourselves warm or cool (lots of wool and flannel in winter and seersucker and linen in summer). I wear long sleeves and long pants year round, which is necessary if I step outside owing to issues with sun exposure and previous bouts of skin cancer.
The animals have adjusted. The parrots fluff out their feathers if they feel cool, and the dogs love the cool floors because they have both fur and hair. Parrots do not have to live in a hot-house.
We have the water heater set at the lowest “safe” temperature so dishes are clean and sterile but the water heater does not run excessively. I open the dish washer on the dry cycle most nights (we run it once per day). We wash clothes in cold water and have for years. We only wash dishes or clothes when we have a full load.
We turn lights off like crazy although each of my parrots has his or her own energy-efficient cage light. I use the stove top for cooking, but almost never use the oven. I make big batches of things, like cabbage soup at one time, and then we reheat bowls of soup at other times in the microwave oven. Heck, I have figured out how to cook eggs and bacon in the microwave oven, although I usually boil a batch of hardboiled eggs and keep them in the fridge for snacking.
I turn off my computer every day at 5:00 (sometimes earlier) and leave it off all night until around 8:00 the next morning. We run the TV from 5:00 until 9:00 most nights, and sometimes have it on for an hour at midday to watch a couple of programs on Afternoon Tea with Heather on MPT (local PBS station). Running the TV all day, as I did last Sunday to watch the Ken Burns WWII series was a once in a while kind of thing. Generally, I detest having the TV on all day, even though David would watch Fox until the cows came home.
I am fanatical about saving energy and we manage to have a reasonable electric bill despite my keeping the thermostat set at the same level all year (68 by day, 62 by night, summer, winter, fall and spring). Knock on wood, I haven’t had a cold in years because blowing heated air which dries out sinuses is infrequent. This is a minor miracle because I suffer with perennial allergies, and in the past developed bronchitis or pneumonia about once a year.
Our electric company allows us to “average” our bill over the year, so we pay the same amount every month. Generally, our bill runs about $150 per month although we live in an energy expensive metro area. However, the Virginia Power Company has continuously lowered our average payment over the past few years because we keep finding ways to save energy. I play a little game of using fewer kilowatts each month compared with the same month in the previous year. By now, I can guesstimate how many kilowatts we will use for any activity.
We have done so well with electricity, a year or two ago, I tackled water use. We installed rain barrels to capture rain in the wet months and use it to water plants it in the dry periods. To conserve the water, over time I have converted the garden from plots to pots. This way we can do spot watering without waste.
David and I both stopped taking showers every day. Whether I thought I needed it or not, I took a bath once a week growing up, and now I bathe about 3 times a week. David bathes when I get on his case. I have issues with psoriasis (probably drug induced and linked to my use of beta-blockers and calcium channel blockers) and excessively dry skin also drug related, so I don’ t need to get wet more often than a couple of times a week. When we bathe we do it quickly with water saving shower heads.
To save even more water I had the plumber install water saving devices for faucets and toilets inside and outside taps. We used the taps last summer to keep the new lawn alive, and I anticipate less watering this year as the lawn is established. Besides, it is a bit of lawn.
We didn’t begin living frugally when we retired, we have always lived like this. While we were working and making comparatively good salaries, David and I saved at least 10-15 percent of our pay. We bought a small house so our mortgage payment was small. (We never lived beyond our means.) We drove economical cars. We have always lived as if the Depression was still happening. Saving all this money allows us to continue to make payments on our long-term care insurance policies, health insurance premiums, medical, dental, and prescription drug copays, and vet bills in retirement.
My only weakness is begonia corms and other garden plants. Oh yes, and books.
So, do you economize? If so care to share your secrets?