Hello everyone, hope you are well. My son presented me with a “job” on Saturday and prefaced it with a little speech I thought you might enjoy hearing and possibly save you a bit of money as well.
You have heard me say time and time again that I teach how to live more sustainably through example rather than by lectures so my son’s little speech gave me quite the smile. This is the best I can remember of his exact words: “Mom, you know if you tell me to do something I will ignore you. You also know I need to see a reason to do something different. I want to take a page out of your book, will you help me?”
Now I have always lived pretty unconventionally, by design, so I was a little confused as to what he was planning to copy from my life. It turns out he wanted my help to reduce his carbon footprint and efficiency of his home while helping to save money. He asked me to tell him what areas his house could be wasting money and natural resources.
He has a lovely home, it’s not small by my standards at 1,400 sq ft, but is smaller than the average US home. The house was built in the 1990s with thought put into energy efficiency. The doors are tight fitting, the windows are top of the line and the insulation in walls and crawl spaces is at the maximum amount for this climate. He didn’t know what else he could do, but I did. :-) There are things he and his wife do that I find wasteful and when asked for my opinion I told it as I saw it.
Much of the US is still experiencing colder than normal temperatures, which led me to consider his homework may have an item or two on it that you may have overlooked so I thought I would share it with you.
- Turn the hot water heater down and/or schedule showers and dishes for a certain time of the day and turn the water heater off the rest of the day. Justin turned his water heater down, but is afraid to turn it off each day fearing it may not light one day and would cost him more money.
- Close the blinds and add heavier curtains on windows that only have sheers as night falls and open them when the sun is shining. He is doing this but can’t afford to purchase curtains for the main window in the living room that only has sheers currently.
- Remove extra light bulbs from fixtures. In his living room he has a ceiling fan with 4 light bulbs which serves as the main source of light. With so many light fixtures in his home he hadn’t converted all the fixtures to CFL or LED bulbs. He removed the extra bulbs from every fixture in the house to reduce them to one bulb per fixture and in this way was able to eliminate all incandescent bulbs finally.
- Turn back his thermostat. This may seem like a no-brainer, but he got in the habit of keeping his thermostat higher when the babies were born. He thought the rooms needed to be warmer because babies kick off blankets in their sleep. But the babies are now 5 and very active. They can easily live with a cooler home. The one having trouble adjusting to this is my son, he noticed the difference right away.
- Close off rooms not used throughout the day. My son’s home isn’t the largest home ever but it does have areas he could close off. His daughter refuses to sleep in her own bedroom still preferring the family bed. Her room contains her toys but she often brings them out to play with in another room. So for now that room can be closed off and the heat blocked from entering. The other room I mentioned was his half bath. He lives in a tri-level so the half bath on the main floor is only 6 steps from the full bath on the upper floor. Why heat both when they are able to climb six steps without problems?
- Cut back on laundry! This was an area which my son let go because he and his wife were raised differently. He didn’t see this issue as important enough to have a discussion on until now. The one area that really bugged me (nope I never said anything until I was asked) was the practice his wife brought to their family of using a bath towel only once then laundering it. I reminded him that we used our towels for a week before washing them. I offered him an over the door hook if he needed it to air his towels and reminded him that their bodies are clean when drying off after a shower. Four large bath towels a day for four people washed daily is enough to increase their laundry by a minimum of 3 loads a week to wash and dry. No, his wife refuses to air dry clothes as they feel rough to her so this option is out.
- They have a dog, a Golden Retriever, which sheds a great deal. This was the next item to discuss. With all that shedding it was possible the fur was around the coils under their fridge. I instructed him on frequent cleaning of the coils for better efficiency and a longer life for the fridge.
- On the subject of the refrigerator. An empty fridge or freezer compartment wastes energy. I showed him how I have been collecting soda and water bottles to fill and replace the food I remove from my chest freezer and suggested he do the same.
- Finally, on his water bill I suggested he teach the children especially not to flush the toilet every time they go. The children drink mainly water so when they pee the water is clear. They already know not to bother flushing here if they simply pee to save on water. While he has a very efficient toilet tank he can still save a gallon for every time one of the children use it. That adds up to several gallons a day. Multiply that by a month, add the laundry savings from not washing the towels and you have a huge difference on the water bill.
- Finally, his wife has always been afraid of the dark. When he worked third shift she kept all the lights on at night. As a result, their daughter is afraid to sleep without a light. For now the one light they keep lit for her is a CFL, I have pre-ordered this outlet cover which will reduce their nighttime lighting to a total cost of $0.05 per year. Yes, I am so happy they want to reduce their footprint while learning to make the adjustment to a smaller income I was happy to help them with this one item.
Justin returned to visit the following day and informed me he had completed every task I had suggested to him plus he went online to find the ideal temperature to keep the fridge and freezer compartments for most savings and adjusted his refrigerator accordingly. I’m really proud of him.