Energy Saving Tips for Winter Time

Now that the winter season has officially started and we’ve also rolled into a brand new year, many people on fixed / limited incomes, or those who simply want to make more frugal choices around the home, are seeking new opportunities to save money on their energy bills. Here’s some simple energy- (and money-) saving tips that you may be able to put to work in your home immediately!

Tip #1: Invest in a Clothes Line, or a Clothes “Horse”

For many people who’ve grown up with modern comforts such as the tumble clothes dryer, it may seem impossible to imagine how families ever managed without one. I know a client with three children, whose mother says her laundry room is almost always overflowing with dirty clothes. Folks in such a situation might wonder how they’d ever learn to cope without the use of their tumble dryer. However, it’s actually very easy to get clothes dry in Colorado, especially during the winter months, without using a gas or electric tumble dryer. A basic clothes line can dry clothes quickly if the weather is dry, which is the case almost 90% of the time here in Colorado. For those who lack the outdoor space for a clothes line, or families who live in covenant-controlled communities that disallow the use of outside clothes lines, there’s another solution: My wife uses what we call a “clothes horse” – not a person who constantly purchases fancy clothing and dresses fashionably; rather, this is simply a clothes rack that allows air to circulate around the clothes and help them air-dry quickly. Our rack is a collapsible plastic type, allowing for easy storage in a small area when not in use.

Not only can a clothes horse be used in lieu of a clothes line, it can also be used on rainy or snowy days, which we fortunately don’t see very often here in Colorado. We primarily use our own clothes horse in the laundry room, where the floor is tiled and a few drops of water on the floor during the drying process won’t hurt anything. With a heat/AC duct constantly blowing air into the laundry room, we also have the convenience of being able to set the clothes horse near (or even over) the vent, which facilitates the drying action through increased air movement. We also occasionally have used it in the master bathroom, where we get much more sunlight and solar warmth than in our laundry room. Since clothes come out of the washing machine already pretty well wrung-out (just damp, not dripping), they usually dry within a day on the clothes horse as long as they’re spread out, not overlapped. The most significant benefit we see is with items that don’t need to be ironed, but are heavy and typically take a lot of energy (and time) to thoroughly dry in the tumble dryer. Examples include denim or corduroy slacks / blue jeans, heavy socks, insulated work shirts or jackets, sweats, and heavy long-sleeved T-shirts. Towels are also good candidates for energy saving by natural air-drying, as are all underwear items (you don’t iron those, do you?).

The one disadvantage of using a clothes horse or line is that your clothes will typically dry pretty much in the shape & form in which they came out of the washing machine. So, if they’re creased at the end of the wash cycle, they’ll likely still have wrinkles and creases after they’re dry. With most of the items we air dry on our horse, this isn’t a problem. For those that are, we just toss the items into the tumble dryer for a few minutes with a damp towel to knock out the wrinkles so we don’t have to take time and energy to iron them. Drying clothes using this method will certainly take longer, but fortunately there are enough benefits that you may decide it’s worthwhile: not only will you save energy, but clothes tend to last a lot longer when dried naturally versus in a tumble dryer. (Remember all that lint you pull out of the filter after each load? That’s part of your clothes that wore off during the washing and drying process!) Lastly, tumble drying also tends to shrink clothing more than natural air drying….something most people try to avoid. So, if you’ve not recently considered natural air drying with a line or clothes horse, think about it for 2010!

Tip #2: Hand Wash the Dishes

Dishwashers are very convenient for families and can save a lot of time. Unfortunately, most dishwashers are not very efficient – either with energy or water usage. They use a lot of water and a lot of energy…plus, a complete cycle can take a long time to complete. New dishwashers are much more efficient, some using only 2 gallons of water for an entire load of dishes – less than you’d likely use washing everything by hand. Further, new DWs often don’t include a “heated dry” mode as was typical in models sold over 3 years ago. This means dishes take longer to dry, but the energy usage is dramatically reduced. So, if you have a new DW, you may have an efficient solution already. But if not, and the prospect of dropping $500-$900 on a new appliance doesn’t really grab you, then hand-washing might be worthy of consideration. This may seem like a simple suggestion, but it’s amazing how many people depend solely on their aging dishwashers, without realizing how much it’s costing them, or the impact on the environment. If you have a side-by-side “double” kitchen sink, it’s easy to put an inexpensive dish drainer in the side that doesn’t contain the garbage disposal, doing the hand wash and rinse cycles on the other side and setting wet dishes in the drainer to dry before being stored in cupboards. If you switch to washing most pots and dishes by hand, you can control the amount of water you use, while also saving money on your water and electric / natural gas bills. Over time, you’ll certainly be able to see the difference in cost savings.