29 Free Or Low Cost Ways To Save Energy & Money.

With everyone’s energy costs rising so rapidly and our economy in question at least for another couple of years, we are all starting to look for easy ways to cut energy use and save money, for little to no cost. And here is where this list, and you, the reader, come in…here are my 29 ways we can cut energy usage (some of which I do, and some of which I wish I could do) and save money for barely any cost. What can you add to the list? Please share in the comments!

Wash your clothes only in cold water. Hot water just tends to set stains and shorten the lifespan of clothes anyway.

Determine the correct temperature for your water heater – too low and you risk A. not having enough hot water and B. not keeping bacteria away. Too high and you are just throwing money away heating water to a temperature you don’t need.

Before heading out on vacation, turn the water heater off or down to the lowest setting. Why continuously heat water if you are going to be away from home for a week?

Put everything on power strips – televisions, computers, coffee machines, microwaves, stereos. When not in use, why pay to have everything on standby? Power strips only cost a few bucks but can save you that much in the first month of use.

Clean your furnace filter often. Why make it work so hard?

Buy some duct tape and seal your heating and cooling ducts. A $5 roll of duct tape can go a long way to lowering your energy bills.

Insulate some windows with bubble wrap. Ugly? Yep. Will it save a little heat in the winter? Yep.

Buy a $10 fan and put it at a window on the cooler side of the house. See if it can cool you down without having to turn on the AC.

CFL’s, of course!

Dust off the old bicycle and ride it to work one day a week. Pretty self-explanatory, no?

Hardwood floor too cool in winter? Instead of turning on the heat, throw down a rug and pull on some socks.

Shop during the off-season to get some deals. If you need to shop, buy air conditioners in the winter and heaters in the summer.

Drive the speed limit and avoid hard acceleration.

Install storm doors. That way you can either leave the heavy door open in the evening to allow cool breezes into the house or for extra insulation in the winter.

Clean out the lint screen on your dryer. Saves money on energy and reduces fire risk.

If you run your dishwasher, be sure to turn off the drying cycle. Just open the door a crack at the end of the wash cycle and let them dry naturally.

Plant a tree on the southwest side of your house. You and your house will thank you for the summer shade in a few years.

Pull down the shades in the middle of the day on your south-facing windows. Doing so will keep the house cooler, meaning you won’t have to run the AC as much.

Line dry your clothes. Personally, I cannot wait to start doing this in New Mexico. I remember my mom hanging our laundry out and what it smelled like.

If you have them, be sure to switch out your storm screens for your storm windows this fall. This extra barrier of glass can lower your energy bill substantially when it gets cold out.

Use aerators on sink faucets. They cost a few bucks but can save a lot of water.

Pick up some electroluminescent night lights rather than the bulb kind. These things cost less than a few cents to operate – for the year!

If you must leave them on all night, install timers on your outdoor lights. That way they are sure to be turned off in the morning when the sun comes up.

Install low-flow shower heads. They are very cheap, can actually give you more pressure, and can save you a ton on your water and water-heating bill.

Try the toaster oven rather than your full size stove when cooking smaller meals.

Put a rain barrel under your gutter downspout, and store and use that water to water the lawn, flowers and garden as needed. Why pay for water for outdoor use when it comes from the sky for free?

Compost, compost, compost. Not only does it reduce the amount of trash you throw out, but it also provides free, healthy plant food.

Vacuum the dust off your refrigerator coils, as it could be making your fridge work harder than it needs to.

Put a lid on it. When heating up water on the stove, be sure to put a lid on the pan to keep in the heat and speed up boiling time.

So…what do you do to save money and energy? If you have a tip not listed here, make sure to leave it in the comments!

Photo by midnightcomm

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Comments (34)

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  1. Emily says:

    Not a lot of people talk about tankless hot water heaters when it comes to energy saving. I have one and love it. I think I’ll do a post about them sometime soon.

  2. Pinyo says:

    Furnace has a filter?? I am going to check mine out ๐Ÿ˜ณ

    Great list. I printed it and will be check my home tonight. ๐Ÿ™‚

  3. Annie Jones says:

    Thanks for mentioning about washing clothes in cold water only. I’ve done this forever, but most people either don’t think of it or don’t believe clothes will get clean.

    Great list. We do most of these things already. I like the bubble wrap idea; a good way to let some light in while still blocking some of the cold!

  4. Llama Money says:

    A question on storing rainwater – I like the idea ( free water, better for environment, etc ). But wouldn’t keeping all that water sitting around outside create a huge breeding colony for mosquitoes?

  5. david says:

    Llama Money – you store it in closed barrels with a spigot at the bottom for a hose.

  6. Patrick says:

    I like the duct tape idea, but I’d recommend using something other than duct tape – like mastic, which is a sealant designed for duct work, or special tape designed for ducts. I know it seems like duct tape would be good for this because of the name, but in actuality, it will dry and lose cohesiveness over the years. There are better options. Good tips though. ๐Ÿ™‚

  7. david says:

    Thanks Patrick, good tip!

  8. PF Buzz says:

    Personal Finance Buzz…

    Your story was featured in PF Buzz! Here is the link to vote it up and promote it: http://www.pfbuzz.com/Frugality/29-Free-Or-Low-Cost-Ways-To-Save-Energy-Money

  9. bob says:

    Regarding duct tape… I finally found something that works – it’s called “Gorilla Tape” and can be found at Home Depot. This stuff sticks to almost anything. Last winter I used it to hold fiberglass insulation tightly against a recessed single-pane basement window. The window was surrounded by rough concrete block and very rough wood at the top. This stuff stuck to those two difficult surfaces extremely well and held all winter. When the contractor arrived to replace that old window in the spring, he was amazed at how well it was still stuck to those surfaces. It was REALLY stuck. Amazing stuff. I’ll never buy that crappy silver-gray duct tape again. This is the stuff I’m talking about:

    Regarding cold floors – my wife and I both bought leather sheepskin lined slippers. We bought these:
    I guarantee you’ll love them. My wife won’t be without them and they have held up for three years so far without any sign of wear.

    I don’t have any connection to either of these items – but I have been very impressed by them.

  10. david says:

    Sounds pretty convincing Bob, thanks for the tip on the tape. As for the slippers, might have to get some this winter!

  11. Karen Erdman says:

    I love the list – just wanted to make a comment on collecting rainwater. I live in a rural county in Colorado. We are not allowed to collect outside water for any reason. Most houses do not have outside faucets, either, as we cannot use our indoor water for outside use. The reason being, we do not own our water. The majority of the county is on well systems and outside water (rain, snow, etc.) is considered a replenishment of the water table. Just a note – if you live in a rural area and/or you have a well, please contact your Building and Zoning department prior to collecting water. I can’t tell you how many newcomers to our area get fines for collecting water simply because they did not know the laws.

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  13. david says:

    @Karen – Very true, you have to watch out. But since we are going to buy either a very old adobe w/water rights or go off-grid (where the only water is 400 feet down), we wont have a problem. However, I do think the laws they have come up with are ridiculous, in terms of not being able to use water off of one’s own roof to water plants in one’s own yard. But we shouldn’t have to deal with it, thankfully…

  14. Aaron Stroud says:

    Don’t forget to buy the CFLs with a coupon or on sale. Another tip would be to use a fireplace or woodstove, if you have one. In many parts of the country, you can find wood for free. Even if you have to pay for dry, split wood, you’ll come out ahead compared to a furnace.

    Plus, nothing beats a warm fire in the cold of winter. It even keeps working when the power goes out.

  15. Sabrina says:

    Eat beans; they’re cheap. Consider sharing a car if at all possible. Consider taking the bus even if you own a car. Turn off appliances/computers when not in use. Have less children?;)

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  22. Common household teaching is to wash towels and sheets on hot, everything else on cold. Because of their wet nature towels collect more bacteria and mold that the hire temps can take care of. Not sure I have a full opinion even though we follow this advice.

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  24. IEEE says:

    Despite having a thermostat at the top, you missed: buy a programmable thermostat so you’re not cooling your house when you aren’t home. Maybe it was too obvious….

    My wife loves those plug in air fresheners but to keep it plugged in year round @ 20 cents a kilowatt is nearly 5 bucks a year times the 5 we used to have in our house. It easier to just spray a deodorizer on occasion.

    In our bedroom we have a fan with four lights on it. We generally don’t need it that bright (esp w/CFL), so I unscrewed two of them. Plus, its more romantic ๐Ÿ˜‰

    A microwave is better than an oven and a toaster oven is better than both.

    Closing the shades during the day keeps your neighbors from looking at your new TV and keeps the house cooler.

    And finally speaking of TVs, if you’re still one of those people with a CRT TV, the energy savings of a comparable flat screen is huge.

  25. david says:

    IEEE – Not too obvious, just trying to keep the cost down. Everyone should have one of those, yes. True that flat panels use less electric, but getting a new 42″ plasma to save energy is not really “low-cost” or good for the environment. ๐Ÿ˜‰

  26. Jeremy says:

    On the heating and air-conditioning side there is a wonderful product called mastic. It is a goopy adhesives similar inconsistency to mashed potatoes they can be used instead of duct tape to seal leaks in the attic, or in the basement. Because it doesn’t depend on an adhesive backing it is more likely to stick in place as it dries to a cement like consistency. The best part of using mastic is its simplicity and putting it on and not having to fight with the getting stuck on other items like you do with tape.

    My other energy-saving tip for the air-conditioning or heating system is to invest in a digital setback thermostat that allows your heating were air-conditioning to vary by two to 4ร‚ยฐ cooler or warmer when you’re not home thus saving approximately 10 to 15% of your annual operating cost of heating or cooling.

    Love the post!

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  31. Adam says:

    I love the list. I have one suggestion for it though. Instead of turning your water heater down when you go on vacation, why not turn it off? My water heater is not that easy to get to but the breaker box is. I have had to go out of town for a week at a time and I turned the water heater off and when I came home the water in the tank was still pretty warm. It only took a couple hours to get the water back up to normal temps.

  32. david says:

    That’s probably fine if you live somewhere it is warm all the time – in cold weather, the pipes could easily freeze, which you definitely don’t want to happen!

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  34. Jim Atkinson says:

    I developed a filter for an electric clothes dryer which allows the user to return the hot, humid air back into the home. This filters out 99.5% of all contaminants including smell. With the extra heat added to the home, the furnace doesn’t have to work as much, the moisture added to the environment gets rid of static electricity and in many cases, this filter shortens the time required to dry the clothes. So, this little filter saves energy for the furnace, saves electricity from the dryer and makes the home environment much better to live in. Please check out dryernet.com

    I have a very small company in Washington, MO, just my wife and myself but we both see this as a great energy saving device. We tested it last winter and saved about $20.00 a month on our energy bill. Do you think this warrants a little exposure? Thank you, Jim Atkinson, 636-388-2808

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