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Budgeting on a Low Income: Saving Power

Guest Article
by Laraine Anne Barker

Here are some great power saving tips that will surely help you keep those high costs down. And for those of us with fuel tanks, make sure you have that expense in your budget.

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1. If you live in a relatively temperate climate (frosts but no snow) and don't have a fireplace or wood burner, you can help keep power spent on heating down to a minimum by wearing good thick thermals (top and bottom) under a tracksuit. And I mean the type of thermals a mountaineer would wear, with a fleecy brushed lining. Add a knitted thermal hat, thermal socks and slippers and gloves with no fingertips. If you're working at a computer, or sitting reading or doing other sedentary work, and are still cold, you can do what I do. Place a hot water bottle up your tracksuit top.

2. If you use electricity to heat your house in the evening, make sure your heater has a thermostat.

3. Turn off lights not in use. Change to fluorescent lights in your kitchen or workshop, if possible.

4. Make sure your hot water pipes and hot water cylinder are well lagged.

5. Take showers instead of baths, if possible, and stay under the water for only as long as you absolutely need.

6. Change your shower head to one that saves water. After all, you don't need a deluge to clean yourself.

7. Don't shower every day if you can get away with it. A "sponge bath" between showers cleans you surprisingly well.

8. Stop using your clothes drier if you have one. If (in winter) you can't get your clothes dry in time without it, try putting up a temporary clothes line in a garden shed or somewhere similar.

9. For small amounts of hot water (say, to wash a few dishes) boil your jug or kettle rather than taking water from your hot water cylinder.

10. Use your dishwasher, if you have one, only when it's full. Set it to use cold water, if possible. An added advantage here is that your machine will last longer.

11. Wash your clothes in cold water, using a special detergent for cold washes. Treat stains with a special stain remover for cold water, and leave the load to soak overnight for a cleaner wash. Turn the machine on only when you have a full load; it costs almost as much in power to wash a part load as it does a full one. Your machine will also last longer.

12. Lower the temperature of your hot water cylinder if it's too high. If you can't do this yourself, your electricity supply company should be able to help you. Take full advantage of any other economy tips they have available while you're about it.

13. If there are only two in your household, a small benchtop/countertop oven is more economical than a full oven. If you have one, USE it.

14. Likewise, make as much use of your microwave as you can. Borrow some microwave books from the library if necessary to learn all the wonderful things your microwave can do.

15. If you have a pressure cooker, there's no better way to make soup stocks quickly and economically. Home made soups are not just cheaper than bought; they're also tastier and more nutritious. There are many other things a pressure cooker can do, too.

16. If you have a Crock-Pot (slow cooker) it turns the toughest meat into tender, delicious casseroles using far less power than your oven. On low it uses no more power than a 60W light bulb. You can also steam puddings in it (and I believe you can even bake cakes) and, as long as you use the low setting, you can be sure your baked custard won't overcook.

17. If your oven is electric, turn it off five minutes or so before the end of cooking time.

18. Don't use saucepans that are too small for the element or gas burner, and once the water is boiling set the heat only high enough to keep it simmering.

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Copyright © 2001 by Laraine Anne Barker. All rights reserved.
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