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Cutting the Cost of Household Bills?

Cliff posted more than 8 years ago | from the stretch-that-budget dept.

Power 370

schlumpf_louise asks: "I'm in the UK, and I'm about to move out of university accommodation and live in a house, for the first time. When we move, we will have to pay for water, electricity and gas. We'll still be students renting from a landlord, so we can't make any major physical changes to the property. The house has gas central heating and a gas cooker. Four computers will be running pretty much all the time, in addition to the usual general household appliances. What tips do any of you have for (legally) saving on bills? Are there any technologies that are worth buying for long term savings? What should we not do, or not use?" What other saving tips, and frugal suggestions might you have for a house full of college students?

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I could save money... (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#14657463)

if I could read my /. articles quicker, instead of waiting for that insipid "daypass" crap to get done.

Do your computers always need to be on? (4, Insightful)

orin (113079) | more than 8 years ago | (#14657470)

It is the four computers running all the time that will cost you a significant amount of money. What you should all do is work out when your computers actually need to be running. Although its nice to sit down and instantly start working, or to check your email when you are up at 3am going to the loo, if you are pinching pennies you'll notice that even over the course of a month, shutting down computers when they aren't doing anything will save you a significant number of pounds. Chances are as students you'll be spending a lot of time away from the house anyway at the pub, classes, the pub again, the local curry place, the pub. If you add that to your sleep routine you'll probably find that the number of hours each week that you actually need your computers is only a small fraction of the 168 that they will be on. Set your automated tasks to occur when you are eating dinner or watching the TV rather than having your computer on at 3am just to backup and download updates. Is having a great distributed computing score worth the price of several meals each month? Also consider. If you all already have mobile phones, do you really need a landline?

And lose Internet access (4, Insightful)

tepples (727027) | more than 8 years ago | (#14657506)

If you all already have mobile phones, do you really need a landline?

If you don't have landline voice service, you can't get dial-up. If the local telco is unwilling to unbundle the local loop, and you don't have landline voice service, you can't get DSL. If you don't watch a lot of TV, and the local cable company is unwilling to sell Internet access to those who aren't cable TV customers, then you can't get cable Internet access. So yes, you may need to keep landline voice service or give up Internet access altogether.

Re:And lose Internet access (2, Insightful)

RingDev (879105) | more than 8 years ago | (#14657566)

Not if your neighbor has a wireless hub ;)

-Rick

Re:And lose Internet access (2, Funny)

tepples (727027) | more than 8 years ago | (#14657581)

RingDev wrote: Not if your neighbor has a wireless hub ;)

OP wrote: What tips do any of you have for (legally) saving on bills?

What is considered "theft of service" in the United Kingdom?

Re:And lose Internet access (1)

TERdON (862570) | more than 8 years ago | (#14658292)

Unless you offer the neighbour to pay half the internet bills (or fight malware once per month, or whatever), and he likes the proposal...

Re:And lose Internet access (1, Redundant)

Mad Merlin (837387) | more than 8 years ago | (#14657714)

Living in a house with myself and two other Computer Science majors, we don't have a landline phone or cable TV (or any TVs for that matter...), but we do have excellent cable Internet, the cable company didn't have any problems letting us have it either.

Re:And lose Internet access (1)

tepples (727027) | more than 8 years ago | (#14657792)

we don't have a landline phone or cable TV (or any TVs for that matter...), but we do have excellent cable Internet

Which provider, and which geographic area? A few cable companies charge 100 USD per month for high-speed Internet access but include basic cable TV in the price; other cable companies are more sensible.

Re:And lose Internet access (1)

simcop2387 (703011) | more than 8 years ago | (#14658117)

where i live it ends up about $30 cheaper to get basic cable+internet than just the internet service, works for me.

You could also get a more efficient computer. (2, Interesting)

mrchaotica (681592) | more than 8 years ago | (#14657546)

Instead of using some kind of monster 500+ watt system, you could get a laptop or an Epia or a Mac Mini or this AMD Geode-based desktop* [outpost.com] or some other low-power system. Even underclocking and using power management on your current PC can help, too, and switching from CRT to LCD monitor helps a lot.

*which, by the way, is cheaper (~$200) at my local Fry's for some reason

Re:Do your computers always need to be on? (5, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#14657578)

Do your computers always need to be on?

You must be new here.

Re:Do your computers always need to be on? (5, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#14657584)

What you should all do is work out when your computers actually need to be running.

Leaking appliances is certainly something to consider. Unfortunately you're stuck with countless bad decisions by your landlord, including inefficient appliances, lousy insulation, poor choices in heating/cooling systems, etc. For those that aren't subjected to a landlord's provisions and can call their own shots, I'd suggest a few options we've learned:

  • Check with your electric utility for peak-demand control options: Ours has a wireless (440 MHz type frequency) way to shut off our water heater and other electrical appliances briefly during peak demand when it is experienced, saving them lots of money. By using this plan, we get a $0.06/kw hour rate vs $0.09.
  • Insulate like heck. Wish I would have learned this trick earlier on. Yes, there's a cost/benefit ratio, but I've yet to meet a rational insulating project that didn't pay back within 1-2 years (or earlier).
  • Vent heat: Got an attic? How well do you get rid of heat? Our last house actually had all the heat bottled up in the attic because the previous owner/bozo thought sealing all the vents was a good thing. Active fans based on attic temp are good things in extreme cases and are cheap to buy and install.
  • Blue-flame heaters. Live in a home older than 30-40 yrs? You probably have enough air exchange to use a blue flame heater, which is 100% efficient. Screw the old furnace or even the new 93% unit, blue flame is 100% efficient and uses no electricity! We got one after a week-long ice storm and discovered it lowered our total natural gas bill by 40%.
  • Get rid of incandescents! They generate waste heat like hell and are expensive to run. Go flourescent as much as you can. We switched out our outdoor lights too (including former mercury bulb yard lights) with this and have seen a noticable drop in electric rates.
  • Design for low cost: Things that must be left on must be cheap: That's my rule. Rather than keep all my systems running, I have a low draw laptop that's hooked up to a flat-screen (tested to make sure it doesn't suck power when off). I like to leave a few lights on when we're not here - they're all converted to flourescent. Anything that has to be left on must be cheap.


Blue-flame heater efficiency (1)

Tumbleweed (3706) | more than 8 years ago | (#14657880)

100%. Really. Do tell.

Re:Blue flame heaters (1)

benjamindees (441808) | more than 8 years ago | (#14658011)

Blue-flame heaters. Live in a home older than 30-40 yrs? You probably have enough air exchange to use a blue flame heater, which is 100% efficient. Screw the old furnace or even the new 93% unit, blue flame is 100% efficient and uses no electricity! We got one after a week-long ice storm and discovered it lowered our total natural gas bill by 40%.

Ventless heaters, while efficient, also cause moisture problems. Moisture problems cause mold and destruction. Mold causes health problems. If you're going to use them, be sure (1) heat the entire house, (2) maintain a constant temperature, and (3) it helps if the walls are insulated. Moisture from the heaters will condense on any cold surface.

heat/cooling (2, Insightful)

chills42 (750137) | more than 8 years ago | (#14657485)

2nd? I would say try running heat/cooling as little as possible while still keeping it comfortable..

Ramen noodles (3, Funny)

dslauson (914147) | more than 8 years ago | (#14657489)

Also, Macaroni and Cheese. Have you considered selling plasma?

Re:Selling plasma (1)

Nato_Uno (34428) | more than 8 years ago | (#14657630)

My brother sold plasma in college. They discovered some strange antibody of some kind in his bloodstream that was desirable for some reason so they started paying him extra to come in... >)

Re:Ramen noodles (1, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#14657635)

Have you considered selling plasma?

Um, forget that. Kill two birds with one stone:
1) Cancel your pr0n subscriptions.
2) Sperm Bank.

That was the funniest comic I read all week in my college newspaper.

Turn off (3, Insightful)

Duhavid (677874) | more than 8 years ago | (#14657491)

Turn off any and all electrical devices not in use.

Pile on the blankets, dont run the heater.

Re:Turn off (2, Funny)

mctk (840035) | more than 8 years ago | (#14657748)

Yes, turn the heat off. We've done it. And saving on bills hasn't been the only plus! You'll be a lot closer to my friends. No really, you'll be huddled together all of the time. Leaving those nachos out for a few days will no longer be an issue. You'll be so incredibly happy when you get on the bus in the morning and thaw out your toes. You can overclock your computer without having to submerge it in oil. You'll no longer dread spring-cleaning as you long for the thaw. And, of course, you'll get outside more often!

"Hey man, I'll be outside warming up."

Re:Turn off (1)

robbo (4388) | more than 8 years ago | (#14657816)

Better still, unplug them or cut their power using a powerbar when not in use. The cumulative energy consumption of all the modern electronics and appliances when they're 'off' is about as much as keeping one or two 100W bulbs illuminated all the time.

Re:Turn off (1)

jurt1235 (834677) | more than 8 years ago | (#14658085)

Yep, and if you heat, set limits:

If temparature in the house below 15C, than heater can be turned on in rooms in use.

If temparature with heater on 18C it is warm enough, keep temperature like that.

Ofcourse no heater on at night or when you are not at home, and my place its gasbill was 75% lower than the 21C everywhere in the 2 room with kitchen appartment people.

What also helps is live in an appartment anyway: Your neighbours do keep your place warmer. I had one place which always was a comfortable 21C without me ever turning on the heater. My neighbours literally paid the heating bill for me.

Your computers double as space heaters (5, Funny)

guspasho (941623) | more than 8 years ago | (#14657492)

Only obvious things come to mind. In case they aren't so obvious to you: Use the computers for heat in the winter, try to pipe the heat away in the summer. Wear a sweater. Shower with your girlfriend. Wear your clothes multiple days to save on laundry loads. But of course all these habits you probably picked up in college anyway.

Re:Your computers double as space heaters (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#14657518)

"Shower with your girlfriend" ... or when she's done with her blowjob, cum in her mouth and make her swallow. Fewer dirty sheets to have to wash.

Re:Your computers double as space heaters (1)

LeonGeeste (917243) | more than 8 years ago | (#14657555)

Showering with my girlfriend actually makes it take longer (than two combined showers) because I have to come in her, THEN we have to both do normal shower procedures.

Re:Your computers double as space heaters (1)

mrchaotica (681592) | more than 8 years ago | (#14657562)

Do your fooling around before you get in the shower.

Re:Your computers double as space heaters (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#14657861)

Damn... you must shower in... 16 seconds flat then?

Re:Your computers double as space heaters (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#14657937)

Showering with my girlfriend actually makes it take longer ... because I have to come in her,

You are in the shower and you're still not allowed to give her a facial or pearl necklace?

Re:Your computers double as space heaters (1)

PsychoBrat (808980) | more than 8 years ago | (#14658087)

We occasionally have an ad that plays on a local station in Melbourne about saving household energy. It has a rather frivolous little song that goes along with it, and one of the line's is "have a shower with your fella, Stella". Based on both anecdotal evidence and personal experience, I never really figured out how this was supposed to help the situation...

Compact Fluorescent Bulbs (3, Informative)

Deffexor (230167) | more than 8 years ago | (#14657502)

Lightbulbs that use Fluorescent tube technology, but screw right into the sockets of regular bulbs.
- They use ~25% of the power of regular bulbs (for the equivalent light output)
- They tend to last 5 times longer
- The electronic balasts of modern CFB don't cause flicker (and thus avoid headaches...)
- Modern CFBs use better phosphorescents that match the color temperature of typical incandescents.

The only real downside is that they *are* more expensive than regular bulbs, but the energy (money) you save in the first few months allows it to quickly pay for itself.

Re:Compact Fluorescent Bulbs (-1, Redundant)

gerardrj (207690) | more than 8 years ago | (#14657532)

And they cost 20x as much as a standard bulb making them ineffective as a cost saving measure. Great items if you are wanting to reduce the need for more power plants, but bollox for reducing household expenditures.

For the cost of a CFB you can purchase one or two inexpensive dimmer switches which will allow you to save energy, money and provide for a wide range of lighting levels.

Re:Compact Fluorescent Bulbs (1)

RingDev (879105) | more than 8 years ago | (#14657535)

Home Depot (not sure what the UK equivalent is) has 5 packs for ~$10. A bit more expensive then standard 60watt bulbs, but they put out the same lums as a traditional 60watt bulb at 14watts consumed.

-Rick

Compact Fluorescent Bulbs-Heat. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#14658211)

Compacts have another advantage. They don't put out as much heat. That's a real advantage in enclosed fixtures.

Re:Compact Fluorescent Bulbs (3, Informative)

mrchaotica (681592) | more than 8 years ago | (#14657570)

You can get 11 watt (equivalent to 60 watt incandescent) ones pretty cheap ($1/bulb in a 3-pack, I think) at Ikea.

Ikea bulbs (1)

j1m+5n0w (749199) | more than 8 years ago | (#14658051)

You can get 11 watt (equivalent to 60 watt incandescent) ones pretty cheap ($1/bulb in a 3-pack, I think) at Ikea.
I have a bunch of those. They also have the nice property that they come on immediately like an incandescent, instead of the noticeable delay that many flourescents have.

Re:Compact Fluorescent Bulbs (2, Interesting)

blindseer (891256) | more than 8 years ago | (#14657621)

The local electric utilities will buy the CF bulbs for you. One will hand them out if you visit their offices. Others offer mail in rebates. There's a limit of something like six per household so people don't turn around and sell them in neighboring communities for profit. I don't know how common this is but the local hardware stores advertise "free" CF lightbulbs all the time so they get their $10 on the deal.

Re:Compact Fluorescent Bulbs (1)

teab v1.0 (764549) | more than 8 years ago | (#14658229)

When I was at university in the UK a few years ago, someone came round to the Student Union & handed out these type of bulb, maximum of two per student. Since I was living in a shared house with 4 other students at the time, we could easily manage to use them in every light fitting that would take them.

Of course, at least two of the people in the house claimed that they couldn't use them in their room, as they couldn't cope with fluorescent lights, or they flickered, or they took too long to warm up...

We mainly used them in those rooms that had the lights on for the longest periods in the end.

mercury (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#14657653)

Another downside: fluorescent bulbs contain mercury and should be disposed of as hazardous waste.

Conservation begins at home (1)

stevew (4845) | more than 8 years ago | (#14657509)

I would second the bit about turn the computers on ONLY when you need them. Wear COATS in the house, and keep the temperature on the furnace so you don't use so much gas. Limit the time in the shower so you keep the water heating bill down.

All this takes cooperation and discipline!

Good luck.

Stop-and-go (hard) driving (2, Interesting)

tepples (727027) | more than 8 years ago | (#14657516)

I would second the bit about turn the computers on ONLY when you need them.

Doesn't starting and stopping the hard drives cause more wear and tear on the motor and bearings?

Re:Stop-and-go (hard) driving (2, Informative)

FruitCak (56337) | more than 8 years ago | (#14658136)

This is a common misconception. Modern consumer hard drives are designed for lots of starting and stopping. Where you will actually wear them out is leaving them spun up all the time. You'll normally wear a drive out in (a very rough as it depends on manufacturer) two thirds the time using it in a permenatly spun up server type pattern as apposed to the standard start/stop desktop pattern.

There is a reason server rated hard drives cost more and it's not just because they spin faster.

turn the heat down every night (3, Informative)

humuhumunukunukuapu' (678704) | more than 8 years ago | (#14657514)

and every day when you leave. better yet, get an electonic thermostat if you can, and program it. turn out lights when you are not in the room. don't run water needlessly. if you aren't actually using your computer at night (uploading, compiling, serving, whatever), let the computer go to sleep or turn it off.

Plastic on the windows (4, Informative)

thefirelane (586885) | more than 8 years ago | (#14657528)

In the winter months, they sell a clear plastic sheet you can tape along the rim of the inside windowsill. It is amazingly effective at preventing heat loss. Use that.

My Tips: (1, Troll)

zerocool^ (112121) | more than 8 years ago | (#14657534)


1.) Keep the computers off. I mean, wtf. I turn mine off when I go to sleep, cause I don't want to hear it. And that's even watercooled and very quiet - I just don't want to hear it. Plus it costs money. Are you even home that often? What's your computer even doing, really? If it's that bad, find an old laptop with a dead battery and make it the apartment server so you can leave it downloading your new Lost episodes or whatever. Need space? USB HDD. Laptops use less power. Also, encourage everyone to get an LCD. Nothing like a 19" TV-style computer monitor to use electricity all the time. LCD's pay for themselves in about a year or less these days.

2.) Turn the lights off when not home or not using the apartment.

3.) In the winter, keep the thermostat (or whatever that thing's called in the UK) set lower, so the heat kicks on less. Use blankets, or wear a sweater. I have an afghan that my aunt made me; I commonly curl up on the couch with it to play some Dragon Quest VIII, or read a book.

4.) In the summer, keep the AC temp up a little, and use a good old fashioned box fan, or open a window. I don't know your climate so this may be less practical. It works great in the Appalachian mountains in western Virginia; I don't remember it working so well when I lived in Memphis TN, which is hot and humid all summer. Anyway, box fan = more efficient than hugeass compressor.

5.) Set your refridgerator on "saves energy" rather than "reduces exterior moisture". I'd much rather have the exterior moisture; but then, it's hardly ever above 20% humidity in the winter here.

That's about it. Try not to own anything like a 5 foot iguana (thanks, wife) that constantly needs a full spectrum bulb, a black-lite bulb, a ceramic bulb, a water fountain, 2 heated fake rocks, and a nuculear processing plant to keep it happy.

~Will

Re:My Tips: (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#14657613)

Judging by your handle, I was expecting at least a few of the following:

  • Spray paint your keyboard, it increases the resistance and therefore decreases the amount of power used.
  • Switch back to a 28.8bps modem (not kbps).
  • Do not turn up the heat, buy more jolt cola instead (the shaking will keep you warm).
  • Turn off the 15 foot, 3d display of your system activity and delete all unecessary garbage files.

And if those fail, you could always crash at Nikon's place.

Re:My Tips: (4, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#14657671)

Dude, I bought one of those "Kill-a-Watt" power measuring devices. I measured all my CRTs and several LCDs.

The LCDs do not pay for themselves in a year. Not even if you live somewhere where you have to run the air conditioner year round, and you pay for every watt twice, once to use and once to cool it.

The max savings you can approach, presuming all the above, is about $25/year. The price difference between a CRT and an LCD is way more than that.

Remember, just because it's high-tech, doesn't mean it's a good idea !

Economics isn't the only motivation... (1)

HTMLSpinnr (531389) | more than 8 years ago | (#14658074)

We don't always purchase items to pay for themselves. Using less energy to start with is just a good idea. Look at hybrid car drivers. We drive them not only for great gas mileage, but because it's the right thing to do - smaller environmental foot print, less pollution, etc.

However - on the kill-a-watt topic, I plugged my entire PC system (monitor, speakers, etc) into it, and realized that even idle, it's using 140-150 watts. While gaming, it jumps up over 200 watts. It's also consuming over 25 watts at idle :-(. The LCD only consumes 2 watts powered off, 4 on standby and 40-something while powered on.

Even scarier was an old Dell Lattitude laptop I had plugged in but turned off - the power supply drew about 92 watts while plugged into the laptop - even when powered off. Considering I don't use that laptop much, I just unplugged it and put it back into it's case after giving it the tounge lashing of a lifetime.

Another startling observation, on my kids' computer running an older AMD Athlon TBird 1400 w/ Sk2 bus disconnect software (kinda like cpucool), the difference between idle bit on and off is 90 and 140 watts at idle. If you really must leave the PC on, make sure it's idle loop is as efficent as possible. That guy gets turned off when not in use though.

Yet another cost saver (depending on how you look at it) - eat out. Make the resaurant pay the energy bill of cooking and cleaning. By the time they've cooked and prep'd the meal, and considering the dirty dishes and cookware that doesn't need cleaning afterward (hot water and dishwasher electricity), you may just come out ahead, break even, or justify the difference toward sheer laziness. Granted, the health impact of eating out just may counter-act any savings.

Re:Economics isn't the only motivation... (1)

HTMLSpinnr (531389) | more than 8 years ago | (#14658082)

It's also consuming over 25 watts at idle

Ack, that should read when powered off.

Easy tips (1)

itwerx (165526) | more than 8 years ago | (#14657541)

We'll presume you're savvy enough to enable the various power saving options on your machines (remember to also turn your monitors off completely when not in use) so we'll focus on the other easy item - heating! Crank that thermostat down to the 50's and stock up on blankets and sweaters!
      Turn your hot water heat setting as cool as you are comfortable with. (Experiment a bit so you don't end up shorting the poor SOB who's last into the shower. :)
      Also, since you've probably got surge protectors on everything, make use of that "master power switch" to cut power to all those non-computing vampire appliances that never truly turn off (TV, DVD, CD, VCR, microwave etc).
      Finally, even though it's not your place and you can't make changes, check all the door and window seals and if any of them are leaky lean on the landlord to get them fixed.
      Carpool...

12:00, 12:00... (1)

tepples (727027) | more than 8 years ago | (#14657561)

make use of that "master power switch" to cut power to all those non-computing vampire appliances that never truly turn off (TV, DVD, CD, VCR, microwave etc).

And endure the lengthy channel search and clock setup every day as the TV and VCR lose their mains-backed memories? (Or is it different in PAL territories?)

Re:Easy tips (1)

l3prador (700532) | more than 8 years ago | (#14657820)

Turn your hot water heat setting as cool as you are comfortable with. (Experiment a bit so you don't end up shorting the poor SOB who's last into the shower. :)

Actually, that's a pretty interesting idea... Has anyone released a water heater with a thermostat and some way to monitor its status--current reserve, temperature?

Re:Easy tips (1)

19thNervousBreakdown (768619) | more than 8 years ago | (#14657943)

They have hot water heaters that heat it as it flows now. As long as now is the last 30 years or more... Anyway, pretty much cuts out the need for any complicated control equipment.

Save! (3, Funny)

pizza_milkshake (580452) | more than 8 years ago | (#14657550)

You can save on water and power by not showering regularly.... but I think that's a given.

General (1)

cmarks03 (900042) | more than 8 years ago | (#14657556)

Don't use the A/C and wear a coat; use low power light bulbs (or get those flourescent ones that cost more but use less energy), get used to a not as hot shower, and since you'll be in a house, buy your beer (not sure if it has a different name across the pond) by the keg instead of cases/at the pub. As someone else said, don't get a land-line phone if you all have cell phones. Basic internet access if you're gonna be on campus a lot (I only have a 1.5Mbps connection at my place and I don't even notice it because I'm on campus at least 12 hours a day).

Lower power computers too. Use laptops or desktops with good power settings (Pentium M's speedstep technology, Athlon 64's Cool and Quiet, etc.).

Also, buy generic food and stuff like that. I personally prefer Kroger (the supermarket I shop at) brand to some name brands.

Re:General (1)

Duhavid (677874) | more than 8 years ago | (#14657572)

Or lose the cell phones, and get one land line.

Re:General (1)

cmarks03 (900042) | more than 8 years ago | (#14657647)

I just thought about this one too. Not sure if it's the same across the pond, but I've heard that utilities charge you less for their service in the middle of the night, etc. Not sure how they measure that or if it's true, or if it's just something that my parents made up, but it can't hurt to do stuff in the middle of the night (or put stuff on a timer).

Chris

Re:General (1)

schlumpf_louise (829960) | more than 8 years ago | (#14658032)

Before I posted I was looking at the power company sites and they actually have something called "economy 7", from the website:

"Obviously with Economy 7 youll use more energy during the night than the day, so you will save money. However, you need to be using roughly 20% of your energy consumption at night to be making a saving. And when they say night, they really mean night - the cheaper tariff usually starts around 1am and finishes around 8am (this can vary by supplier and region)"

Only problem is that I am awake til silly o'clock (currently 7:10am in UK), two of the guys go to sleep 2am ish and the other is a morning person, now as much as I'd love to live up to gender stereotypes, I'm not going to spend my time doing their laundry :)

Re:General (1)

jaseparlo (819802) | more than 8 years ago | (#14657766)

buy your beer (not sure if it has a different name across the pond)

Nope pretty sure it's called beer in most places :)

My old roommate the scammer. (3, Funny)

jlseagull (106472) | more than 8 years ago | (#14657582)

I once was a housemate with a guy that got kicked out of a fraternity for being too drunk and rowdy. He had stolen a 1968 vintage kegerator from a carnival, and the thing sucked like 1200 watts or more, and ran continuously with no thermostat. One day, he came home with a keg of Stroh's that he had bought for $20 on special. He came face to face with the resolution that it would cost him more in electricity to cool the beer with the antique device than it cost to buy the keg.

Late that night, I found him outside dressed in all black, carrying a trenching shovel and a long extension cord toward our neighbors' house...

food (4, Informative)

joebebel (923241) | more than 8 years ago | (#14657592)

If you have a nice gas cooktop and some cooking skills you can make a lot at home. Uni cafeteria can be a huge money drain if you're eating 3 meals a day. For 4 people, you could probably save 50 pounds a month if everyone chips in and does some food work. Nothing fancy, but stay away from prepackaged food also, it's just as expensive and not healthy either.

Learn to cook (3, Insightful)

Frumious Wombat (845680) | more than 8 years ago | (#14657597)

Frankly, that one will save you more than most of the rest. There are a wide variety of not bad foods that can be made in semi-bulk (so you only have to cook new every couple of days), that can be dressed differently at the table for varied meals. It's how I survived grad school.

Follow that one by shoping for clothes at the local version of Goodwill, turn down the heat, plug the drafts, and unplug appliances not in use. Consider adding an insulating blanket to your hot water heater, if it's not an instant-on type.

And, of course, don't do anything that makes holes in walls. Those are pricey to fix and tend to make landlords a bit touchy. The same comment applies to carpets.

Build your own house. (1, Offtopic)

Fantastic Lad (198284) | more than 8 years ago | (#14657605)

Build house with. . .

1. Insulation. Lots and lots of insulation. Insulation is not sexy, but if you make very thick walls, like three feet thick, and spray in the fiberglass-pink, as well as use tin-foil to reflect infared back into the home. . , you can basically heat a home with minimal effort. A wood stove, or a heat from a compost heap set downhill from the house with circulating pipes to carry heat to the floors, etc., plus use of solar heat collection. . . Kill your heating bills. There are lots of clever ways to heat a place other than the conventional, super-wasteful methods we use today.

2. Build somewhere you can sink your own well. Run the pump with an electric motor driven from a solar panel. Keep a huge water storage tank buried next to your house. Never pay the water company ever again.

3. Solar collectors for power. Get off the grid altogether! Spend $10,000 on good panels, (which can collect even in low-light conditions), and batteries and all the wiring, etc., and you needn't pay another electricity bill ever again.

What's left?

4. Cancel your cable/satellite subscription. TV is for losers. Period. TV is a waste of time and money and brain cells. Simple.

5. Phone bills. . ? This is the only thing I'd keep. I like communication.

6. Food. Food is cheep now. Very cheep. When fuel costs continue to rise, trucking and transport costs will also rise. The cost of goods will have to go up. Bush's fucked up reality means the poor will starve. So buy lots and lots of cans and preserved food stuffs now. The depression is near. Be prepared. You think your food bills are high now? Hm.


-FL

Re:Build your own house. (1)

hazem (472289) | more than 8 years ago | (#14657726)

3. Solar collectors for power. Get off the grid altogether! Spend $10,000 on good panels, (which can collect even in low-light conditions), and batteries and all the wiring, etc., and you needn't pay another electricity bill ever again.

For the last 10 years, I've lived in a few different apartments and my electricity bill has not often been above 50, and often below. With that as an average cost, that $10,000 is about 16 years of power. Would that equipment last that long without replacement?

While I like the idea of being independent of the power company, I'm not sure it pays off that well at that price.

Re:Build your own house. (1)

Fantastic Lad (198284) | more than 8 years ago | (#14657809)

For the last 10 years, I've lived in a few different apartments and my electricity bill has not often been above 50, and often below.

Me too, for about 10 years. (Though my power bills, even shared among room-mates, have been higher than that. I think the age of the building figures into the equation.)

Anyway, if you want to start a family and live in a proper house, those costs suddenly become something to consider. My electricity bill for 2006, barring changes to global energy prices, is going to be about $2500. --It's an old rented house with poor insulation and electric heating. Until now I was a low-rent bachelor, but life shifts around and suddenly you need more space and things can quickly grow expensive. I am very much looking forward to building my own home. No rolling black-outs and huge energy bills for me, thank-you.


-FL

Re:Build your own house. (1)

zogger (617870) | more than 8 years ago | (#14657901)

In the US now they have some significant tax breaks (credits) for installing active solar systems, both solar hot water and for solar PV electricity. And some states have additional tax credits. You can chop the cost down considerably that way. It's your tax money and they let you keep it for something both practical and geeky cool.

Re:Build your own house. (1)

bored_engineer (951004) | more than 8 years ago | (#14657966)

Yes. Although his estimate of $10,000 is a bit low, unless you're really trying to skimp on the electricity you use. If you look here, [sfgate.com] you'll see that manufacturers carry a typical warranty of 25 years. A warranty of such length implies a very long life. Experience confirms the long life of solar panels.

ROI for a solar system varies from less than 7 years in very sunny places to more than 30 years in northern climes (like Alaska). There are a number of factors that can affect this.

cheers.

Re:Build your own house. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#14657778)

TV is for losers. Period. TV is a waste of time and money and brain cells. Simple.

Unless you live outside DSL range [slashdot.org] .

Re:Build your own house. (1)

bored_engineer (951004) | more than 8 years ago | (#14658033)

Build house with. . .
Given that they are students, they may be busy for a year or two.

1. Insulation...very thick walls, like three feet thick, and spray in the fiberglass-pink...
I think that maybe you want to rethink some of this statement? The pink fiberglass is laid in, the stuff you spray in is cellulose. When have you built walls that are three feet thick? (Some folks are building fairly thick walls with hay bales, but this is a method that isn't common and doesn't mesh with the rest of your statement so we'll ignore it.) Do you know what materials cost would be for a place with walls this thick? Have you considered that the gains would be minimal over 8" or 10" thick walls?

2. Build somewhere you can sink your own well.
I believe that they are going to University. This may not be practical to him at the moment.

3. Solar collectors for power...Spend $10,000 on good panels, (which can collect even in low-light conditions)
$10,000? maybe. If you're frugal and your needs are modest. What makes you think that solar panels can do any significant collection in low-light conditions? I would love to hear about the solar panel that offers any real utility on a cloudy day.

As for the rest...you're funny! cheers!

Re:Build your own house. (1)

yoprst (944706) | more than 8 years ago | (#14658234)

TV is a waste of time and money and brain cells.

At least, TV has courtesy not to say the same about Slashdot.

Move to the US... (0, Flamebait)

aquarian (134728) | more than 8 years ago | (#14657615)

...where it's a lot cheaper to live, and you can make more money.

Seal it up (4, Informative)

gerardrj (207690) | more than 8 years ago | (#14657618)

Landlords generally want the property to look good and clean to attract tenants, they don't spend a lot of time or energy sealing up a house.
A few tubes of caulk to seal up small cracks and some stick-on weather stripping for windows and doors will go a long way toward keeping the temperature more stable. Also there are foam gaskets you can put behind the wall plates of switches and sockets to keep drafts out.

Drapes open on cold days to get in the sun's heat. Closed on warm days to keep it out.

Showers are a huge point of waste. A few dollars/pounds will get you a shower valve you screw in-line with the shower head. You can then reduce the water flow when you're not actually needing it and then turn it up again to rinse off. Showers generally cost you 3x, incoming water, heating water, waste water charge.

If you have access to your water heater and the pipes coming from it, add insulation to them. A water heater wrap and some foam tube insulation will keep the water hotter for longer in the tank and the pipes to the shower.

If you have a smaller shower room, hang your wrinkled clothes in there, it will help remove wrinkles and prevent you turning on the iron (ha ha, I know).

Keep the fridge full. The more "stuff" in the fridge the more efficient it is. Air heats/cools quickly and escapes readily when the door is opened. Stuff in the fridge will help the temperature come back to cold quickly and reduce run-time. Also, keep the door closed as much as possible. Standing in front of the fridge with the door open searching for something to eat is a tremendous waste.

Line-dry your clothes indoors instead of machine drying. On a breezy summer day indoors with open windows the evaporation will cool the air; in the winter the humidity will help make the air feel warmer at lower temperatures.

When cooking, use lower gas settings on the cooker. High-heat spills a lot of heat past the pan in to the air. Medium-low heat will usually get the job done just as well with only a slight increase in pre-heat and cooking time.

Find, and keep clean the filer for the central heat if it's forced air.

Try to cook for the entire house at one time instead of each member cooking their own meals. Economies of scale and all; better to heat the kitchen up once for 20 minutes that 4-5 times 10 minutes each.

Low-cost 1/2 Styrofoam panels can easily be cut to fit in to windows to block out cold nights, or to fit around the outside of a particularly lame fridge.

Re:Seal it up (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#14657870)

As far as the water heater goes, I actually turn mine off until 15 minutes before I need to shower. Then I get in & out, and turn it off again at the breaker. No need to keep that water hot all the time. Knocked a good chunk off my electricity bill.

Learn to cook. (2, Insightful)

Pyromage (19360) | more than 8 years ago | (#14657623)

There's lots of good suggestions for other areas, so I'll add the odd one:

If you haven't already, learn to cook. It's possible eat better, healthier, and cheaper than most of the restaurants you're probably eating at, if you know where to shop and what to make. Be willing to buy in bulk (things often cost half as much). Make a lot of meals based around rice (rice is cheap).

Just consider this: where I'm at, I can eat filet mignon for the same price as a sandwich from Subway. Now just imagine if you start eating cheap food!

Also, track your expenses in this area. Only when you know what you're spending can you optimize effectively.

While you're at it, learn to bake. Cakes impress the girls.

cooperation (2, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#14657636)

This is the kind of thing that can test friendships.

Several of these have been mentioned before:

  • Keep the heat down and wear sweaters. Turn down the heat when the house is vacant and when everyone is sleeping (buy blankets rather than gas)
  • Practice zone heating: don't heat rooms that aren't being used
  • Check for drafts around doors, windows, electrical outlets, etc. The landlord would probably approve weatherstripping repairs, or use rags or plastic as nonpermanent seals
  • Unplug tvs, entertainment centers and other devices that have "instant on" or "warmstart" circuitry when not in use
  • Get together and plan your kitchen stove use. When an oven or burner is brought to heat, you want everyone to do their cooking before it is shut off again.
  • Assuming you've got a washer and dryer, pool your laundry
  • Don't use the dishwasher
  • Plan your shower usage. Devise a contract for how many minutes of showering or bathing you will each do every week.
  • Turn off the computers when not in use. If you can't do that, use powersaver modes and at least turn off any peripherals.

Controlling hot water use is often the hardest part.

Re:cooperation (1)

Spazmania (174582) | more than 8 years ago | (#14657862)

Assuming you've got a washer and dryer, pool your laundry. Don't use the dishwasher. Plan your shower usage. Devise a contract for how many minutes of showering or bathing you will each do every week.

You forgot the most important thing:

If its yellow, let it mellow.
If its brown, flush it down.

Re:cooperation (1)

kcb93x (562075) | more than 8 years ago | (#14658128)

...and as I heard last night at a party I was at...

"..and if it's red, go to bed."

Re:cooperation (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#14658230)

better: save the water from showering and use it to flush the toilet

Just went through this myself (5, Informative)

Anonymous Cowdog (154277) | more than 8 years ago | (#14657669)

Here's what we did:

* Cancel movie rental subscription (Netflix)
* Get movies and some books from the library
* Cancel old unused website costing a monthly fee
* Scour credit card statements, found another forgotton hosting account, cancelled it
* Called auto insurance company and raised deductible for collision to $1000
* Bought a stovetop espresso maker so we don't need to buy good coffee by the cup now
* Continued living with our old outdated computer monitor
* No cable, no gaming accounts
* No alchohol, no drugs, no lottery tickets
* Pay things on time and avoid late fees
* Remember if taxes take 50%, you have to earn $2 for each $1 you spend.
* Stop buying stuff.
* Get cheaper broadband plan
* Cancel unused text messaging on wife's cell phone ($5/mo)
* Cancel unused roaming plan ($5/mo)
* Cancel unused Canada roaming addon ($3/mo)
* Cancel unused "nights start at 7PM" addon on cell plan ($5/mo)
* Ask nicely and get $10/mo unlimited cell data plan, including modem use (Sprint, Treo 650) instead of faster Cingular $40/mo+ plan
* Refrain from getting car. Get exercise instead.

Lots of little amounts, and some big ones. They add up.

Re:Just went through this myself (3, Funny)

mattwarden (699984) | more than 8 years ago | (#14657810)

As a college student myself, I was with you and nodding my head until...

No alchohol, no drugs

My guess is that the OP was asking for ways to save money so he could purchase more of these.

Re:Just went through this myself (1)

schlumpf_louise (829960) | more than 8 years ago | (#14657944)

No drugs.

Alcohol is a a must have, but the boys have already started brewing their own :) I'm still too scared to try it tho...

Re:Just went through this myself (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#14657995)

Since when wasn't alcohol a drug?

What a fucking stupid cunt. Go take your "no drug" attitude to the grave the next time you get a bacterial infection, you stupid piece of shit.

Car culture (1)

tepples (727027) | more than 8 years ago | (#14657811)

Refrain from getting car. Get exercise instead.

So what do you do when an affordable apartment is 80 km away from employment? Or is this not the case in the UK?

Re:Just went through this myself (1)

jwdeff (629221) | more than 8 years ago | (#14658030)

* Continued living with our old outdated computer monitor
In the long run, you'll probably break even or save money with the power savings from an LCD monitor.

"Living frugally without hardship" (4, Informative)

loraksus (171574) | more than 8 years ago | (#14657703)

This fatwallet thread "Living frugally without hardship" [fatwallet.com] is a great start.
It is pretty long, but full of valuable information.

Disconnect Gas and Electric... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#14657706)

1) disconnect gas and electric
2) cancel phone service and cable TV
3) sell furniture that is not bolted down
4) move into parents basement
5) set up computers at will, plug in extra space heaters/AC as needed, steal your Dad's beer

From one freezing climate to another (4, Interesting)

cgenman (325138) | more than 8 years ago | (#14657707)

Plastic over the windows. You can buy the really good kind or just use big cheap sheets. Either way works. Check the windows first to see if they are double-pane, though.

Check around the edges of windows, especially in older buildings. Frequently, cracks will form around the edges where you can clearly feel cold leaking in. Get some silicone sealant from the local hardware, and close those holes.

Put cloth underneath and around any doors that have any space. Taking the doors off and stapling them is ideal, but in a pinch you can use glue or staple the strips to the front and back.

Compact Flourescent bulbs are a lot more energy efficient than regular ones, and last longer. And if you look around, there have been a few batches at dollar stores recently... can't beat more efficient, longer lasting, and cheaper.

Turn off your monitors when not in use. This will save as much as shutting off your computer, and is less of a pain in the arse.

Don't get a house phone. Get high speed 'net access, skype, and use cellphones. But keep the landlines away. While you're at it, halve your costs: go in for high-speed access with the people above or below you, and run your own cable. Just make a no-uploading rule or you'll find your pipe clogged in no time.

No cable: get utorrent and download shows.

Avoid even thinking about World of Warcraft.

Have a parking space you're not using? Sublet it.

No offence, but don't worry so much about the "legally" part. Everyone assumes you sublet despite what your lease says. Everyone assumes you will do things to change the apartment like paint it. People share network access all the time. It's just built in. If you screw things up, it gives them legal right to sue you, but otherwise it is just business as usual.

Don't buy any furnature. Wait until the students are moving out, if you can, to pick some up for free. Of course, you'll probably be moving out then too, so I guess that plan works best for the rest of us.

Suggestion (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#14657718)

What other saving tips, and frugal suggestions might you have for a house full of college students?

Get a job.

Wild sex orgies (1)

linzeal (197905) | more than 8 years ago | (#14657727)

Save on heat but it is good to stock cheap munchies like 99 cent pretzel bags and swill beer or you can lose it in becoming a bed and breakfast. Asking for tips for making breakfast works when people crash in your pad is standard fare in my household if we don't know you. Bring over a few six packs or some nice wine and you get a free continental.

Locate your meeters, then put a magnet inside wall (2, Funny)

HornWumpus (783565) | more than 8 years ago | (#14657735)

A simple electromagnet powered by a household DC converter will stop a mechanical meeter from meetering.

Too many gause and you will break the meeter. So add wraps to your electromagnet untill it just stops the meeter.

Then hook the magnet up to a timer (so you will still use some electricity and so the meeter will be running when read).

Viola you've just cut your utility bills without any of that tiresome conservation etc.

One word (1)

Pete LaGrange (696064) | more than 8 years ago | (#14657763)

Fluorescent bulbs, well...two words.
Changed every single one of them in August, cost about $50.
All electric, dryer, stove, hot water and six computers, heat is oil.
100 watt incandescent cost about $9 to run all month, 14 watt fluorescent
costs about a buck and throws similar (if slightly off-color) light.
Bill went from $325/mo to $160/mo (we leave a lot of lights on 24/7).
Best money I spent last year and haven't changed a bulb yet.

House full of students? (1)

TheLink (130905) | more than 8 years ago | (#14657791)

D'oh. This sounds as funny as that "ultra stable C++" ask slashdot... ;)

Wouldn't that mean not needing that much heating? Will be just like those bunny rabbits providing heat (in more ways than one perhaps)?

If you really need your computers on all the time and want to cut on bills, each of you should get a tent and set it up in your rooms. In winter put the computer in the tent and run Folding@Home or something similar for heating, that way you can live reasonably comfortably in the tent, and leave the central heating off or on low (if that's possible - I'm sure you'd still need hot running water for showers ;) ).

If you're in England and not somewhere like Scotland, the weather isn't what I'd call harsh - I used to study in Manchester, and it was ok (drizzly and/or overcast most days though, except for exam season ;) ).

Seriously though, I think that while bills are important considerations, you need to get other things right first and then the bill issue becomes more manageable. You get the other stuff wrong, and you might end up with half the household leaving without notice.

Anyway some random thoughts:

Set your priorities and just cut down on your expenses- beer, tobacco, "new mobile phone that you really don't need" and you'd probably have quite a bit to live on.

I believe the meters are "self-read", so it might be a good idea to update the companies regularly, so that you don't end up with something really huge at an inconvenient point - not everyone in the household might be able to cope with paying that amount.

Assuming not everyone is competent at managing their money, you may also wish to have a pool of money which everyone pays a fixed sum into each month, and any amount leftover is refunded at end of the lease period. Better pick someone you can trust for that ;).

The idea is to not end up short of some huge amount "by surprise", and then have to go look for money and possibly end up neglecting your studies etc.

Also, you may have to figure out whether things like certain meals/cooking are shared. "Eating out" in the UK isn't what I'd call cheap. But sharing say the evening meal and cooking AND the necessary grocery shopping would require a fair bit of compromises and cooperation. Might be rather difficult if you have a vegan and a "carnivore" in your household, or even a practising muslim/jew (halal/kosher food only).

While in Manchester, a bunch of us used to share one meal and groceries, but one of us opted out of it in the end. Can't remember why. Maybe it was our cooking (we took turns though) ;).

LED Flashlight (5, Informative)

Graymalkin (13732) | more than 8 years ago | (#14657850)

  1. Think about replacing your entertainment appliances with a communal computer. A relatively low power PC hooked up to a decent LCD can play just about any sort of media type you can think of. It is also quite a bit more efficient than a bunch of individual devices in "sleep" mode sucking down 10Wh+. Turn off the sound system for such a computer when it isn't in use and place the system itself in sleep mode or hibernate or what have you when not in use.
  2. Convince your house mates that switching to LCDs in going to save everyone even though they're relatively expensive up front. A 19" CRT sucking down 100W will cost a fortune compared to the operational cost of a good LCD. The less power used means the less heat generated which leads to lower home cooling costs in hotter months.
  3. Turn the thermostat up in the summer and down in the winter. In the summer wear shorts and short sleeve shirts, sweaters and thicker pants in the winter. Grab some cheap solar shades to go on the outsides of south facing windows, they keep a good 70% of solar radiation from entering the window and require next to maintenance. Do what you can to seal up the windows in the winter time to keep cold air out and warm air in. There's lots of thermal seals for windows available that don't require permenant changes to the structure of the windows thus being renter friendly.
  4. Get a Watt meter. It's a little device you plug in between an appliance and the wall that can tell you the device's electrical load. Plug everything into one of these to figure out what is sucking down the most power when on and/or off. Grab some power strips or switch adapters for outlets to keep these power sinks from hiking up your electrical bill. You'd be surprised about how much power is used by appliances that look "off". Kitchens and living rooms are huge power sinks.
  5. Replace incandescent bulbs with CF ones. CF bulbs costs a bit more than incandescents but last quite a bit longer and use a fraction of the power to produce the same amount of light. You don't save up front with CFBs, you save months down the road when the power savings and long life have paid for the bulb several times over. CFBs are also getting cheaper so price is even less of an issue than it was just a few years ago. Make sure people in the house get into the habit of turning off lights in unoccupied rooms.
  6. Look into replacing a digital alarm clock with your cell phone. My cell wakes me up in the morning and has a clock that is always set. It works properly after an overnight power outtage.
  7. Cook for everyone at once and pick up some heat trapping storage bags (the sort used for camping and picnics) to keep food warm for latecomers. Try not to cook too much or else you're going to need to store that extra food for later...
  8. Get a small refrigerator and shop for only one or two days worth of meals. A smaller fridge is going to save on your electrical bill. Shopping on a smaller scale is a little less convenient than bulk shopping but can be done by a single person on the way home from work/school more easily than bulk shopping. It also means you tend to have fresher food and don't buy things you forget about that then go bad wasting the money.
  9. Agree on a beer everyone enjoys and buy kegs or mini kegs rather than cases with bottles. Kegs are cheaper than cases and can be reused.
  10. Recycle. I don't know about the UK but overhere in the Estats Unidos you can get a few bucks from every few pounds of aluminum and glass you recycle. This is nice after BYOB parties as you get a bunch of free change just by cleaning up and heading to a recycling center.
  11. Carpool and/or ride a bike. If you're not too far from work or school ride a bike. You save on gas and have better parking options. A good bike will make for a comfortable ride and you'll stay in shape even drinking a college portion of beer.
  12. Team up with your neighbors about high speed internet access. Split the bill between the households and share the bandwidth. Make sure you draw up a nice contract and include a clause about bandwidth hogs being banned from the network. This might work with a DVB television receiver as well but I won't pretend to know enough about broadcast laws in the UK to say whether or not that is exactly legal.

refrigerator efficiency (2, Informative)

benjamindees (441808) | more than 8 years ago | (#14658042)

Get a small refrigerator and shop for only one or two days worth of meals. A smaller fridge is going to save on your electrical bill.

Actually, the small "dorm" refrigerators are so horribly built that they use about as much electricity as a normal sized fridge. The thing that will make a difference, though, is having a new fridge versus an older one. Same goes for old A/C units, don't bother with those.

remember the first law (5, Interesting)

rcpitt (711863) | more than 8 years ago | (#14657888)

You can change energy from one form to another but can't create or destroy it.

If you MUST have 4 computers running - they will eat something like 500-800+ watts - so you need to use or get rid of that amount of energy. (note that CRTs use similar amounts - use LCDs!)

Most refrigerators use something less than 500-800 watts to cool their interiors - but many (most) use motors to compress coolant and dump the heat out to cooling coils on the back (heating the surrounding room). Why not instead use a 'fridge that uses an absorption cycle (like the ones you find in a camper that use either electricity or gas to provide heat but don't use a motor) and run it off the heat of the computers?

Note that you'll have to provide some dump for the heat - so you'll probably want to put the computers (and some part of the fridge) near an outside wall so you can dump heat outside (choose the side away from the sun) - use long monitor cables etc. to bring the video/keyboard/mouse connections to where you want them.

In Summer - open the windows near the computers to let the heat out

In Winter - put a fan there and blow the excess heat into the rest of the house.

Of course you might want to run some copper tubing from the water supply near these heat sources to pre-heat the water prior to running it into the normal water heater too. You can also plumb them into solar panels on the roof in Summer (and even in Winter in some areas) to preheat water. A little bit of electronics might be necessary to ensure you don't overheat the water - I've almost burned my hand off the panels I have on the roof for my pool :)

Lots of ways of (re)using the energy you take into the house before letting it out - and taking advantage of the energy that is freely available from the sun when it shines.

LCD's (2, Informative)

Darth_brooks (180756) | more than 8 years ago | (#14657891)

Drop a few bills on an LCD monitor. New LCD's draw far less power than CRT monitors. This is especially true if you're using an old 14" clunker that doesn't do any sort of real power saving. Combine this with a VGA switch (or a KVM switch) to cut down on what you'll need to have plugged in.

Find and eliminate "wall warts", those little black inverters / chargers that are constantly drawing anywhere from 4 to 15 watts. I'd suggest getting a cheap power strip (one that has a switch) and putting it on top of your desk, then taking plugging as many of the warts into that as possible. Phone charger, laptop brick, iPod Charger, PC speaker inverter, and anything you can plug in that has a remote control.

When you're not using those items, turn off the strip. You can cut out anywhere from 20 to 80 watts of useless power. Multiply that by the hours you save (because hey, your PC speakers need to be sucking power when you're fast asleep...) and you can make a decent dent in your bill. (it's also a bit healthier for battery charged items to not be sucking power all the time.)

Aside from that? Compact flourescent bulbs help, and not being a dumbass helps more. Don't heat anything with electricity if you can avoid it, don't leave lights on all the time, enable powersave features on the PC's when you can.

Marry well. (1)

Biul (923036) | more than 8 years ago | (#14657918)

'nuff said.

Turn off the computers (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#14657926)

Turn off the computers. If it's the porn you want, go buy/borrow the adult magazines.

Geothermal Heat Pumps (1)

jwdeff (629221) | more than 8 years ago | (#14658072)

This doesn't directly apply to the poster, but for home owners, look into geothermal heat pumps [geoexchange.org] .

Re:Geothermal Heat Pumps (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#14658162)

Hopefully you live in an area where they will let you put one in...

Unlike Schaumburg, IL.

Cheap Utilities (1)

Dark007 (832582) | more than 8 years ago | (#14658189)

Use www.onetel.co.uk for cheap telephone calls - they even allow you to use their service for mobile phones if you register the number with them. Use dual fuel utilities or use a search engine to find the cheapest offers.

Pay everything by direct debit from one (joint?) bank account that everyone pays a standard amount in to every month. Put someone you trust in charge of it all.

Use thick quilts/blankets and turn off the heat at night.

Draught excluders. Rugs (if you have hard floors). Close the curtains or get some if you dont have any and use blinds as well. Get a curtain for the front and back door.

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