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Seven ways to cut your utility bills
On nature
utility bills
Janisse Ray’s garden appeared to be a children’s sleepover last week after she’d set blankets out to protect her plants from the season’s first frost. - photo by Photo by Janisse Ray
I want endless summer.
I love flowers and nesting birds. I love sunshine on bare arms.
Not to mention that the 1920s house we live in is drafty. When the temperature outside is 50, the temperature inside is 52. Cold.
Alas, a few weeks ago I saw a kestrel back from the north. And last week the first frost hit. We protected the garden, which next morning, looked like a bunch of sleeping children covered with blankets.
Recently I found a list of ways to lower the winter fuel bill. Number One is make sure your home is insulated properly. Right off we fail, since there’s no insulation in our walls. We lie in bed on cold mornings, under an increasing number of quilts, trying to figure out how to get insulation in there.
The next energy-efficiency suggestion is turn the thermostat down two degrees in the winter. We would do that if we had a thermostat. But there were other smart suggestions we can easily do:
1. Keep the fireplace damper closed unless a fire is burning.
2. Use kitchen and bathroom venting fans sparingly to reduce heat loss.
3. Close the doors and heating vents in spare rooms.
4. Open or close blinds on south-facing windows to let in or keep out heat.
5. Unplug electronic devices when you’re not using them to prevent “phantom draw.” Of course, turn off everything when it’s not in use.
6. Insulate your hot water heater. Turn its temperature down to 130 degrees. Turn it off when you travel. Or install an on-demand model.
7. Wait for full loads before running dishwashers and washing machines. Use the energy saver setting on the dishwasher. Use cold or warm water for clothes.
Now that leaves are falling from the trees, sweaters and wool socks are unpacked at our house. And we’ve set our clocks ahead to spring.

Ray is the author of Pinhook: Finding Wholeness in a Fragmented Land and other books.
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