Waste Not, Want Not – Phantom wastes that suck you dry…

Tuesday I received both the quarterly water bill and a shock.  For the month and a half since we turned on the water – and a month of residence – our water bill was nearly $130!  This is only for the city water that comes into the house – it’s disposed of into a septic system we own.

I immediately picked up the phone and called the Local Water Company.  The kind woman on the other end agreed – this water bill was enormous!  She sent out a water meter reader, who told us we had a leak.  A bad one.

Next up – a plumber.  He and my husband immediately found the problem – an outside spigot was cracked so badly it was basically running like a faucet.  Another $129 later, and the spigot has been capped until we make some changes to the location.  Thankfully, the current location was several feet from the house (it was put in early on in the house’s life, around 1905, and still has the original pump handle.)  So we don’t anticipate any foundational water damage.

Now, inside the house we were clueless.  The plumbing inside is working beautifully.  That water bill, though, was a wake up call.  What else are we missing?  What else is draining our financial and physical resources?

Since then, we’ve made some changes to our house to curb electricity use.  To be honest, much of this house, including the heating system, is so well ventilated that you could blow out a candle from one end to the other.  (Our bill last month for electricity, which includes all systems, was about $335.  If you remember this post about the house, you’ll understand how much work we’ve already done!)  So this weekend, my husband got under the house and taped up a lot of falling insulation and weak spots in the tubing, my father shoved insulation in the back door jamb and put a rubber threshold on the bottom where it was still drafty, and we closed a sneaky upstairs window that managed to open itself up when we weren’t looking.  We need to remember to lock those windows, especially when we have wind storms!  The guys also worked on some areas that needed to be spackled and painted where there used to be doors to the outside, which added a more effective layer of insulation against the cold.

Already that’s made a lot of difference in just the feel of the air.  Our bedroom isn’t as cold as it normally is, despite nearly record-breaking cold outside.

We’re already looking for more “phantom” wasters – those things you don’t even notice that suck energy or money from your wallet.  Other random phantom wasters?

* Paper towels (put your cloth towels in an easily accessable place with a designated bin for dirty rags)
* Uncaulked window frames  – it’s amazing how much air can come through between a frame and the wall if the window is improperly insulated or on a windy side of the house!
* Hot water heaters set too high – they should be set at 120 degrees F.  Better yet, buy a water heater timer that will turn off the heater during times you never use hot water – like while you sleep.
* Disposable diapers and menstrual pads – name brand can cost up to $0.30 a piece – and you may use several a day!
* Commercial floor cleaners – many of them, like the Swiffer Wet Jet, use a solution that never rinses completely clean.  That means that it feels sticky and collects dirt quicker.  Not to mention the disposable pads!  Instead, use a vinegar and water solution with your own homemade wet jet cleaning cloths.
* Warming up your car – unless you have a very old model, it’s not necessary to warm up your car more than a couple minutes.
Sometimes the phantoms can be hard to find because they are just that – phantoms.  If our water bill hadn’t been so shocking, I would never have questioned it, and I could have been wasting both water and my money.  Sometimes we just need to have it pointed out to us – do any of my readers have any stories to share that will help us all find those phantoms?

Advertisements

3 responses to this post.

  1. Posted by Annette on January 3, 2010 at 11:06 pm

    Good points, I think I will definitely subscribe!🙂. I’ll go and read some more!

    Reply

  2. Posted by Holly/Poi on January 4, 2010 at 11:07 am

    I too spent the weekend looking for drafts in our old house and sealing them up! This stuff (there are also other brands) is a lifesaver: DAP Peel & Seal Removable Caulk

    We use it on all the windows (the insides, where they open/seal – as opposed to outside the frame, where regular caulk works great) every winter, then peel it off as needed in the spring.

    A good way to find air leaks is to walk around the house (slowly) with a burning stick of incense, and see where the smoke pulls and pushes.

    Another great investment for us was a programmable thermostat for about $40. We keep the temperature pretty darn low during the night and let it bump up about an hour before we get up in the morning, then it goes back down while we’re at work and then back up right before we get home. It also has separate settings for the weekends.

    Stay warm!

    Reply

  3. […] with the money to trim the sills still.  We’ve spent that on other, more necessary repairs, like the leaky water spigot […]

    Reply

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: