Saturday, August 27, 2011

The Smart Meter May Make Us Smarter Consumers for Washing Clothes

The smart meter is taking over the laundry at our house. We live in Texas, and the electric company has been installing smart meters at every home. Our smart meter replaced the old dial meter November a year ago. Our electric bill was $400 in December that year, and I complained bitterly, to no avail. We have never had an electric bill that high before or since.

The smart meter companies produce a report defining your usage by day, and even with a graph that reports your hourly usage. You can see peak usage hours. We have used electricity on Saturday and Sunday for years -- usually doing the laundry, running the dishwasher, and using lots of hot water. Since our smart meter report shows high electricity use on Saturday and Sunday, starting today we are not going to do any laundry on the weekends to see if it makes a significant difference in the weekend electricity use. If peak hours increase the cost per kwh, maybe adjusting the usage to non-peak hours and non-peak days will decrease our electric bill. We are experimenting, and will let you know what we find.

** See below for the results.

Laundry is one of the places you can save money as a consumer. Some of the new energy-efficient washers have no option for rinse water temperature -- it's cold or cold, or cold, on any wash setting. The high-efficiency washers adjust the water level according to the size of the load, so there is no water-level adjustment. These washers require high-efficiency laundry detergent that works like dishwasher detergent. It is low-suds, but effective.

Take a lesson from the high-efficiency washer and use cold for all your rinse cycles. Hot water will not rinse your clothes any better than cold water, and you save water-heating money by using cold water rinse for every load. Use the water-level adjustment if your washer has one, limiting your high water-level adjustment to full loads.

Use natural products for your laundry and save money. Borax or hydrogen peroxide are germicides that you can use in the wash cycle. Hydrogen peroxide is a mild bleach, so use about half a cup of 3 percent hydrogen peroxide instead of bleach or the same amount of borax in the wash cycle. Adding 1/4 cup of baking soda to the final rinse removes odors and eliminates the need for fabric softener. These natural products are better for you and the environment and are inexpensive alternatives to expensive bleaches, detergents and fabric softeners.

Looks like we were able to drop our Saturday and Sunday usage by 9 kWh each day. We were using about 42 kWh, but September 3 and 4 show 32 and 33 kWh. We did not have the oven on on Saturday, but cooked rolls on Sunday. August 27 and 28 registered 41 and 42 kWh, but the temperature was about 4 degrees higher as well. The total usage for the week is registering 249 kWh for a total of about $30. Projected cost for the month is shown at $141 to $174. That's good enough in this Texas heat.

Thanks for following!

The lantana is still blooming, although we've had no rain for a couple of months. We water twice a week, but some of the plants are struggling.

Energy Savers: Reduce Hot Water Use for Energy Savings

See you soon with a smart meter report and more consumer tips you can use for green living and for saving money.


Sunday, August 14, 2011

Texas brown is a stark comparison to the lush green of West Virginia this summer. We left the brown scorched earth and 111 degrees in Dallas and looked down on the fields, anxious to see some greenery. It didn't take long to travel to another climate. The green was everywhere in W. Va.; so was the rain and cooler temperatures.

After not flying for several years, we experienced consumerism and the changes first-hand in airport security and passenger controls. We shed our shoes and set out our bottles in the quart Ziploc bag for all to see. The alarm sounded and I got escorted to the side of the line with a call for "female assist." My necklace would not pass screening without removal. They placed it in a dish that looked like it had watered the dog, ran it through the x-ray and left it just out of reach for me to retrieve.

The reassurance of the captain that they were tightening the last few bolts at the rear of the plane was not comforting in Detroit. The flight out of Charleston, W. Va. was delayed 45 minutes for a flat tire that the captain reported as "worn." That made us wonder the status of other tires and parts, but the airline has your money and your soul once you board the plane.

We had 15 minutes to make a connection in Atlanta because of the flight delay, and no one was there to pick us up. Years ago, the airline would have had a shuttle there to take the delayed passengers to the next flight. We got a workout but made the connecting flight.

Airline fares depend on where you purchase your tickets, how far in advance you buy and what services you need. If word-of-mouth is a good indicator, Southwest Airlines has good deals, including no charge for a checked bag or two. Delta currently charges $25 for checked baggage, and that is $25 each way for a round-trip. You can have a purse or laptop and a carry-on, along with a jacket or shirt, but all checked luggage costs a fee. You still receive a complimentary cold drink and nuts or cookie on Delta flights, and the flight attendants still smile.

You can find ticket prices online at several discount websites, but buying from the airline is usually a good idea. You can get a low fare with the airline directly and know who to contact if you have issues. Your flight may be cheaper if you fly during the week and stay over a weekend. You may qualify for discounts by charging your flight on a specific credit card, so check before you buy the tickets.

If you belong to AAA or AARP, use discounts for motels and a rental car for significant savings. Shop online and by telephone for the best rate. Stay at motels slightly out of town and away from the airport for a better bargain. The Sleep Inn in Mink Shoals was the best bargain in the Charleston Area; the Best Western Plus in Irving was a great deal in the Dallas area.

We're glad to be back in sunny Texas, greeted by thirsty birds, squirrels and flowers, water restrictions and brown earth. Our yard and many others have remained a green oasis for animal shelter in the city.

See you again soon!  In the meantime, read some retirement information written just for you.

Our Retirement Living Guide for Senior Citizens is now in eBook format for your e-reader. You can also read it on your computer, with a generous portion available for free. Learn to enjoy retirement and make your money last your lifetime. You don't have to buy the eBook to read some for free and decide if you want to purchase the whole book at $2.99.