More low-cost ways to lower your utility bills
After I suggested a few low-cost ways to lower utility bills, I was hit with quite a bunch of suggestions. I researched them, and found that most were quite viable and very reasonably priced. Therefore, without further ado, here are a few (more) low-cost ways to drop your utility bill:
The ever-ingenious Carol noted that ceiling fans are not only useful in the summer; if you reverse the direction of the fan during the winter, it actually pushes warm air back toward the ground, reducing wasted heat. In the process, it keeps the air moving, which maximizes the effect of your other heaters and baseboard heat. Having installed a few ceiling fans, I have to admit that it's a fairly involved task (set aside a couple of hours), but they are surprisingly cheap and really help keep your home liveable. Just don't put them in low-ceilinged rooms!
Carol also notes that heating an oven uses up a lot of energy, so you might want to rely on some of your smaller appliances, like microwaves and toaster ovens, for much of your cooking. Alternately, if you are going to use the oven, try planning meals that can be completely prepared in the oven. This will save you time, reduce cleaning, and maximize your oven usage.
Drainpipe Heat Exchangers
Winston wrote me about drainpipe heat exchangers, which are an amazing idea. Basically, they collect the hot wastewater from your house (drainage from your dishwasher, clothes washer, shower, etc.). They then use this wastewater to pre-heat the water coming into your house. This means that, when your frigid outside water gets to the water heater, it has already been warmed. This, in return, greatly lowers your water-heating bill.
Unfortunately, drainpipe heat exchangers aren't very cheap, but the machinery will last for a very long time, enabling you to save an almost immeasurable amount on your utility bills. If you're going to live in your current home for a while, you might want to check it out.
Mark Tyrol of Battic Door put up a huge comment (actually, I think he cut-and-pasted some promo material from his site). However, after a quick look at his information, I was quite impressed. Basically, his company sells insulation materials for some of the largest holes in your house--your attic, your fireplace, and your clothes dryer exhaust. Their products are all very inexpensive and seem to be well-designed. If I still had an attic, fireplace, or dryer exhaust, I'd definitely give them a peek.
General Savings Tips
Nora noted that she has installed a timer on her water heater. Essentially, she turns it off when she doesn't need it, saving the cost of heating water all day. She also noted that using a rainbarrel to catch water was a low-cost way of irrigating her garden. Similarly, Carol noted that cold-water clothes washing and rinsing not only slows fading, but also reduces your energy bill. The same can be said for fluorescent light bulbs; by 2012 or so, they are going to be the only lighbulbs available, but that doesn't mean that you can't start saving money now!
As always, thank you for your comments and outstanding energy-saving ideas!