Household Expenses You Can Do Without

Washing the dishesConventional wisdom would say that washing dishes is more energy-efficient than using the dishwasher, and that you need air cleaners to help keep your home free of pollutants. But sometimes, conventional wisdom needs to be rethought, and when warranted, debunked.

People will shell out money on household expenses "that they think will save them money," says Celia Kuperszmid Lehrman, deputy home editor of Consumer Reports. "But some of these things you just don't need to buy or do." And they could even wind up costing you more in the end, she says.

Celia Kuperszmid Lehrman spoke to WalletPop about five seeming"essentials" not to waste your money on.

Buying an Air Cleaner/Purifier

"I'm sure you've seen the ads saying that indoor air is dirtier than outdoor air, but the truth is that most healthy people don't need a portable air cleaner/purifier," Kuperszmid Lehrman says.

"And there's little definitive medical evidence that air cleaners help relieve asthma and allergies."

Instead, there are mostly free and low-cost things consumers should do before shelling out for an air cleaner, she says, and Consumer Reports contends.

Start with some simple, common-sense methods, she says. For one, vacuum more frequently -- at least once a week -- to help clear the air of pollutants.

What's more, "ban indoor smoking, and if you have pets, you want to keep them out of the bedroom" where people tend to spend much of their time, she says.

Avoid using candles, incense and air fresheners, which tend to be irritants for many people. And make sure your home is adequately ventilated. "The simplest thing is making sure your windows are open during the warmer weather," Kuperszmid Lehrman says.

Buying a New Dryer When Your Washer Goes Kaput

As a general rule, clothes dryers tend to outlast washers. And it's common for consumers to replace a perfectly good, working dryer just to have a matching set, Kuperszmid Lehrman says.

Don't do it: While washers have become more water- and energy-efficient, dryer technology has pretty much stagnated.

And, according to the Environmental Protection Agency and the Department of Energy, most dryers use a similar amount of energy, which is why none carry the Energy Star label, she says. "So if you have a working dryer with a moisture sensor -- which is the majority of dryers -- there's no performance-based reason to replace the dryer."

Still, according to manufacturers, most people do buy both washer and dryer, even if only the washer isn't working, "sometimes with the prompting of salespeople who offer deals on sets," Kuperszmid Lehrman says. You're wasting your money on a dryer simply to have a matchy-matchy laundry room. "Most laundry areas are hardly style-driven spaces," she says.

Getting Your Air Ducts Cleaned

If your mailbox is stuffed with an assortment of promotional flyers, it's pretty much a safe bet to chuck the one urging you to have the air ducts cleaned.

Often duct-cleaning companies claim that dirty ducts are a health risk and caution about possible mold in the ducts, for one, Kuperszmid Lehrman says.

"The truth is that there is no proof that cleaning the ducts prevents health problems, according to the EPA," she says. "There aren't even studies that show that dirty ducts increase the level of airborne particles in your home."

What's more, there is little evidence that cleaning the ducts improves the efficiency of homes' cleaning, heating and cooling systems, the EPA says.

Hand Washing Your Dishes

If you have a dishwasher, use it. Washing dishes by hand can not only be a drag, but it turns out it's also costly. "People don't realize there is that much money literally going down the drain," Kuperszmid Lehrman says.

That's because you're wasting money on paying for the water and paying to heat the water.

Consider this: The water that runs from your faucet is coming out at a rate of two-and-a-half gallons per minute. So "if you spend five minutes washing something, you're really wasting a lot of water," she says.

And heating water is one of the highest annual costs of energy consumption in the home. By contrast, the dishwasher is more efficient and uses less water.

If you loathe leaving dirty dishes in the sink, run a rinse cycle instead of a full cycle, Kuperszmid Lehrman says. And "wasting all that water is also bad for the environment."

Buying Bottled Water

Bottled water can cost you as much as $2.00 for a 16-ounce bottle.

And often bottled water is "actually just filtered tap water, so you're not necessarily buying water that's any better," Kuperszmid Lehrman says.

Save your money: You're better off buying a water filter that matches the amount of water you consume, be it a pitcher filter or a faucet mount filter, if you're interested in ridding the water of certain contaminants, the most common being lead, she says.
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