Planning for a baby is the perfect time to create a budget and get to grips with household bills, especially the big ones that cover the essentials of life such as our power and water. Finding the best deals, and clever ways to save is extremely satisfying, so if you’ve ever gasped at the size of your water bill, or perhaps felt faint at the amount you owe the electricity company, read on. By making your home and appliances more efficient you can save money and reduce your impact on the environment.
Pay online and on time
Firstly, how efficient are you at paying those bills? Give yourself a couple of things less to have to remember to do and set up your bills to be paid automatically online and on time to avoid overdue fees. When you have a new baby, trying to remember whether you’ve paid the power bill may well be too taxing for your tired brain, in the early months at least. Consider having separate accounts for your different utilities.
Install low-flow toilets
These use significantly less water than a full-flush toilet, so installing one will significantly reduce the amount of wastewater you’re paying for. If buying a whole new toilet is more than you can afford, you can achieve the same effect by adding a 2 litre plastic bottle filled with water or sand to the toilet tank. By doing this you’re reducing the amount of water you use with each flush by making the size of your tank smaller: the amount of water that the bottle displaces, is effectively how much “smaller” you’ve made your tank. (This is at your own risk!)
Install low-flow shower heads
This is one of the most effective water conservation savings you can do for your home. Low-flow shower-heads and taps help reduce water waste, but don't lower pressure. There are two types of low-flow shower heads: aerating and non-aerating.
Aerating - mixes air into the water stream. This maintains steady pressure so the flow has an even, full shower spray. Because air is mixed in with the water, the water temperature can cool down a bit towards the floor of the shower.
Non-aerating - air is not mixed into the water stream. This maintains the temperature well and delivers a strong spray. The water flow pulses with non-aerating shower heads, so you get more of a massaging-showerhead effect.
Add aerators to your water taps
An aerator reduces the amount of water your taps use and increases the water pressure. It screws onto the bottom of your tap and adds air into the water stream, acting like a sieve to reduce the amount of water coming through the faucet head. Because the aerator compacts the water flowing through, it also increases water pressure. There you go: better performance and money saved!
Insulate your hot-water storage tank
You can buy special hot water tank insulation blankets For electric tanks, be careful not to cover the thermostat, and for natural gas or oil hot water storage tanks, be careful not to cover the water heater's top, bottom, thermostat, or burner compartment. (Follow the manufacturer's recommendations). Insulate the first few feet of the hot and cold water pipes connected to the water heater. Install a timer that turns off your electric water heater at night or times when you don't use it. You could also use it to turn off the water heater during your utility's peak demand times.
There’s a guy in Palmerston North who reckons his ‘window blanket’ is as good as triple glazing. Palmerston North City Council eco design adviser Nelson Lebo told The New Zealand Listener that he attaches a cheap duvet along one edge of a wooden batten. On winter nights he wedges the batten into the top of the door frame so the duvet completely covers the glass in the window. He then hides the re-purposed bedding with lined, floor-length curtains.
Floor length curtains – preferably lined – are also essential to prevent heat loss. A pelmet along the top – or even a piece of wood or a rolled up towel – can further increase curtain efficiency by helping to stop what is known as the “reverse chimney effect”. This happens when warm air is pulled through the gap at the top of the curtains then comes out the bottom as cooler air.
Filling gaps around windows and outside doors with draught strips can help reduce heat loss.
Keep your home dry
Another of Nelson’s tips is to stop moisture coming through the floor of your house by laying heavy-duty builders’ polythene on the ground underneath it.
“Dollar for dollar, laying polythene is probably the best thing you can do for a home with a raised floor – the materials cost just over $1/sq m,” he told The Listener.