4 tips to save money at home while you’re on vacation

Getting ready for vacation is exciting and, well, exhausting. Packing everyone’s clothes, not to mention diapers, snacks and toys is a lot of work. And don’t even think about ...

Tagged: save energy, save money, vacation

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4 tips to save money at home while you’re on vacation

Young girl in sunglasses tips her face toward the sun while holding a suitcase in her lap

To make getting out the door a little easier, here’s a check list of quick things you can do to make sure your home doesn’t waste energy while you’re out exploring the world.

Key Points

  • Save money at home while you’re on vacation.
  • Turn off the A/C and water heater, and unplug your electronics.
  • Fill your fridge with pitchers of water to help it run more efficiently. 

Getting ready for vacation is exciting and, well, exhausting. Packing everyone’s clothes, not to mention diapers, snacks and toys is a lot of work. And don’t even think about trying to leave behind any one of the five plush toys that your 2-year-old needs to sleep. “They need me!” she says. Yes, Annie, Lambie would be very sad without you.

To make getting out the door a little easier, here’s a check list of quick things you can do to make sure your home doesn’t waste energy while you’re out exploring the world:

  1. Turn off the A/C — There’s no reason to cool an empty house this summer. Instead, you can set the thermostat to 90 or just turn it off completely. You can save 2-3 percent on your electric bill for every degree you raise your thermostat while you’re gone. That could result in some pretty substantial savings, especially for longer vacations. But if you have a pet, don’t do that. Leave the house at a temperature that will keep Whiskers happy. If you have a programmable thermostat, make sure to set it to the “vacation” mode before you leave.
  2. Pull the plug — Your electronics use energy even when not in use. So, unplug your TV, lamps, coffee maker, digital clocks, cell phone chargers, computers and game systems, to name a few.
  3. Give your water heater a break — Shut off the circuit breaker to the water heater. This will save lots of energy by not heating water you won’t be using while you’re away. If you have a gas heater, turn the gas valve off to be safe. (This tip is for summer vacations only. During a winter getaway, set your water heater to its lowest possible setting to keep the water from freezing in the lines.)
  4. Prep the fridge — You likely tried to eat all the groceries before leaving home, but a full fridge actually takes less energy to run. If your trip will take fewer than four weeks, consider filling the fridge with things like bottles of water. If you’ll be away for more than four weeks, it might be worth cleaning out the whole fridge and unplugging it until you get back.

Now back to packing. Wish me luck fitting Lambie in the suitcase. 


Sarah FolslandSarah is mom to the two cutest little girls in the world. Before choosing to make changing diapers and reading bed time stories her full time gig, she earned a degree in political science from The University of South Dakota, worked in the governor’s office as a policy analyst and dabbled in communications at her local utility. Follow Sarah on Twitter @EnergyMommy.

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Star in your own home-improvement show with this weekend project

It might not be #demoday, but you can channel your inner Chip Gaines of HGTV “Fixer Upper” fame to complete some DIY projects around your house that can save money and energy.

Insulating ...

Tagged: water heater, insulation, diy project, save money

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Star in your own home-improvement show with this weekend project

DIY spelled out with wrenches

A good weekend project is insulating your hot water tank. It’s a quick project that will save you money every month.

Key Points

  • Insulating your water tank can start saving you money every month.
  • If your water tank is warm to the touch, it needs to be insulated.
  • The project will pay for itself in about a year. 

It might not be #demoday, but you can channel your inner Chip Gaines of HGTV “Fixer Upper” fame to complete some DIY projects around your house that can save money and energy.

Insulating your water heater tank is a good weekend project. It's quick and will save you money every month.

New tanks usually come insulated already, but most older models don’t. Wondering if you need to insulate? Just touch your tank. If it’s warm to the touch, you need insulation.

According to the Department of Energy, insulating your water tank can reduce standby heat losses by 25-45 percent and saves you about 7-15 percent in water-heating costs. The project should pay for itself in about a year.

Here are official instructions from the DOE. We can’t confirm it, but we’re pretty sure they’re Chip Gaines approved.

Before you start 

  • Check with your energy company to see if they offer rebates or low-priced water heater blankets. Some utilities even install these at a low or no cost.
  • Be sure that your water heater is not leaking. If your tank leaks, you need a new water heater.
  • For an electric water heater, you also might consider insulating underneath the tank as well. A ridged piece of insulation (or bottom board) will help prevent heat loss and could save you another 4-9 percent of energy. It is best done when installing a new water heater.

Shopping list 

  • A helper (you’ll need four hands for this one)
  • Tape measure
  • Marker
  • Scissors
  • Water heater insulating blanket kit
  • Gloves and a dust mask
  • Electrical or other tape (tape comes with most insulation blanket kits)

If you're a visual learner, check out this instructional video.

If you need step-by-step instructions ...

  1. Turn off the water heater. For electric heaters, turn off the breaker at the electric panel. For gas water heaters, turn the gas valve to the “Pilot” position.
  2. Measure the height of the water heater, and cut the blanket to fit if necessary. Leave the top of the water heater open. It’s especially important not to block the vent on top of a gas unit.
  3. Wrap the blanket around the water heater and temporarily tape it in place. For ease of installation, position the blanket so that the ends do not come together over the access panels in the side of the tank. Some tanks have only one access panel.
  4. Using a marker, mark the areas where controls are so that you can cut them out. For electric water heater units, there will be two panels on the side of the tank. For gas, you'll need to mark an arch-shaped hole around the gas valves and burner. Be sure to leave plenty of room around the valve and burner areas below. Make the opening at least an inch wider than the valve and burner area. Also, mark the area where the pressure relief valve and pipe are. This will be a pipe that sticks out of the side of the water heater.
  5. Install the blanket. Be careful to line up the cut-out areas and then tape the blanket permanently in place.
  6. Turn the water heater back on. Don't set the thermostat above 130 degrees on electric water heater with an insulating jacket or blanket, as this may cause the wiring to overheat.

Sarah FolslandSarah is mom to the two cutest little girls in the world. Before choosing to make changing diapers and reading bed time stories her full time gig, she earned a degree in political science from The University of South Dakota, worked in the governor’s office as a policy analyst and dabbled in communications at her local utility. Follow Sarah on Twitter @EnergyMommy.

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Larry Farrell
I have received notice that our bill is past due....have checked my files and I did not receive my bill as yet.
5 months 6 hours ago
Hi Larry, Thanks for your note. Could you contact us through one of the ways listed at www.blackhillsenergy.com/contact? That'll help us to find your account information and get your issue resolved. Thanks! ^Hillary
5 months 5 hours ago

Laundry jargon guide

You might be doing your laundry all wrong.

Choosing the incorrect setting on your washer and dryer isn’t only bad for your clothes; it could be wasting energy.

For ...

Tagged: laundry, save energy, washing machine, save money

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Laundry jargon guide

Washer and dryer

Choosing the incorrect setting on your washer and dryer isn’t only bad for your clothes; it could be wasting energy.

Key Points

  • Choose the right settings on your washer and dryer to save your clothes and some energy.
  • Run full loads to save water.
  • Turn down your water heater thermostat to save on the cost of running your washing machine.

You might be doing your laundry all wrong.

Choosing the incorrect setting on your washer and dryer isn’t only bad for your clothes; it could be wasting energy.

For instance, choosing the “delicates” setting on your dryer might be a less energy-efficient option because it uses low heat, leading to a longer drying time.

Thankfully, the good folks over at Southern California Edison are taking the guess work out of all those settings. Here’s a handy infographic from SCE to help you save your clothes and some energy



Washer Settings

Hot Water (120-140°F) - Use for white cotton items; the higher temp helps kill more bacteria and keep whites bright.

Warm Water (85-105°F) – Use for synthetic fabrics (such as nylon, polyester or spandex) and colors to help prevent color fading and damage.

Cold Water (65-75°F) – Use for dark items and delicate fabrics to help prevent color fading.

Regular/Normal – This setting uses hot water and fast agitation, which is how much the center device shakes or spins your clothes. It’s good for washing white clothes. Washing darker colors in this setting could cause fading.

Permanent Press – This setting uses warm water, cool rinse and mild agitation. It’s good for colored clothing. 

Delicates – This setting uses cold water and light agitation. It’s good for more delicate or stretchable fabrics.

Dryer Settings

Automatic Dry – This setting is more energy-efficient than timed dry because it automatically adjusts the length of the cycle based on the level of moisture in the fabric. It also helps prevent damage to your clothes due to over-drying.

Regular/Heavy – This is the fastest and hottest setting and is best for drying white or light-colored clothes; however, keep in mind that washing in hot water and drying on Regulary/Heavy will shrink fabrics.

Permanent Press – This setting uses medium heat and is best for colored fabrics. Avoid drying delicate fabrics in this setting because they can get damaged.

Delicates – This setting uses low heat, so the drying time will be longer. It is best for delicate fabrics.

Air Fluff – This setting is not used to dry clothes, because it does not use heat. It instead draws in room temperature air, and should be used to “fluff” out your clothes and make them less stiff.

Other laundry energy-saving tips include washing only full loads, which could save over 3,400 gallons of water each year, or turning down your water heater thermostat to 120°F, which could allow you to save up to 20% on the cost of running your washing machine.


Sarah FolslandSarah is mom to the two cutest little girls in the entire world. Before choosing to make changing diapers and reading bed time stories her full time gig, she earned an M.A.in Political Science from The University of South Dakota, worked in the Governor’s Office as a policy analyst and dabbled in communications at her local utility. Follow Sarah on Twitter @EnergyMommy.

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Three ways to save energy (and money) on your summer road trip

If your idea of a great vacation includes seeing sights like Wall Drug, the world’s largest peanut statue and a gigantic twine ball, then we have the road trip tips you need to ...

Tagged: roadtrip, alternative fuel, save energy, save money, Energy Department

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Three ways to save energy (and money) on your summer road trip

VW on a roadtrip

Which car should I use? How can I get more gas mileage? Where's the nearest alternative fueling station? We've got you covered.

Key Points

  • You can save energy and money on your road trip.
  • Use online tools to determine which vehicle has the cheapest ride.
  • Skip the overhead cargo bin and avoid aggressive driving to increase fuel economy.  

If your idea of a great vacation includes seeing sights like Wall Drug, the world’s largest peanut statue and a gigantic twine ball, then we have the road trip tips you need to save energy this summer.

Here are three tools to help you save some energy on your road trip, and free up more cash for those commemorative spoons you’ve been eying:

  1. Trip Calculator  – This tool helps you decide which car to use. So if you’re debating between taking the minivan or the station wagon, you can make an informed decision. On a side note, we had a weird station wagon with a third row that faced backwards growing up. As the outcast middle child, I always ended up back there. Riding backwards sounds like a lot of fun until you get car sick on the winding roads in the Black Hills, no matter how much more fuel efficient it is.
  2. Fuel Economy – This site gives tons of great tips on how to get more mileage from each tank. For instance, aggressive driving can cost you as much as 28 cents a gallon. And try to pack light – that overhead cargo bin could be costing you as much as 47 cents a gallon because of its wind resistance.
  3. Plan your route – Check this site out if you need to figure out where you can charge your electric vehicle, or where you can get alternative fuels like biodiesel, compressed natural gas or E85. As a bonus for you excel-loving geeks out there, it will even make a spreadsheet for you complete with each station’s contact info and hours of operation. If you’re an accountant, you’re probably getting so giddy you almost spilled coffee on your ten key. Settle down.

For even more tips, check out this #AskEnergySaver article over at energy.gov to get the skinny on whether it’s more efficient to use the AC or drive with the windows down, and what your tire pressure can do for your  gas mileage.



Sarah FolslandSarah is mom to the two cutest little girls in the entire world. Before choosing to make changing diapers and reading bed time stories her full time gig, she earned an M.A.in Political Science from The University of South Dakota, worked in the Governor’s Office as a policy analyst and dabbled in communications at her local utility. Follow Sarah on Twitter @EnergyMommy.

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Dixie Chicks, cookies and conservation: The perfect combo

 

My husband does an impression of me listening to country music and baking cookies. It includes some pretty amazing dance moves and using a mixing spoon as a mic. ...

Tagged: save energy, save money, Dixie Chicks

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Dixie Chicks, cookies and conservation: The perfect combo

Woman cooking

Three ways to save money in the kitchen right now.

Key Points

  • Saving energy in the kitchen is easy.
  • Use flat pots. Warped ones waste energy.
  • Prep before you cook to reduce burner time. 

 

My husband does an impression of me listening to country music and baking cookies. It includes some pretty amazing dance moves and using a mixing spoon as a mic. I choose to ignore his ridicule and continue this favorite pastime of mine. There’s nothing better than a little cooking therapy. And singing with my friends Martina, Carrie and Taylor only makes it better. Throw in a Dixie Chick or two, and it’s a party.

Whether you like to spend a whole day creating five-course feasts, or you prefer to use a microwave to heat up quick meals, we can all save some money in the kitchen.

Here are three ways to save right now:

  1. Make sure your pots and pans are up to the job.
    You know those old pans left over from your dorm room days that teeter back and forth when you set them on the counter? It’s time to let them go. Not only are they probably not cooking your onions evenly, they’re taking a lot of energy to do it. In fact, a pot with a warped bottom takes 50 percent more energy to get the job done than one that’s flat.
  2. Don’t forget the prep.
    When my favorite Food Network chefs cook, I’m always a little jealous of the neat little bowls full of chopped and measured ingredients. Sure you can make this meal in 30 minutes Rachel – the prep was all done before you started the timer! It turns out doing all that chopping and measuring before you turn on the stove top does more than make cooking easy. It saves energy. We tend to leave the burner on too long when we’re distracted with the cutting board and measuring spoons. Your meal will turn out better, and you’ll save some money.
  3. Use your self-cleaning oven wisely.
    Instead of turning on the clean cycle at random, time your oven’s cleaning for just after you’ve used it to bake. That way your oven will already be warm, saving some major ramp-up heat.

Happy cooking! And if anyone asks, yes, Earl really did have to die.  


Sarah is mom to the two cutest little girls in the entire world. Before choosing to make changing diapers and reading bed time stories her full time gig, she earned an M.A.in Political Science from The University of South Dakota, worked in the Governor’s Office as a policy analyst and dabbled in communications at her local utility. 

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