Spending money to save money

Last month our budget billing for our electric bill reset, and I got a pleasant surprise. The monthly bill is $7 less than last year. That’s $84 a year, which isn’t huge, but it’s significant–especially considering I never hear anyone say their electric bill went down. Only up. I had an idea in the back of my mind to spend the savings on another energy saving project, to keep the momentum going in the right direction.

Then my wife mentioned she’d like some new blinds. And the timing could scarcely have been better.

I knew that JC Penney sells insulated blinds. So that was the first place I looked–and I found them for 60% off. And I don’t know if it was a combination of it being Saturday when they run sales anyway, a holdover sale from Black Friday, or JC Penney just trying to drum up business, but I didn’t really care.

Insulated blinds are vinyl with molded-in fake wood detail and an insulating foam center. It makes them look like painted wood, but with better insulating properties and, most likely, a lower cost. The difference they make will depend on your windows and your curtains, but every R you can put between you and the elements helps. We have good thermal curtains and very bad aluminum frame windows. We’ll eventually replace the windows, but that’s an expensive project.

We got white. It matches the rest of the house, and white will reflect heat in the summer, rather than absorbing it.

I ended up buying blinds for more than just the window she asked for. New windows would save more energy than blinds with a couple millimeters of foam will, but it’s easier to recoup the cost of a $12 blind, and we’ll be able to keep using the blinds even after we replace the windows. All told, I bought around $180 worth.

More energy saving ideas

I’ve done a number of other things to help me save energy and money over the years besides thermal curtains and blinds. Most are pretty inexpensive. LED lighting was a big one. I insulated my hot water pipes. And I insulated my electrical outlets¬†and added child safety plates.

My electric usage dropped 19 percent in 2011, so these things work.

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