Living for the Long Haul: How can we save energy and money without spending any money?

Eight easy, practical ways to cut back on some of our energy usage.


We began this series by stating that our households today use approximately 10 times the electricity that our relatives did in 1950 and noted that our homes are about twice the size.

If our parents and grandparents here in rural Minnesota could live so frugally, perhaps we can find ways to cut back on some of our energy usage. Some of us may actually be able to ask our parents or grandparents how to do this.

Here are eight easy, practical ways (that we have put into practice here at Balsam Moon) to save energy (and money) without spending any money:

  1. Close off unused rooms in the winter: Block both the heat vent and cold air return vent along with closing the door and placing a rug/small blanket roll at the bottom of the door. This will significantly lower the temperature of the room and save considerably on the heating bill.

  2. Cover windows at night: We lose about 25% of our heat through our windows. If you have curtains or shades, close them. If you don’t, tack up bed sheets or blankets. It will make a huge difference in your heating bill.

  3. Wash clothes in cold water and line dry them inside or outside. Skipping the clothes dryer saves a large amount of energy whether you use an electric or gas dryer, and line drying results in less wear on your clothes.

  4. Turn down water heater temperature to warm (120 degrees Fahrenheit): Lowering the water temperature will save a significant amount of energy.

  5. Turn off the water heater when leaving the house for an extended period of time. If you have an electric water heater, this is as simple as locating the circuit breaker that controls the water heater and flipping it off when you leave for the weekend or vacation. Upon your return, flip it back on - it will only take 30-45 minutes to have hot water. You will see a major savings on your electric bill. Gas water heaters may be more problematic to turn off so get advice from a professional first.

  6. Pull the plug on electronic devices when not in use. Almost all electronic devices use a small amount of electricity when plugged in and not in use (phantom electric usage). However, when the number of devices is multiplied by the number of hours they are plugged in, it amounts to a large number of kilowatt-hours of electricity used each year. For example, a DVR, when not in use, draws 3700 watts. That is equivalent to having 37 (100 watt) light bulbs burning 24 hours a day. A television draws 1800 watts, a microwave draws 200 watts and a garage door opener draws 200 watts. Unplugging these between uses is somewhat inconvenient but, if you happen to have a power strip, you can plug in numerous items to the power strip and turn them off and on with the flip of a switch.

  7. Bank leaves or snow around the foundation of your house in fall. Many of us lose a great deal of heat through the foundation of our houses because cement has poor insulation properties. When I was young, many folks “banked” their houses with leaves, straw or hay to insulate the foundation and prevent pipes from freezing. With central heating we don’t have to worry so much about pipes freezing but there is still energy waste through foundation heat loss. (If you have spring basement water problems you may not want to bank with snow.)

  8. Reduce amount of travel. The COVID-19 pandemic has taught us a few important lessons about travel. We don’t need to leave our homes to have a meeting or take a class. There are several Internet platforms where we can “meet.” Further, we can shop locally and group trips/errands to further reduce travel. We found that we have used our electric car less during the shelter-in-place. When we compared our electric usage in June 2019 to June 2020, we found that we used 60% less electricity in 2020. The decrease was likely due to reduced travel.

We have applied all eight of these energy-saving steps, and many more, at Balsam Moon and can attest to the fact that they save energy and money, without spending any additional money. It’s a good place to start.
(References to all factual information quoted provided on request and comments and questions are encouraged:



Douglas J. Weiss and Barb Mann own Balsam Moon in Pine River, a spiritual place of peace, sustainability and renewal.


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