Baby Steps for Home Improvement: Reduce electricity and gas bills before winter sets in



Assistant Editor

Kimberly’s blog focuses on a single objective each month intended to help her and her readers take baby steps toward better living in the spirit of New Southerner. You can keep up with her progress by checking her weekly blog, Baby Steps. She welcomes reader response and hopes you’ll share your stories and challenges in the comments section or by e-mailing her at

October Objective: Sustainable House

September is over, and with it ends my focus on the Sustainable Body.  I hope those of you taking the same steps have found some success in eating healthier and more consciously. While I haven’t dropped any weight, I feel so much better and have longer periods of energy throughout the day. I haven’t lost weight because all I’ve done is found tasty, organic carbohydrates that don’t kill the budget, plus I spent a week in the seafood destination of the Southeast (Myrtle Beach)  and enjoyed too much wild-caught fried fish and locally brewed beer. Not eating processed food has definitely paid off, and from now on I will focus on adding more raw fruits and vegetables for better results.

Now that it’s October, I’m switching my focus to my household and reducing our electricity and gas bills. If we don’t do something by winter, we will be paying $200 for the gas that fuels our heating system. Bobbi, the editor of New Southerner, has an outdoor wood boiler that heats her family’s home and water for a few dollars a month. While that’s the best fix I can think of, it’s not on my to do list. However, insulating my house and preparing my fireplace will be part of the equation. I’ll start this week with a few easy fixes and habits to get the momentum going before rolling up my sleeves.

Baby Steps for Home Improvement: No bulb left behind, door draft dodging, and no more crisp and clean—just crispy

Not every bulb in my suburban home is a compact fluorescent one, though most are. The exception: the luxurious and large bulbs that line the bathroom mirror. I just haven’t been able to bring myself to look at a murky yellow image in the mirror. It’s bad enough as it is. Well, here it goes. Two are out. I’ll replace them with the recommended energy-saving fluorescents. Oh, and up the vigilance for turning off any electric appliances when not being used. That goes for you, too, my dear family.

Last year, my mother bought me twin draft guards for the doors to the house. These are admittedly neat little inventions that have two draft blockers on each side of the door, attached by cloth underneath, so you don’t have to worry about removing the draft stopper when you open and close it. Unfortunately, my 4-year-old, J.T., removed the stoppers’ Styrofoam inserts to use as light sabers, so I have to replace them. I don’t know where they are made or how sustainable they are, so this week I’ll attempt to make my own. I found this little guide at If that doesn’t work, I’ll just suck it up and buy the best and most locally produced product I can find.

For a while, I had been line-drying many of my clothes, even got locked out of the house in my pajamas one day while carrying out laundry (I had to walk to a neighbor’s house and call my mother-in-law to bring me a key). Another drawback is the stiffness of such items as jeans and towels, although this subsides some if you use less soap. But really, I’ve just grown too complacent. This is a good time to get started again, with the weather reflecting the glory of the season. In the winter, I have plenty of hanging space in the laundry room and have been known to use the shower rod when I have to catch up. And oh, no hot water for washing laundry … ever.

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