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Trying to save on resources in your home is not only economically logical, but it can be ecologically logical as well. Here are four ideas on how you can have both of these in your daily living.

1. Monitor how you use your water.

Creative Commons License Joe Shlabotnik via Compfight

For instance, when you’re brushing your teeth do you leave the water running while you’re actually brushing? One way to save on water is to start off with water in a cup or glass and then turn off the tap. When you brush your teeth, rinse with some of the water that’s in the cup, brush some more, and use more water that’s in the cup to rinse out your mouth and clean up your brush. That type of thing can save a lot of water over time.

The same thing goes for washing dishes. If you use a dishwasher, there’s often a setting for saving water. It uses less water to clean your dishes, and obviously it works otherwise the setting wouldn’t be there. You can also reduce water consumption if you’re washing your dishes by hand by not having the water on full while you’re doing them, instead stopping up water to wash and rinse the dishes with.

2. Unplug appliances you’re not using.

You might not know this, but any item that’s plugged in that’s not in use still uses a little bit of electricity. On its own an appliance that’s not in use probably isn’t costing you a lot of money, but if you have a lot of appliances that are plugged in that aren’t being used, it could start totaling up to some significant dollars. Of course significant dollars depends on the item that’s plugged in and how much electricity is in your area, but any waste that you can eliminate could help out.

3. Make sure your household products are in a well ventilated area.

It’s probably better if you can buy products that have very few chemicals in them to begin with, but if you’re going to buy some standard products you need to make sure that they’re kept in a very well ventilated area. The reason for this is that when certain chemicals mix with each other, even just fumes, they can create either poisonous or explosive gases, neither of which is good for your home. You should probably never keep any of these items in your bathroom either, though most people tend to keep these things under the sink which is another bad place for them. A well ventilated area might be something like a laundry room where you can put things on shelves instead of putting them in small enclosed cabinets. True, things can still mix, but the concentration levels will be much lower and therefore less dangerous.

4. Take advantage of some natural resources.

If you’re trying to warm up your house in the winter time and you have an area that has a lot of sun, open up your windows and let the sunlight help warm your house. If your house feel stuffy and you don’t have the ability to open up the doors and windows, add some plants to the room since they help to reduce carbon dioxide levels and increase oxygen levels. If you have a dry room, you can get some benefit by putting either pans or bowls of water in strategic areas as opposed to using humidifiers.

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This week President Obama first floated the balloon, then put out the message in his State of the Union address that he’d like to make college free. Well, that’s not quite accurate. He wants to make community college free for everyone across the country, with the caveat that they get at least a 2.5 GPA and have a commitment to get that associates degree or are working towards transferring to a 4-year school after 2 years.

Downing College, Cambridge
Steve Day via Compfight

It’s based on programs in the state of Tennessee and the city of Chicago, which means this isn’t just a Republican or Democratic plan. The ideas are two-fold. One, it would help many students reduce their college debt if they could knock out some of their early classes at community college; two, it would encourage more students to better prepare before they went to college because, for many, a 2-year degree is all they need for many professions.

Of course the cost is what anyone against this plan is looking at, and it wouldn’t be cheap. The President advocates that the federal government would pay 75% and the states would pick up the the rest, and it’s estimated to cost at least $60 billion a year. I’m not fully sure where that money would come from, but it seems that someone would be getting taxed for it.

By the way, this wouldn’t be a gimme. Students would still have to be approved based on their high school grades and of course some might have to change majors to get in, like I had to when I went to college. And if the qualification is that 2.5 GPA then there’s either some penalty for those who don’t achieve that grade or… well, I’m not sure what happens if they’re bounced. Does someone else get their spot if they get bounced in the first semester? Also, it would put more onus on community college to make sure students are taking the proper courses for a career track, no matter which degree they’re ultimately shooting for; I couldn’t tell you if they do that now.

I like this idea, although I’d love to know how it’s going to be paid for. As the title suggests, this isn’t really new, just a revisiting of something some states have had in the past. For years, all state colleges in California were free to residents for the longest time. In NYC, City College was free until 1976 when it couldn’t be supported anymore when the city was having major financial difficulties.

It’s also not unique to just the federal government this time around, as the governor of Arkansas stated in 2013 that it was his wish to attempt to make college free to its residents as long as they maintained that same magical 2.5 GPA.

Leaving the question of how it will be paid for, I have to say this would help way more than it would hurt. There would still be costs associated, such as buying books and paying to live in a dorm, but those costs would be way less without having to pay for school also. Right now there are many kind who have the grades to go but can’t get loans, and we’re losing some great minds who need some kind of degree to have opportunities they can’t get without one.

Also, more loan money would then be available for those students who decide to go straight to a traditional university, since many of those students can’t get loans based on some of the qualifications they and their families have to get beyond first.

As I said, I like the plan, and I’d love to see what many of you think. Still, the money thing is going to be the most important thing, and I’m not as worried about federal money as I am about the states being able to contribute.

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There are things that aren’t in my knowledge base. Thus, when I realized it was time to find a way to reduce my winter heating bill, I had a hard time coming up with something. Then I remembered that about 15 years ago my wife and I had a kerosene heater. I’m not sure what happened to it during a move to our house at the time, but we bought another one in 2003 that failed miserably. We got it started, but it smoked up outside the day we tried it and never lost the smoke. Thus it seemed like a lost cause.

DuraHeat Convection
Kerosene Heater

Then last year neither of us were home most of the winter, as we both travel a lot for work. However, it was the year of multiple polar vortexes, and even though we weren’t home, we had to leave the heat on at least 63° to keep the pipes safe. This led to bills around $535 for a 2-month period, and $450 in the other month, when supposedly it had started getting warmer.

That just wouldn’t do, especially since I’m back home this winter. The prospect of what could be $600 bills (without knowing that the price of natural gas was going to decline some) was scary. I started to reconsider this ban on kerosene heaters, thinking that the technology had to have improved some over the last 11 years.

I bought the one in the picture to the right (if you click on the image it’ll take you to an affiliate link for purchase). It doesn’t matter what brand your heater is, but that’s the one I bought because it looked like it would be easy to use. Trust me, I needed easy.”

Suffice it to say, running it is very easy; getting it out of the box wasn’t. Still, I got it out of the box and followed the directions in getting started, except for putting all that metal stuff around it. I know it’s for your protection but I found it noisy and since I have no kids or pets I figured I could go without it. All I had to do was put the batteries in (it takes 2 C batteries for its electric ignition), fill it up with the kerosene, wait an hour for the wick to soak up some of the kerosene, then push down on the lever, wait for it to light up, and adjust from there.

Now some data. I have kept the temperature in the house at 63°; the experiment wouldn’t work without doing that. The initial space I had to warm up was about 400 square feet. I turned the kerosene heater on and within an hour it had brought the temperature in that space up to 78°; nice! Actually that’s a bit too hot on an ongoing basis, but I wanted to see what would happen. That covers my office, the master bedroom and my bathroom.

Next I tried it in a much larger space, about 850 square feet. This covers my living room, the dining room and the kitchen (the furthest space other than the laundry room).

Initially we didn’t have a barrier up for the back bedrooms and offices, so the figure is slightly skewed. Still, within 60 minutes the temperature in the living room and dining room was around 74°, the kitchen was around 68°, and main thermostat showed 72° as well. Since the thermostat is around the back bedrooms, though those doors were closed, it shows how well the heat spread. Once we put a barrier up, the living room and dining room got up around 76°, the kitchen around 72°.

The utility bill for November was around $285; that’s pretty amazing, although there were some warm days during the month. I figured the real test would be when my wife and I were both home for two weeks during the holidays, which included a party and much colder weather. I just received the bill and it’s only $330, way down from last year. Since my wife has left again that means electricity usage, which went up while she was here, will decrease, and it’s possible that my bill for January will be much lower, even if it gets colder.

The part I haven’t covered yet is the cost of the kerosene. I purchased a 5-gallon plastic tank for that, and initially when I started it was $3.99 a gallon. Now it’s down to $3.25, and since I only purchase 4 1/2 gallons at a time, and when I’m home by myself I only have to fill it up once a week (since I now shut it down when the temperature gets to 74°), that means it’s costing me less than $65 a month for kerosene.

Thus, for December, with my wife home, staying warm and running everything else cost less than $400. That’s not bad as far as savings go compared to last year, around $150. Who couldn’t find another use for $150 during the cold months?

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