While the holidays usually represent massive purchases of items destined for landfills and dark corners of attics and basements, there are several items you can purchase this holiday season that will pay for themselves many times over and put a smile on your face every month of the year. Whether you care about the environment, hate sending your hard earned money to the utility company or simply have better things to do with your money, these tips will help you put a smile on the recipients face every month of the year.
Gift #1: Compact Fluorescent Light Bulbs
Look around your house, how many light bulbs do you have that were designed by Benjamin Franklin? Those incandescent bulbs suck energy and create light very inefficiently, that is why they are so hot. Heat represents wasted energy. Hence a 60 watt incandescent light-bulb only provides the same amount of light as a 15 watt compact fluorescent (CFL).
Count how many inefficient light bulbs you have around your home, multiply the number of bulbs times their wattage and estimate the number of hours you use the lights in a day. This will give you the price you pay to light your home every day.
For example if you have 10 – 60 watt bulbs, you use 10×60 watts or 600 watts per hour, if you use the lights for an average of 5 hours per day, you use 600 watts x 5 hours or 3,000 watt hours to light your house each day. This is 3 kilowatts hours or kW hours. Now look at your utility bill to see how much you pay for a kW hour of electricity. Most likely you pay $0.10 or more per kw hour. This means you pay $0.10 x 3 kw hours or $0.30/day for the lights. Over a month you pay 30 days x $0.30 or $9.00 which is $9.00 x 12 months or $108/year. Using CFLs reduces your wattage from 60 watts per bulb to only 15 watts per bulb with no loss of light quality. This means your yearly bill will also be reduced by 75% so in 2010 you could spend $27 on your lighting instead of $108. The difference is of $108 – $27 = $81 dollars saved. Now subtract the cost of the CFLs which I’ve seen for as cheap as $0.25 each but even at $1 each, you will spend $10 today to save $71 dollars this year. The CFLs will pay for themselves by mid February.
Gift #2: Kill A Watt Meter
These cost around $35 but make turning off your entertainment system easy as flipping a switch. There are many power strips available but most people find it’s a big hassle to shut off the strip when its buried behind a desk or entertainment center. This device makes shutting off the strip as normal as shutting off a light. After you determine your Vampire Load with the Kill A Watt meter, you will no doubt want to shut off that flat-panel tv, dvd player, stereo and video game system. No reason you should spend over $100/year just to have the devices turned off! But that’s exactly what you do if they are not unplugged. By using this power strip you can simply put the remote controlled switch on your wall and flip off the Vampire Load every time you leave the room. Sure its not as sexy as a new electronic devices but with the $65 you save ($100 in electric savings – $35 cost) you can buy several new gadgets next year.
Gift #4: Drying Rack
This will set you back $20 but will save $141 per year in costs to run your clothes dryer. In addition to the money you will save on your utilities, a drying rack will help your clothes last longer. Ever wonder where all that lint you pull out of your dryer screen comes from? Its little pieces of your clothing. If you have room to spare and don’t want to shell out $20 for a drying rack, go for the super inexpensive but highly prized piece of string and two nails. The kids will jump up and down when they see the clothesline and your significant other will weep tears of joy.
Gift #5: A brick – I’m Serious.
It makes a great stocking stuffer and for around a buck, you can’t go wrong. Here’s why: there is a lot of talk these days about low-flow or dual flush toilets. While these are standard across Europe, in the US they are either a luxury item or only found in newer homes. You could go out and purchase a new low-flow toilet for $150 or more so that instead of swirling and paying for 3 gallons of water every time you flush, you only pay for the 1.6 or 1.2 gallons per flush. But instead of going through all that hassle you can simply open the top of your toilet, put a brick off to one side to trick your toilet into thinking its full and viola! You’ve just made your toilet into a low-flow. At an average of 3 flushes per day, this simple trick will reduce your water used by around 3 gallons per day per toilet or over 1,000 gallons per toilet per year! Instead of a brick I just used some old plastic containers I found around my house and messed with the amount of water I displaced until I found the optimal amount where everything that needed to flush went down.
For around $75 you can save yourself and everyone you know more than $300 next year and every year for the rest of their lives. Sure, none of the gifts on this list are sexy but when was the last time you quadrupled your money in one year? While most people will not jump up and down at the time they receive their presents, you can bet they will think of you and thank you every month they get a lower utility bill. While most gifts given during this holiday season will wind up in a landfill by the end of the year, you can choose to make this the year that the people you love save money and reduce the pollution created from the electricity and water they use. While the utility company will probably not thank you, the environment will breathe a sigh of relief and your loved ones will benefit for the whole year from your gifts. Now that’s worth celebrating!