The full brunt of summer is once more upon us.  Out here in the ‘hinterlands’ where I live, the heat in the Badlands is scorching for days on end. There aren’t many places to escape from the heat so the cattle seek the coolness of the cedar breaks and creeks whenever possible along with the other wild critters such as deer, turkeys, rabbits, etc. The old timer’s used to call it ‘shading up’ during the heat of the day and then every moving thing comes out towards evening to feed, munching on gardens and yards if possible!

For us humans, it’s a different story. Thankfully, we have many advantages over those who homesteaded here in the late 1800’s and early 1900’s.  No electricity, running water, insulated houses, etc.  As a child I lived in a home with no air conditioning–not even a fan for many years and we learned how to cope. Work was done early in the mornings and late in the afternoons when it cooled down some.  We had a basement and the kids in the family plus a lot of neighbor kids spent the hot afternoons resting on old blankets on the cool cement floor. Some took naps, some read or played a game and when it cooled off outside, we went back to work mowing weeds, working in gardens and flowerbeds. Some did their house painting or other repairs early and late. It was called ‘adjusting’.

We’ve gotten so spoiled over the last 40 years or so with all of the ‘doodads’ and gadgets that we all take pretty much for granted. Running water in the house along with the indoor plumbing, air conditioning, big box fans, instant hot water, electric stoves and microwaves, automatic washers and dryers, computers, ‘smart’ cell phones, iPads, GPS in the vehicles–luxuries not to be thought of just a little over 100 years ago.

My biggest concern is that all of this is going to come to a screeching halt when the electric bills go through the roof, become impossible to keep paid up. Folks won’t really know how to cope; conservation will be the ‘name of the game’.

The production of cool air for our homes takes a good chunk of the yearly utility bill, and for some, cooling costs more than heating for the winter so it only makes ‘cents’ to get the maximum use from every bit of energy we use.

One can save a good bit of money by taking advantage of natural cooling in the evenings by opening windows and doors, shutting things up before bedtime and then pulling shades or draperies early in the morning to keep the cool air in and the heat out as long as possible.

If you have air conditioning, clean or replace the filters as recommended. Sometimes, you can wash the big filters really well with a garden hose and get another year’s use from each filter. If you have a window unit or are planning to purchase one, try to situate it on the north side of the house so it doesn’t have to work so hard.

It is recommended that you only set the thermostat to just 20 degrees cooler than the outside temperature, and then use a box fan to move the air around the rooms. We have an attic fan and it really helps keep the hot air out of the upper part of the house. It comes on at 98 degrees and keeps that super-heated air out of the attic.  We’ve also installed ceiling fans in the bedrooms to move the cooler air around during the night.

To save even more money, I do my laundry at night.  The electric rates are usually cheaper during the ‘off hours’ when the peak demand is not so severe.  I hang my clothes out at night and they are always dry by early morning (and I avoid the bird droppings because the birds are sleeping at night and don’t ‘bomb’ the clothes if I get out early enough!)

Teach the children to turn off the lights when they leave a room or even install timers on closet switches, storage shed and garage lights to save a few dollars. It does add up over time and the savings you have achieved at the end of the summer will more than surprise you. Cutting your energy bills isn’t all that difficult if a bit of common sense is used.

If the kids don’t do their part, you can do what one subscriber did: Her son was continually leaving lights on, doors open with the air conditioner running so she made him pay the light bill for just one month from his summer’s wages. It took most of the paycheck to pay just one light bill and she said, “Once was enough.  He has become the king of energy savings!”

I say, whatever works!

Until next month,



by Paula Vogelgesang

Paula Vogelgesang is the author of the monthly column "Pennywise", and is a monthly contributor to the Farm And Livestock Directory.

Email her at [email protected]

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