Archive for Make it Myself and Save

Low Cost Home Heating Ideas

We’re snowed in today, at least until we can get the driveway plowed and get the vehicles out.   We had a beautiful, dangerous blizzard yesterday.  Today and tomorrow we are under a wind-chill warning.  It’s good to be inside and I am grateful to have electricity and an internet connection.  (And a working boiler.)

Woman wrapped in blanket and drinking coffee for home heatingWhile doing a bit of research, I came across several plans for inexpensive or low cost home heating.  I haven’t tried any of these, but I’m considering it.  You’ll have to make your own judgements about the safety and effectiveness of these.  If anyone has tried these or something similar, it would be wonderful if you would share your experience in the comments.

1)  Build a Solar Air Heating Collector from Soda-Pop Cans:

Greg’s Pop-Can Solar Space Heating Collector

This is not only inexpensive – you use empty soda cans as well as old double paned windows and other found materials – but it looks much nicer than would be expected.  It is somewhat labor intensive as you will need to drill or cut out the ends of each and every pop can.

2)  Mother Earth News – Solar Heat Grabber

DIY Solar Heating with the Heat Grabber

This one claims to cost $32.18 to build, but keep in mind that the article is older so prices are likely higher now.  The unit fits next to a window and is not exactly attractive.  The article has very good information about how to place the unit and what angles and placements are most effective.

3)  Tea Light and Flowerpot Room Heater

No, this is not a joke.  The author claims that this heater will heat a room for about $.15 a day.

[04-01-18 Editor note – this video seems to be changed or removed from You Tube – I removed the broken link!] You Tube Video – How to Heat Your Room for 15 Cents a Day

This one seems like it could be a bit dangerous if you have small children, pets, or if you are a bit clumsy.  It uses small candle flames to create a convection heater.

4)  Electric Heater with a Battery and Ceramic Plate

This one takes some electric wiring knowledge, but that fact that it uses a 1.5v dry cell battery fascinated me.  If you could find a rechargeable battery, this could be a good emergency or portable source of heat.   I don’t know how safe it may be – best to check with the electrician in the family.

How to Build an Electric Heater

5)  Solar Heat Panel

Another Mother Earth News article about building a solar panel – this one was designed to add heat to a garage or work shop.

Build a Simple Solar Heater

The designer of this unit is an engineer that wanted to heat his outdoor workshop.

There you are.  5 Ideas for creating low cost home heating from the sun, a battery, or a candle.  If you try any of them, please let us know how it worked and how much it cost.

I have one more idea for staying warm when then temperature outside is -15 degrees F.  Wear thermal sock liners.   They are worn underneath your regular socks.

I bought a pair from to give to my son this Christmas, but when they arrived, they were sparkly silver, thin, and knee-high. Seeing no way he would wear them, I kept them for myself.  Wow!  They are so effective that I am completely warm and comfortable which is a big change for me.   Don’t tell my son … he may want them after all!


photo courtesy of and marin





Vinegar and Baking Soda – Not Exactly Frugal for the Laundry

Sooner or later it has to be dealt with:  the laundry.  The typical American household does almost 400 loads of laundry a year*, or an average of 7- 8 loads of laundry a week.  Saving just a small amount of money on each load of laundry can add up to substantial savings over the years.

In my house, we do only half the average amount of  laundry – usually 3-4 loads a week.   I often substitute vinegar or baking soda for fabric softener.  I have usually been pleased with myself for being so frugal and saving a bit of money on each load.

One day while I was in the laundry room and thinking about the actual cost of vinegar and baking soda, a vague uneasiness began to settle in.  How could it be cheaper?  It began to bother me.  Did it really save money to use vinegar or baking soda instead of fabric softener?

I decided to find out.

I’ve posted the calculations and pricing details in an article on The Fat Dollar site  – Making Homemade Fabric Softener with Baking Soda or Vinegar – Does it Really Save Money? . I’ll just give the results here.

It’s not what I wanted it to be, but more or less what that uneasy feeling told me to expect.

The results of the math showing the cost per rinse load:

Fabric Softener – Cost is $.04 *  to $.08** per load

Vinegar – Cost is $.06 (using 1/2 cup) to $.11 (using 1 cup) per load

Baking Soda – Cost is $.12*  to $.24**  per load

Fabric Softener
*Sam’s Club Members Mark Brand
**Final Touch Ultra

Baking Soda
*Sam’s Club

Vinegar could be possibly less expensive than fabric softener, assuming that you use only 1/2 cup and compare it against the most expensive brand of fabric softener (Final Touch Ultra in my case).  Even then, the savings are only $.02 per rinse load.

Using baking soda instead of fabric softener is a downright luxury if you use costs as an indicator.  The baking soda is 3 to 6 times more costly than fabric softener.  Who would have thought that it is splurging when you dump a half cup of baking soda in the rinse cycle?

Even with little or no monetary savings in the short term, there still are some very valid reasons to skip the fabric softener and use vinegar (or baking soda, if you really want to be a big spender).

  • Vinegar brightens whites and helps to preserve colors
  • Vinegar cuts through soap and fabric softener build-up and helps to rinse it away
  • Vinegar helps to remove odors from clothing
  • Vinegar is a natural product without dyes or perfumes
  • Vinegar can help to remove soap buildup in the washing machine and hoses
  • Baking soda helps to eliminate odors
  • Baking soda naturally softens water
  • Baking soda has no dyes or perfumes

While there really is little or no cost savings by using vinegar or baking soda in the rinse cycle, I will still use these in the laundry.  I like the freedom from chemicals and perfumes on my clothing.

Since I often make my own laundry soap, vinegar is a good complement to this.  Vinegar in the rinse cycle helps to get all the soap rinsed out of the clothing.

Lastly, I think I will probably always use baking soda and vinegar in the laundry because I like using natural products.  It just feels so right.

How about you?  Do you prefer fabric softener or vinegar in the rinse cycle?




*According to The California Energy Commission, Consumer Energy Center