Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Does Tire Pressure Improve Fuel Economy

Tire Pressure is always a moving target.  Sometimes they check it when you're getting your oil changed, sometimes they don't.  Half the time, the air filler gizmo at the gas station is broken, or takes quarters and I'm fresh out of change.  I'll fill them next time through.  Days turn into weeks.  Weeks into months.  You take a train track too hard here, a pot hole there.  Cold temps, hot temps.  Sometimes, your tire pressure is 10 pounds below.

According to fueleconomy.gov, every one psi drop in all four tires is worth 0.3 percent.  So tires that are 10 psi low equates to a 3 percent fuel economy degradation.

Using our 1000 mile per month, 25 miles per gallon, $3 gallon of gas model, you could save as much as $43.20.  Plus, properly filled and rotated tires last longer.


The Frugal Maestro


Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Does Oil Type Improve Fuel Economy?

Whenever I'm getting my oil change, I peel the sticker off of my windshield because I'm somewhere slightly north of 3000 miles, and even though they can figure it out with their computer, I refuse to hand myself over that easily.

With that sticker missing, they always ask me what type of oil.  5W20?  10W30?  Natural?  Synthetic?  Does it really matter?

According to fueleconomy.gov, not following the recommended oil type (i.e. 10W30 in a vehicle that requires 5W30, can reduce your fuel economy by as much as 2 percent.

For someone who drives 1000 miles a month and gets 25 miles per gallon, with gas at $3 per gallon, you save $36 per year.  I drive triple that, so my savings is quite a bit more.


The Frugal Maestro


Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Does Changing Your Air Filter Really Help Fuel Economy

I change my air filter at the intervals specified in my owners' manual.

Whenever I'm getting my oil changed, the mechanic always tries to upsell me on an airfilter.  First of all, he charges $25 for an air filter I can buy at Sears or Autozone for $7.  I can get it for as low as $4.50 on Amazon.   It takes two minutes to change.

Secondly, he claims that changing your air filter helps your fuel economy.  I've been hearing this for years from people of all walks of life--mechanics, automotive insiders, clergymen--you name it.

A recent study at fueleconomy.gov suggests that for vehicles with engines built after ~1980, an unclogged air filter really does not help with fuel economy, but can help with acceleration time.  Tests suggest that replacing a clogged air filter on an older car with a carbureted engine may improve fuel economy 2 to 6 percent under normal replacement conditions or up to 14 percent if the filter is so clogged that it significantly affects drivability.

Typicacally, city drivers are supposed to replace their air filter every 15,000 miles (more frequently if you're frequently on dirt roads).  If you get your oil changed every 3000 miles, this means every fifth oil change--not every other oil change as the pushy mechanic suggests,

If you drive 1000 miles a month, that's once every 15 months, and again, replace it yourself according to the instuctions in the owners' manual.

If your mechanic is as pushy as mine, and you drive 1000 miles a month, you could save as much as $44 per year.


The Frugal Maestro


Tuesday, January 10, 2012


In colder climates, every year, we're faced with jaw dropping heating bills.  Everyone has a different situation: different living space, different climate, different night-time lows outside, and different home efficiency.

Let's take the case of a family of four, who lives in the Midwest, where it gets mighty cold  from mid November to Mid-March.  Let's say their bill for last January was $400, with the November, December, February and March bills slightly less.  Let's say they keep their house at a comfortable 68F in the winter months, 24 hours a day.

First step: buy a programmable thermostat.  They sell these at Lowes, Home Depot, Sears, etc.  You can also buy one at Amazon, for anywhere between $25 and $100.  The programmable thermostat allows you to lower the temp at night and when everyone is at work.

A common figure that energy experts use is 2.5 percent energy savings per degree.  So in the case of a family who is gone for eight hours during the day, and sleeps eight hours at night, the savings could be as follows:

1) Lower the temp from 70F to 68F when everyone is home.
2) Lower temp from 70F to 64F when everyone is asleep or at work/school.
You could save as much as $175/year by following this type of plan.


The Frugal Maestro


Tuesday, January 3, 2012

Batteries - Where to Buy

Every year, we run into the problem of toys that need batteries.  Some toys need a lot of batteries.  It's been my experience that the smaller your kid, the bigger the batteries.  I remember with toddlers, everything took those enormous D batteries.  Once the kids get older, their Wii remotes, RC cars, etc. take AA batteries, and plenty of them.

I hate buying batteries because I always feel like I'm getting ripped off.  I find that the generic batteries, while much cheaper, don't last nearly as long. 

First tip: Buy the big (20 battery) pack instead of the small (4 battery) pack.  They tend to charge about $1/battery in the small pack.  $0.50/battery seems to be the going rate for a AA Duracell or Energizer in a 20 pack.

Second tip:  I find, places like Home Depot and Lowes generally have better deals on batteries than would a store like Toys R Us (unless there's some kind of sale).

There are a number of online sites that have Duracell and Energizer batteries in bulk for cheaper.  The problem is, unless you go together with your neighbors and cousins, that's a lot of batteries.  http://www.medicbatteries.com/wholesale-aa-aa-battery-wholesale-aa-battery-duracell has 48 batteries Duracell for $0.30/battery.

At times, Amazon has sales going, with free shipping if you buy $25 or more in qualifying merchandise.  You can get them for as little as $0.46 a battery, sometimes better. 

You just saved as much as $14.00.


The Frugal Maestro