With the extension of the lockdown announced in Scotland on Thursday, there has never been a better time to apply home economics into our daily lives. As the University is closed, we spend more time at home, and it is easier to get daily chores done.
I don’t know about you, but one thing that stood out to me during my time in school was that there was nothing related to actually preparing for the big wide world. No home economics lessons on how to carry out small but effective actions which make lives considerably easier.
In lockdown, the opportunities for home economics are endless. Let me guide you through some cool hacks in this article.
The first thing that comes to mind is the temperature in your home. A cold home in the winter can result in illness, so it is ideal to pressurise your boiler in order to maintain a comfortable temperature.
Without a pressurised boiler, hot water does not work, and no one wants a cold shower.
You first need to check the pressure on the boiler. Is it reading between 1 and 2 bars? If it’s below 1 bar, it needs pressurising.
Check that you can access the underside of your boiler. If you can, there should be two coloured filling loop valves underneath the appliance.
You open both valves until you hear a gushing sound which is the pressure from the cold water mains because the filling loop connects to the cold water pipe. Open one valve fully first.
Then open the second, slowly until you hear the gushing.
Watch the pressure increase. The reading on the pressure gauge should go between 1 and 2 at which point you tighten both valves and you’re done.
If you are one of those people who has a smart meter in your home, chances are your energy tariff is not fixed, which means in winter, your bills rise because you’re wanting to keep warm. I always recommend comparing energy suppliers to see if you can find a fixed rate per month, which makes it easier to share the bills if you have a flatmate.
Browse the different energy tariffs. When you move home, you’re usually on a standard variable tariff, which means you’re affected by price rises.
Whereas a fixed rate tariff protects you from price rises, although you won’t benefit from price cuts. This is because the rate per kilowatt hour is set for the length of the supplier contract they provide to you.
But fixed rate tariffs would save students a lot of money during times of economic crisis or financial hardship.
And a dual tariff would save hassle, since you’re going through one provider for both electricity and gas. Consider a fixed rate dual tariff for the best of both worlds.
Think carefully, and consider whether or not making a switch would be a good idea to reduce your energy bills. You could save hundreds.
If you don’t have this option, there are still ways to reduce your energy bill. First of all, if you’re not using any appliance that is powered by mains, turn off the electricity.
Switch off any lights in rooms you’re not currently in. However, the situation is different if you’re living in an area which has a record of crime rate due to burglary.
Refer to the next section for advice here. For now, switch off any lights you’re not using when you’re at home.
When you’re not at home due to a holiday, this will be different. And it’s also another reason to switch to a fixed energy tariff, because you won’t incur additional costs.
In winter, you can reduce the gas bill if gas is controlled by your boiler. If you have curtains or blinds and live in a safe area, it is ideal to open up your blinds/curtains every morning when you wake up, in order to allow the solar radiation from the sun to begin heating your home.
At night, it is wise to trap the heat by shutting the blinds/curtains. This hack works because by allowing radiation to heat up your home, you can avoid additional use of the boiler if you’re not on a fixed tariff.
Now of course, this might not be ideal for everyone and it will depend on just how cold it is outside which will determine if you need to heat the home quicker, and therefore the boiler will be better equipped for the job.
3. Deterring burglaries
As touched upon in the previous section, switching off lights might not apply if you’re heading on holiday and no one is going to be home. The best thing to do is to make sure you leave one light on if you don’t have access to a solar illuminated light.
Burglars prefer shadowy areas, and they’ll look for the easiest way to access your home without being spotted. In summer, leaving a window open might provide an accessible route for a burglar whilst you’re sleeping, particularly if you live in a bottom floor flat, bungalow, or a two storey house.
Burglars also look for any valuables which are on show, so make sure you store any important valuables away where they can’t be spotted from the outside. If you have a garden, do not allow your plants to overgrow if you’re away.
It’s a clear sign no one has been around.
Note that during lockdown, these tips may not be needed, but I’m throwing them in for extra measures.
As a final precaution, a build-up of letters, packages and parcels is also a sign you’re not in. If you’re heading on holiday and don’t have anyone to look after the home, it is ideal to put your post on hold, and reroute any deliveries.
4. Washing machines
In the past, I have stayed in my friend’s student flat and noticed a broken washing machine. Upon asking why their machine was broken, the response I got was that someone put something in there that shouldn’t be.
This object was a pillow. A feathered pillow.
As you can imagine, it clogged their machine and required a professional to fix. To ensure a good steady wash of your laundry, check the type of material you are washing.
Try to keep a cooler wash (which helps the environment), and don’t pile everything in at once. Unless you have a substance that deters colour run, separate whites from colours.
Things that do not go in a washing machine include pillows and duvets. Pillow cases and duvet covers on the other hand, are fine.
If you need to wash pillows and duvets, you will need dry cleaning. Some materials are sensitive to machine washing and should be hand washed.
These include dance unitards and cosplay wigs.
Don’t allow your food to suffer from freezer burn. And make sure you aren’t stockpiling which will make it harder to close the freezer door, and lead to freezer ‘snow’.
If this happens, take everything out, and scrape down the snow. Place the snow in a container and leave it out to melt as water.
Then drain it away.
Another way is to take everything out, and place a bowl of hot water inside to defrost the interior. It is ideal to defrost the freezer twice a year to ensure longevity.
It was very common for me to see microwaves and ovens in a poor condition at some student flats. If you use your oven regularly, you need to clean it once every few months.
Allowing the build-up of grease makes for a very physically demanding job to get it off, and takes a lot of elbow grease and effort. Clean the oven and oven door to ensure longevity.
The best way to do so is to use a good oven cleaner such as Oven Pride. Otherwise a baking soda and vinegar combo will do the job, so long as you leave the compounds to settle for a few hours, or overnight before ‘wiping the slate clean’.
7. Circuit breakers and fuse boxes
If you’re in a home with either a fuse box or a circuit breaker, chances are you might one day have to address a power cut. It gets frustrating if you can’t locate the source of the cut, particularly if it is only in your home and nowhere else.
This almost always points to an overloaded circuit which leads to a tripped circuit breaker or a blown fuse.
In the case of an overloaded circuit breaker, a greater electrical load causes the internal sensor in the circuit breaker to heat up. The circuit then ‘trips’ from a spring loaded mechanism which completely cuts the circuit.
Individual circuits are common in newer homes, whereas older homes have a fuse box.
All you need to do is switch the breaker lever back on which resets the spring mechanism. For a blown fuse, replace as necessary.
To prevent a circuit break or a blown fuse, try not to operate too many appliances and light fixtures at the same time.
8. Managing money
This is a topic which could have an article of its very own. During lockdown it is important to make sure you’re managing finances well.
Hardship funds are available to students in need of more funds to cover your budget.
Being at home, you have more time to evaluate your finances and check to see if anything needs changing. If you find a better deal with an energy provider such as a fixed rate, then consider a switch.
If you’ve got Amazon Prime, or a free trial of a streaming service, this is your reminder to cancel that subscription if you’re not wanting to lose money from your account. Make productive decisions during lockdown.
Know the difference between saving and investing. In some situations it is wise to invest, particularly if you wish to build up a good credit score.
Using an Argos card to buy a product, or food from Sainsbury’s works as credit. When the time comes to pay the bill and you do so, congratulations, you’ve just increased your credit score.
Note that you can only get an Argos card after a credit check, so probably the best way to build up your score is paying your rent and deposits on time, and paying off any short-term loans. Managing money is about both saving it, and investing it in order to ensure you are the one who benefits.
As an extra tip, for purchasing products online, evaluate the price difference between a product and the delivery price. I’ve seen examples of a cheap product but a huge delivery price, usually on Ebay.
Sometimes a cheaper product carries a higher delivery price. Yet the product that is one pound more might carry a free delivery charge.
The net total is less.
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