Couple Offers Ways To Conserve Energy

CourierPostOnline — Sunday, March 30, 2008

Courier-Post Staff

In 1976, when heating oil topped $1 per gallon, Wayne Whitehead and his wife Susan decided to heat their home with wood, loading their pickup with branches from fallen trees.

Two years ago, they adopted Snowball, an affectionate, curious cockatoo. At the time, the Whiteheads were approaching 60 and thought it would be a good time to put down their chain saw.

"Besides, we needed to keep the bird warm," Wayne Whitehead said.

They installed an oil heating system and soon after the cost of fuel began to rise. This month the average price in New Jersey reached a record $3.97 per gallon, up $1.36 from a year ago, according to the U.S. Energy Information Administration.

In the old days, the Whiteheads might simply put on sweaters and turn down the thermostat.

But the temperature in their home hovers at about 70 degrees, in order to keep Snowball healthy.

"We don't want to risk her getting a chill," he said.

Energetic and entrepreneurial, the couple explored ways to offset their oil bills with the same creative zeal they've applied to cutting the fat from their grocery tab.

First, they rekindled the fire in their wood stove.

Then they joined the New Jersey Citizen Action Oil Group in Camden, where members can expect to shave 10 percent to 20 percent off their fuel bills.

"Even with a discount, oil has become unaffordable for low-income people," said Wende Nachman, director. "It's unaffordable for some middle-income people."

The Whiteheads are confident they can weather the economic storm. They've spent wisely for years and know how to stretch a dollar.

Wayne Whitehead owns Lawn Mower Repair Service Inc. on Main Street here. Susan Whitehead, a retired florist, works in the business.

Because they operate from a shop adjoining their home, the Whiteheads have no commuting expenses.

They also don't spend much money on travel. Several years ago, they sold a 26-foot cabin cruiser and a Harley-Davidson motorcycle and invested the cash in a spa room with hot tub, fiber-optic lighting, stereo system and potted tropical plants.

"The palm trees make it feel like a piece of paradise," Susan Whitehead said.

A consummate consumer, she comparison shops, studying newspaper circulars and discounters' Web sites.

"Buying on the Internet, you know immediately of availability," said Susan Whitehead, who has purchased goods from appliances to light bulbs online. "If you drive and it's not available, you've wasted gas and time."

At the grocery store, she buys on sale and in bulk. A doorbuster sale on butter, offered at less than half price at $1.29 a pound, was worth the trip.

"I walked out with 48 pounds, froze it and didn't need to worry about buying butter for a year," she recalled.

Cooking in double and triple batches saves both time and energy.

"Think ahead to what's going on next week or next month -- and when you will need time," Susan Whitehead advised. "By planning and using less stressful time, you can create a freezer full of home-made, nutritious meals."

Top Top | NJCA Homepage | NJCA in the News