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Saving on cooling costs with solar camping blanket

Our latest Frugal $ense winning tip helps out families who are trying to keep cool during the summer months but are faced with the daunting task of keeping the hot sun from creeping through windows and heating up your home.

Winner Jacque Zirtzman, of Manchester, Iowa, suggests visiting a camping equipment store and picking up a $2 solar camping blanket. Taping the blanket to windows that receive extensive exposure to the sun can reduce your cooling bills. This uber-saver on auto-pilot has a treasure trove of money saving ideas. She shared just a few of them with Bankrate. Mostly, Zirtzman says, "Think outside the box" when coming up with a way to cut costs.

Jacque Zirtzman, the winner of the Frugal $ense contest for May, saves money on cooling costs by applying a solar camping blanket to windows that receive all day sun exposure. Congratulations, Jacque!

Frugal $ense winners: Jacque Zirtzman
Save money by reflecting sun away from windows

"When you are faced with unwanted heat coming through windows, yes, you can buy lots of different things on the market to keep the heat out. But if you go to the camping section at your discount store, for approximately $1.98 you can buy a solar camping blanket, all folded up.

"One blanket will do three typical windows and reduces heat by 40 percent or more, making the house dramatically cooler. If you use air conditioning, this makes it work less hard. I did put a piece on the exterior of my window air conditioner to repel the heat, and that helped it work without so much effort.

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  Jacque Zirtzman

Bankrate: How did you come up with this idea?

Jacque: Well, I had seen people use film on windows and that is permanent. It's hard to hang and it's expensive and if you're not really adept at hanging stuff, you can mess it up in a heartbeat. So I thought, OK, so between that and seeing the reflective things people put in their car windshields, I thought OK, reflection is the thing, that's what we need.

We had the sun beating in on several windows that was just unbearable; you could hardly stand to be in the room. So I went and got the camping blanket for $1.98 and it would cover my three windows. I just tape it up at the top. The beautiful thing is that you can still see through it.

Bankrate: What's your estimate on the reduction in light coming through the windows?

Jacque: It is a little tinted; it might be like looking through sunglasses. But you can still see everything. It doesn't really block vision, it blocks heat.

Bankrate: How many windows can one blanket cover?

Jacque: Because the blankets are so huge, you can do a lot of windows with one. I don't know of anything any cheaper. You can refold it, put it away, and use it next spring or summer.

Bankrate: Any other secrets to saving money and cutting costs?

Jacque: In the laundry area, the cheapest thing to do is have a clothesline. But when I do use the dryer, I always keep a couple of thirsty beach towels around, depending on the size of my load; it will cut the drying time by at least 50 percent. I hang out almost all of my clothes, except for my husband's socks and underwear from work. ... Without a towel it took about 70 minutes in my dryer. So I threw in my beach towel, the next time, same amount, and it took about 20 minutes.

Bankrate: That's a pretty big reduction for just using something that most people already have lying around. How are you dealing with high gas prices these days?

Jacque: Currently it is about $3.89 per gallon. I did a couple of my own little random tests to see where I get the best gas mileage because I have a large car, a '93 Cadillac. I took my daughter over to Des Moines and back and I averaged 24.9 miles per gallon. Unless you're in a gigantic hurry, I am amazed that by slowing down you will definitely improve your gas mileage. I group all my errands and when I have to go somewhere I am not in a hurry.'s corrections policy
-- Posted: June 25, 2008
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