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How to cut down your fuel bill
Veeresh Malik, Outlook Money
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June 23, 2008

So, how do we reduce our dependence on petroleum products? The most obvious way, in this day and age, is to make good public transport an electoral issue. You only have to see how Delhi Metro and local trains in Mumbai and other places unite people to get a grip on the potential therein. It can and shall be done soon, as there is no other option.

The methods given below make eminent economic sense, and are eligible for use not just because they are 'green'. The first solution is thermocol. It's cool, white and can be painted on to make it look pretty. This 'paper' product, available at stationery shops for Rs 15-20 a sq m, is the best way to keep cool in summer and warm in winter. Just paste this on the windows and, if possible, on the ceiling of homes, offices and cars leaving space to get a view of the outside. It is better to try it on any one window, facing the summer heat, before going the whole hog.

Next, use the microwave oven instead of the cooking gas range oftener. A microwave not only saves money, but is also healthy. Barring chapatis, the entire Indian cooking can be done therein. It also reduces consumption and wastage of cooking oil. Domestic electricity is still eminently cheaper in India than petroleum, and if the nuclear deal goes through, you can expect long-term stability too.

The infotech-inclined should use LCD monitors as far as possible. They consume less power and generate less heat, requiring lesser air-conditioning. An LCD monitor saves roughly Rs 125 per month vis-a-vis a conventional CRT monitor if used for six hours a day. They also require lesser cooling and give better eyes.

This one may not appeal to the purists, but it is actually safe if all you do is low-speed city driving or riding. Keep the air pressure in automobile tyres about two pounds over the specified requirement for better fuel economy, though it will make your bike or car bounce a bit more. It is pertinent to ensure that the tyres and tubes are in good condition before you try this. You may need to change your braking style. Empty your vehicle of unnecessary weight while you are at it.

You can use battery scooters near your home and office. They do cost a bit, about the same as ordinary scooters, but are almost free to operate once home. They don't need registration, so they would never get you 'challaned'. Technology advancements are making them better and cheaper. If you ride 40-60 km per day, and have a charging point near where you park, or don't mind taking the batteries up, then this, in itself, can save you Rs 1,000-2,000 a month.

A bit tough, except where smuggled goods are available, but try to find LED-based lighting solutions. They make sense in 'always on' areas like bathrooms and alleyways. You can get reading level lighting at half to three-fourths watt consumption, which can, in turn, be fed by solar lighting.

Any investment made in solar heating can only pay for itself in 24-36 months, depending on what method you use to heat water otherwise. You may also consider cooking high energy consumption items like lentils, rice and meats on solar cookers. The payback here will happen within a year or two.

All other standard methods apply - use the automobile less, opt for public transport where available and consume fuel more efficiently. The cost of cooking gas will continue to go up drastically and the sooner you switch to alternate cooking methods, the better.

Likewise, newer options will have to be adopted for mobility, cooling and heating.

Veeresh Malik is founder/director of Pacific Shipping (1985) and Infonox Software (1999), with a background in shipping, transport of petroleum products and infotech, and has been putting cost saving measures in place for various entities over two decades now.

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