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Save on gas and your sanity

May 26, 2008

by Kristen Miller

With gas reaching nearly $4 a gallon, the amount of money being put into the gas tank is almost sickening, yet it appears there is next to nothing we can do about it.

We consumers feel so helpless when it comes to rising gas prices. What can we do, but purchase a hybrid vehicle or quit driving anywhere but to work.

The thought of staying home is particularly disheartening with the onset of summer and the vacation season.

Should we just be boring walks-of-life who do nothing but go to work for fear of using up gasoline? We’ve become sad creatures, dependent on oil.

Instead of being depressed that nearly $200 of my paycheck goes to the tank every month, I’ve decided to be proactive, rather than reactive.

After watching a CBS Early Show clip about hypermiling, I have a glimmer of hope. If you’ve never heard of this before, it’s OK; I hadn’t before either.

Hypermiling is the term Wayne Gerdes gives to techniques used while driving in order to exceed a vehicle’s estimated miles-per-gallon.

Gerdes also has a web site dedicated to hypermiling, www.cleanmpg.com, which gives gas-saving tips.

Though Gerdes has a hybrid, he says by hypermiling, conventional vehicles can oftentimes match the mileage of an average person driving a hybrid (average meaning not a hypermiler).

One of the tips that Gerdes suggests to get more miles to the gallon that everyone can do is . . . slow down.

According to the US Department of Energy, gas mileage usually decreases dramatically after 60 miles per hour.

Not only can slowing down to 55 miles per hour save you from a speeding ticket, but it can also save you money in the gas tank.

One of the “rules of thumb” is that for every 5 mph a consumer drives over 60 mph, the he/she pays 20 cents more per gallon of gas.

Wow! I’m going to remember that, now. No place is worth spending $4 a gallon to get there four minutes sooner.

Another tip I found on www.fueleconomy.gov is to “drive sensibly” and eliminate rapid acceleration and braking.

My dad always advised me not to step on the gas so hard because it wastes gas, but when gas was only $2.50 a gallon, I didn’t really care.

I also didn’t realize how much gas I’d be saving. Apparently, driving aggressively can lower gas mileage by as much as 33 percent on the highway, and 5 percent in town.

That’s a lot of wasted gas.

Also this summer, consider rolling down the windows as opposed to turning on the air conditioner. There’s nothing wrong with wind blowing through your hair, especially when having the air on “max” can reduce mpg by 5 to 25 percent.

Excessive idling is also not recommended, since it gets 0 mpg. This is more of a concern for commuters who have to sit through rush hour. Consider avoiding freeways. Take back roads with stoplights and lower speeds.

Keeping your engine in tip-top shape will also save you gas. Replacing air filters regularly can improve gas mileage by 10 percent, or 37 cents a gallon on a $3.71 per gallon rate. Keeping tires properly inflated can save 11 cents a gallon, as well.

Another good idea, which I always try to do anyway is, setting the cruise. Inconsistent speeds isn’t good when one’s trying to conserve on gas.

With many more tips available online (just Google it), drivers will be filling up less frequently and off-setting the exceptionally high cost of fuel.

Isn’t it nice to know we can do something about the gas prices, other than just complain about them?