Take Advantage of the Energy Efficiency Tax Credit – Improve Your Insulation

We’re getting very close to year’s end, which is a good time to review any tax-related items on your todo list, as well as look forward to next year with a plan in mind to help reduce your taxable income. For many, the 2013 tax year plans may be too late at this point if you don’t have a lot of free cash, but at least going through the options may help you plan for next year. One high priority item for me is to improve my home’s energy efficiency and take advantage of the federal tax credits before they expire this year.

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The Easiest Money You’ll Ever Save: CFLs

I was talking to a relative recently and happened to mention we used some LED under-cabinet lighting when we remodeled our kitchen, and have replaced every incandescent bulb with CFLs. My jaw dropped when they said they still have no CFLs and use incandescents.

I tend to be an early adopter of technology and especially relatively cheap green technology. So when CFLs first came out and they were touting their energy savings, I ran out a bought a handful of them. I used them, but not without quite a bit of complaining from family members who dropped by. They had to warm up, they looked blue and washed out the rooms they were in. Here’s the problem: everyone thought that’s just how CFLs (or compact fluorescent lights) were, and they swore not to use them. I heard every once in a while they had made an advance and now they were just as good as incandescents. Well I can tell you that is definitely the case now. There’s too many advantages not to run out and swap out (virtually) your whole house with them.

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Practical Savings: Getting Free TV

Surprisingly, a number of people just keep paying cable and satellite companies giants wads of cash indiscriminately for their entire lives. I’ll admit it, I had DirecTV for two years with my wife. We love the Buffalo Sabres and wanted to watch the games. Unfortunately for us there aren’t very many options when it comes to watching an NHL in-market team, so if we wanted to see them it was cable or satellite. While we still would love to see the Sabres, we found the bill in our second year to be a giant sucking hole in our wallet.

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Practical Savings: Master Controlled Outlet Strips

They’re up 24 hours a day feeding. They’re lurking all over your house. They’re driving up your electric bill even while you’re not using them: Zombie electronics!

Around our house we have a pretty typical setup. We have a couple entertainment areas where we have a TV with some additional electronics huddled ‘round. A TV with a Wii U and an amplified antenna clustered together in the family room. A nice flat screen setup in our rec room with a game console, Blu-Ray Player, and a Boxee Box. An office with laptop, monitor, wireless router, cable modem, printer and more.

It’s always bugged me that these days electronics aren’t really off when you turn them off. Most advanced electronics actually have a sleep or standby mode where they drain energy so that they can come back up faster for you when you return. Many people refer to this as “vampire power”, but I prefer zombie.

I had always heard the tips to set them all up on a power strip and flip that master switch when you’re done, or plug it into a switch controlled outlet and flip the switch when you leave. That will help your electric bill, but it requires you to think about it every time you get up – and that’s not an easy habit to get into (nor one your wife will be very happy about).

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Buy Your Own Modem and Stick it to Time Warner Cable / Roadrunner

Time Warner Cable started charging a “lease fee” for their cable modems back in November of last year for $3.95 a month. Now they’re sticking it to customers again by raising the rates to $5.99 a month! It’s absurd. Oftentimes the cable modems they provide are bare bones cheapies that you can easily get on AmazonBuy your own modem for Time Warner Cable / Roadrunner to avoid the ridiculous lease fee they charge. Make your money back in a few months!

At the new rate, it’d take just over four months to recover the cost buying that base model uBee cable modem I linked. I strongly suggest you grab one today and return theirs to get rid of that fee. If you have a higher-tier service level it may require a slightly nicer modem. I personally grabbed the Motorola SURFboard SB6141 DOCSIS 3.0 High-Speed Cable Modem. It’s worked great for me, and if they ever bump my service speed or I upgrade to a higher service level I should be covered. Plus it’s on their officially supported listing. Of course, for a nicer quality modem the payback period becomes around 15 months.

Update: I’ve posted an easy list of Comcast-supported modems and routers that you can grab, which may be helpful now that Comcast is buying Time Warner.

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