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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Passive Solar Heating

When my wife and I purchased our home last year we ran into a neat feature I had never seen before: passive solar heating. Most of the articles you’ll find online use the same term for the planning, design and building of homes and buildings with an eye towards using thermal mass, windows, and sun orientation/angles to try and make use of the sun’s heat to ¬†passively heat during the colder months and block the sun off during summer months. This is a nice concept, but doesn’t really help people who already have homes built or aren’t planning to do a huge makeover on the south-facing side of their homes. Ours is an actual system added to the home. From what we can tell it appears that the system was installed in the 1980’s when the original owner added an expansion to the second floor (more than a decade after the house was built). Continue reading

An Old School Barter: Beer for Wood

Two years ago for Christmas my brother-in-law bought me a great gift: a homebrew beer brewing kit¬†(he bought me a kit without the extra carboy, but I wasn’t able to find that). Since that time, it’s been a nice hobby, though I don’t know that I’d recommend it as a way of saving money on beer. You can’t beat the prices of cheap mass-market beer by brewing at home – though when you compare to craft brews it comes out in your favor, which is a more apt comparison for these more complex beers. At least until you start buying more equipment like a kegerator, cornelius kegs, wort chillers, more fermenters, bottles, or even a mash setup.

I’ve been sharing bottles of my homebrew with family members as I’ve brewed various recipes: Oktoberfest, Pumpkin Stout, American Ale, Wit, Hefeweizen. They’ve turned out pretty well and had spurred the interest of a cousin who has since brewed a couple batches. So it wasn’t unusual when he asked me two weeks ago whether I had brewed any new batches. I told him I’d been too busy with various projects.

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Practical Savings: Programmable Thermostats

Want another simple way to cut your expenses? This one is super simple – get a programmable thermostat… And use it!

Before my wife and were married and living together she lived in a 1200 sq. ft. town home built in the 1980’s with a programmable thermostat and updated gas furnace. I lived in a 1600 sq. ft. duplex built in 1905 with no insulation in the walls and an old manual thermostat. Not only that, but I worked remotely from my apartment and she commuted. And yet our heating bills were the same!

The difference was that I adjusted my thermostat by hand down at night and up in the morning. She left her thermostat on manual and kept it in the 70’s day and night. Oh yeah, and her thermostat was busted: it’d keep causing the furnace to shut on and off in very short cycles.

So, while you may already have a programmable thermostat you should make sure you’re using it properly and also that it isn’t malfunctioning.

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