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.
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.
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.
My water heater started leaking on the ground a couple weeks back, a sure-fire sign that it needs to be replaced quickly before it rusts out entirely and we’re stuck with no hot showers or dishwasher.
I happen to live in a town that has it’s own electric company, affording me the luxury of having electric rates that are somewhere near one-third the cost of the next town over. My electric rates are $0.03591 / kWh.
So my immediate inclination was to replace my old dying natural gas water heater with a new electric water heater. It felt like it should be the cheaper option for us to run. But I never did the calculation, so I thought it’d be a fun exercise to geek out and see what my bills should look like for my old natural gas heater versus a new electric or natural gas heater. We can see whether or not I was correct to choose electric out of hand just because I have super cheap rates compared to the norm.