Have you ever heard the old adage that sometimes you have to spend money to make money? It’s also true that sometimes you have to spend money to save money. So, before you spend your federal tax refund money on something frivolous, why not consider some investments that you could make that might actually reap some dividends in the future. For example, there are a variety of home improvements that you could make now that may help you save on your electricity bill in the future.
How to save money on your electric billFirst, it’s important to understand how much electricity your home is actually using, so you can begin learning how to save your money by using it as a benchmark against other costs.Take a look at your electric bills from the past year, or the past several years if you have access to that information. Break down the average costs per season to see which months are costing you the most so you’ll know which improvements may give you the best return.
How to read your electric meterNext, it's important to know how to read your electric meter. This way, you can monitor how much electricity your home is actually using in real time. Ask your utilities provider for specific information on reading your electric meter, or check their website for instructions.
After you have a handle on your average electricity use, it’s time to look at steps that you and your family can take to keep your electricity rates as low as possible. For the best results, it’s important to get all the members of your household on board with your efforts. To motivate everyone, stress that any dollar savings from striving for the cheapest electricity possible can be used for other things, such as entertainment, dining out, or vacations.
One of the best ways that you can use your federal tax refund to create an energy-efficient home is to measure your home's energy efficiency to check for air leaks and insulation sufficiency. If an energy audit shows that your home is lacking, you may need to air seal your home to help you save on heating and cooling costs. There are professionals that you can hire to conduct energy audits and air sealing, or you can do many of these tasks yourself.
How programmable thermostats save you moneyAnother good way to invest your tax refund money in a more energy efficient home is to embrace technology. There are many new technological advances that have been designed to conserve energy and electricity use. Programmable thermostats can help you save electricity by pre-setting temperatures for the times when people are home and actually need heating or cooling for comfort. Some programmable thermostats can even be controlled remotely by smart phones, giving you the option to change the settings when you’re away if needed. Programmable thermostats can be found at most hardware and home stores, and don’t necessarily require professional installation.
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In addition to programmable thermostats, you can also change out any incandescent light blubs with CFL or LED bulbs, which are about four times more energy efficient and last longer. If you’re not already doing so, add timers to lamps and power strips to computers and electronics to help save energy. Always remember to unplug unused electrical devices to avoid wasting money on phantom power.
Another smart use of your tax refund might be to to replace older appliances with newer, more energy efficient models. ENERGY STAR certified appliances come with two tags that tell you the purchase price and the price that it costs to operate the appliance to help you plan for future costs. For example, ENERGY STAR washers and refrigerators are about 20% more energy efficient than standard models.
You can also potentially save on electricity bills by spending your tax refund money on newer, more energy efficient heating and cooling systems, which are likely your home’s biggest energy users. If you don’t want to make this big investment, or if your heating and cooling systems are fairly new, you can still save money on electricity and energy costs by having your air conditioning and heating units professionally inspected and cleaned. Don’t forget to change the filters monthly, or as recommended by the manufacturer, which helps them run efficiently and effectively. Good home maintenance practices are important in keeping your units in peak operating condition.
Investing your tax refund in landscaping projects may help save on your electricity use while adding beauty to your home. Strategically planting shade trees can help cool your home in summer months, and planting windbreaks may help reduce heating costs in the winter. Ask a landscape professional which trees and plants will thrive in your particular growing zone.
Another home improvement that can help reduce lighting costs and electricity use is to add energy efficient windows and skylights. Be sure to check the energy performance ratings of windows, doors, and skylights to ascertain how well they maintain temperature and transmit sunlight. You may also want to consider an investment in alternative energy technology for your home, such as solar, geothermal, or wind power.
If you didn’t get a tax refund this year, there are still ways that you can save on electricity costs in your home.
Ways to conserve energy in your home
• Lower the temperature on your hot water heater
• Reduce the number of dishwasher and clothes washer loads
• Clean the lint from your dryer screen to help it run efficiently (and safely)
• Learn how to correctly stack your dishwasher to help it run as efficiently as possible
Your energy bill shouldn't be the only thing that should be stress free within you home. Let AHS worry about your electrical sysems and appliances. Get Home Electrical Warranty System Coverage from American Home Shield® and get coverage of major components of many home systems, including your electrical system, and this coverage picks up where your homeowner's insurance policy leaves off. The AHS Home Warranty Plan provides broad coverage of many common electrical malfunctions.