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Six Tips to Lower Home Heating Costs
Whether home heating expenses surge up or inch down, they always seem to take a significant bite out of the family budget. To help you rein in costs as the weather gets cooler, the California Society of CPAs (www.calcpa.org) offers these tips.
Lower the Temperature
Decreasing the indoor temperature is a simple but effective way to minimize your costs. In fact, you will save roughly 10 percent a year on your energy bills if you lower your thermostat by 10 degrees to 15 degrees Fahrenheit for eight hours, according to the U.S. Department of Energy. Turning down the heat and throwing an extra blanket on the bed at night can add up to real savings.
A programmable thermostat, which automatically lowers the temperature at night and raises it again in the morning — or whenever you’re out of the house — makes this step easy, although you can, of course, adjust the temperature manually each day if you prefer. According to the U.S. government’s Energy Star® program, a properly programmed thermostat can save you up to $180 a year.
What happens if your schedule changes and you won’t be home when you expected? A new breed of remote programmable thermostats allows you to adjust your thermostat over the Internet, dialing back the temperature until you actually arrive. Also check out thermostats that enable you to adjust the temperature in certain zones so that you can heat only occupied rooms.
Perform Maintenance Updates
Heating systems that are performing at peak efficiency will likely require less energy. That’s why the Energy Department recommends properly maintaining and cleaning your boiler and furnace before the winter begins to be sure they’re in good shape. Don’t forget to check your furnace air filter each month, and replace it at least every three months. This can enhance the furnace’s productivity and extend the life of the equipment.
Insulate, Insulate, Insulate
The government’s Energy Star® program estimates that properly installed sealing and insulation can save homeowners up to 20 percent on heating and cooling costs, which will knock up to 10 percent off the total annual energy cost. If your attic is not already insulated, that’s a great place to start. But don’t stop there, because leaks in windows and doorframes will also drain heat from your home — and energy dollars from your wallet.
And remember that doors and windows aren’t the only places where leaks can occur. Also check dryer vents, outdoor faucets, crawl spaces, recessed lights, electrical outlets and elsewhere to see if they are allowing heat to escape. You may be surprised by what you find.
Bring Your Boiler on Board
The Energy Department recommends setting your water heater temperature at 120 degrees Fahrenheit. That’s the most efficient setting for most homes, and it prevents scalding hazards. Keep in mind that every 10 degree drop in water temperature translates into a decline of between 3 percent to 5 percent in energy costs. And be sure to wrap your boiler in an insulation jacket to maximize efficiency.
Act Fast For a Tax Credit
If you haven’t already taken advantage of it, now’s the time to make the most of a federal tax credit for those who purchase qualifying energy-efficient products or renewable energy systems for their homes. If you’ve spent up to $5,000 in 2009 and 2010 for energy efficiency improvements to your principal residence, you may be eligible for a one-time credit of 30 percent — or up to $1,500.
Turn to Your CPA
If you want to learn more about this credit, and whether any of your energy efficiency choices during the last two years qualify, be sure to consult your local CPA. He or she can help answer all your financial questions.
Copyright 2010 American Institute of Certified Public Accountants.
The Money Management columns are a joint effort of the AICPA and the California Society of CPAs as part of the profession’s nationwide 360 Degrees of Financial Literacy program.
To listen to podcasts with more financial tips, go to http://www.calcpa.org/Content/community/financialempowerment.aspx.