Add Up Your Household Energy Savings

We’re deep into the hot summer months.  Air conditioners across the country are doing overtime keeping our homes and businesses cool and comfortable and keeping the heat outside.  Unfortunately, it won’t be that much longer before we’re turning on the heat and repelling the cold of winter.  All of that comfortable air, hot or cold, comes with a cost.  Sometimes you’ve got to do what you can to find whatever energy savings you can.

Here in the northlands of North Dakota, we’ve got plenty of options for powering our air conditioners and furnaces.  Predominately, we use natural gas for heat and electricity for the air conditioning, but also have options for dual gas/electricity appliances.  Our house uses electricity for AC and gas for the furnace.  (If you’re trying to compare services, using something like this energy conversion calculator can help figure out which service is really the better deal)

Add up Energy SavingsIf you’re looking for energy savings, comparing services is a great place to start, but there are some other ways that you can help cut the cost of your energy and make it’s impact on your wallet a little lighter.

Adjust the temperature

Adjusting the temperature on the thermostat a few degrees can reduce the amount of time that the air conditioner runs in the summer or the furnace runs in the winter.  Turn the thermostat up a few degrees in the summer and use some small fans to help move the air around to adjust the comfort level.  Do the opposite in the winter.  Turn the thermostat down a few degrees and use blankets and heavier clothing to help adjust your comfort level.

Invest in thermal shades

Even if you have a really efficient home, you’ll still lose thermal mass.  And the biggest culprit for that is your windows.  Investing in thermal shades and blinds can help keep the heat out in the summer and the cold out in the winter.  They’re more expensive, but unless you’re redecorating your house every year, they’ll last years and make up for the added cost in energy savings.

Program your energy savings

Does it matter to you if your house stays nice and cool during the summer while your at work?  Or nice and warm in the winter?  If we’re honest, we really only want our house warm or cold when we’re there.  If the house is empty for 8 hours or more a day, there’s really no reason to waste all that energy while we’re gone.  Buying and installing a programmable thermostat is the best way to be able to adjust the temperature while your away and still assure that your house is comfortable when you return for the day.  Set a schedule to adjust the temperature up or down by 5-10 degrees while your out of the house (or sleeping) and to return to your “comfortable” temperature just before you return home.

Spread the cost out

Once you’ve maximized the full energy savings potential, you still won’t be left without any energy costs.  There’s still going to be a bill showing up each month that will need paying.  If you’ve got one energy supply feeding your air conditioner in the summer and another feeding your furnace in the winter, like I do, chances are your bills will spike during the hottest and coldest months of the year.  Most utilities will have some sort of payment system that will allow for you to pay an even amount each month.  We’ve got both our electricity and gas accounts on such a program.  We pay a relatively flat rate each month to each utility, and avoid paying large bills during the extremes of the seasons.

What other ways do you employ to create energy savings for your household or business?

The 1,700 Mile Move: 5 Lessons I Learned

I come from a family of non-movers. For example, my mom, once she married, became listless and lost her appetite and quite a bit of weight.  The doctor diagnosed her with homesickness.  She had moved less than five miles from her family home to her home with my dad.  (Yes, this is a true story!)

We moved one other time less than a 1/2 mile away, and even that was traumatic for her.

I have ventured farther in my lifetime, going 400 miles away to graduate school, but a 1,700 mile move is something else entirely.

Here’s what I’ve learned so far as we prepare to move from the Midwest to the Desert Southwest:

1700 mile move1.  We had way more “stuff” than I thought.  I knew we had a lot,
but wow, I didn’t know how much.  We’ve sold, thrown away, or donated at least half of our stuff.  Every time we think we’re almost done packing, more “stuff” seems to appear.  I wonder if we’ll ever be done!

2.  Plan for a long-distance move as early as possible.  We started selling our stuff back in early May, and so far, that stuff has brought in over $1,000.  However, even though I started selling items 8 weeks in advance of our move, it still wasn’t early enough.  We’re less than 5 days away from our move, and I am still waiting for our treadmill, file cabinet, and office desk to sell.

I was surprised to see that sometimes listing things to sell on eBay, Facebook, and Craigslist is like planting seeds.  I’ve listed some things, and there was no interest.  But then, say two or three weeks after I listed them, someone discovers the listing and buys the item.  Allowing enough time for things to sell is essential.

3.  Exercise equipment has no resale value.  Many people want to buy exercise equipment, but selling that equipment later is difficult.  Luckily, I bought our treadmill second hand for less than $100 a few years ago.  I don’t think it’s going to sell before we leave.  I think I’ll be taking it out for trash pick up.

4.  Moving 1,700 miles is expensive!  Luckily, my husband’s employer is paying for our move.  Still, even though we’ve seriously pared down our belongings, the move is going to cost over $6,000!  (We’ve paired down so much that the mover estimated two other families’ household goods could fit on the semi-truck with our small load.)

If my husband’s new employer wasn’t paying, I think the smartest financial decision would be to sell everything before we move and buy used once we’re in our new location.

5.  Determining the cost of living in a new location isn’t easy.  Since Tucson, Arizona (where we’re going) has a lower cost of living than Chicago, Illinois (where we’re leaving) and my husband received a substantial raise with his new employer, we thought we’d be in a better position financially.  That’s before we looked at the new company’s health insurance plan and saw how much worse it is than our current plan.  Most of my husband’s raise is going to cover the difference in the cost of insurance.

Have you moved a thousand or more miles away?  If so, what lessons did you learn?

Why Purchasing Rental Car Insurance Isn’t Necessarily a Waste of Money

I recounted in my last post the many adventures we had driving 1,750 miles from Illinois to Arizona where we damaged not one, but two rental cars.  We saved $100 by not purchasing the rental car company’s auto insurance, but that decision cost us $500 in our deductible.  Not my brightest move ever.

If you think, like I did, that a rental car company’s insurance is a scam that should be avoided like the plague, here are some reasons why you might want to reconsider:

The Rental Car Company Has a Different Standard Than You

Rental Car InsuranceThe rental car company we used said any damage smaller than the size of a quarter, they would let slide.  Anything bigger than that, and it needed to be repaired.

Any time you drive a car, you risk bumps and scratches to the car’s exterior.  I have a large scratch on the back of my vehicle that I find annoying, but not worth the price of paying my $500 deductible.  I’m guessing your own vehicle has similar scratches and dents.  They’re minor, and you don’t want to spend the money to repair them.

The choice is yours because it’s your vehicle.  However, if it’s bigger than a quarter, the rental car company is going to make the repair, and you will pay if you don’t take out the rental car company’s insurance.

Your Insurance Premium May Go Up

Another reason people let minor dents and scratches on their own vehicles slide is because they don’t want to face a claim and risk having their insurance go up.

Some people even do this for more major repairs.  Several years ago, a man rear-ended me, and he chose to pay the $1,400 for the repair to me directly so he could avoid submitting the claim to his insurance and risk having his premium go up.

If you don’t purchase the rental car company’s auto insurance, you’ll have to choose to pay out of pocket or to risk having your premium go up.

How to Decide If You Should Purchase Insurance from the Rental Car Company

To decide whether or not purchasing insurance from the rental car company is worthwhile, ask yourself these questions:

1.  Have you made any claims on your insurance in the last three to five years?  If so, you will probably want to purchase the rental insurance; in the long run, that will be cheaper than facing a spike in your insurance.

2.  How far do you have to drive?  Of course, accidents can happen anywhere, but if you’re renting a car for the weekend and driving it around your hometown, you may be able to avoid rental insurance.  Our problem was that we were driving 3,500 miles round trip in an area we were unfamiliar with.  Things like dead deer and street sweepers on the highway pose risks that you can’t foresee before the trip

3.  How high is your deductible?  If your deductible is anywhere from $500 to $1,000, purchasing rental insurance may be smarter, especially if it is going to be less than $100.

What is your opinion?  Purchase car rental auto insurance or just rely on your own car insurance?

Original img credit: Insurance Disclaimer on Flickr