There are many ways to reduce your housing-related expenses. First, we will consider how to conserve energy inside your residence. You can start by limiting your use of heating and air conditioning.
- Set your thermostat conservatively. Just a few degrees can make a significant difference in your bill for air conditioning or heating, especially during the peak usage months. For example, during cold weather, each degree change in your thermostat setting equals 3% to 5% of your heating bill.
- It may be worthwhile to turn down or shut off cooling and/or heating in rooms that are not being used regularly, if you have multiple thermostats that enable you to do so. If you are not confident that it would be worthwhile for you to do this, check with a heating and air conditioning company.
- Keep your air conditioning and heating systems in good operating condition. Have these systems inspected annually and check them monthly to determine if the air filter is clean.
- Close your blinds, drapes, and shades on sunny days during hot weather, and open them on sunny days during cold weather.
- Be sure that your residence is well insulated, particularly if it was built prior to the mid-1970s. Adding a few inches of insulation may save you hundreds of dollars over a period of just a few years. According to the Alliance to Save Energy, “Installing appropriate insulation for your climate . . . can increase your comfort, make your home quieter and cleaner, and reduce your heating and cooling costs up to 20 percent.”
- Use your fireplace wisely. According to an article in The Wall Street Journal (12-29-77) regarding old-fashioned wood burning fireplaces, “Researchers . . . have found that using a fireplace each night can raise a monthly heating bill by about 20%.” The article goes on to state that, “The colder it gets outside, the worse your results will be . . . .”
- Consider purchasing a good (i.e., efficient) wood-burning stove for heating your residence, if you have access to plenty of free or low-cost wood.
There are also other ways to reduce housing-related energy expenses.
- Turn out electric lights when they aren’t needed, and use bulbs that minimize the wattage you use. According to the Alliance to Save Energy, compact fluorescent bulbs “use about one third of the energy of typical incandescent bulbs, last up to ten times longer, and generally pay back their higher purchase price in two years through lower utility bills.” You may also want to install dimmer switches in some rooms.
- Turn off radios, stereos, televisions, and perhaps personal computers when no one is paying attention to them.
- Try not to open the door to your refrigerator more often than necessary or for longer than necessary.
- Use the dishwasher and the clothes washer and dryer only when they have full loads.
- When you are preparing to leave your residence for several days, turn off the hot water heater and turn down the air conditioning or heating system.
- Make sure the temperature setting on your hot water heater is not higher than necessary. Check with a plumber or electrician as to what setting would be most efficient for your needs. A setting of 120 degrees is hot enough for most needs, including dishwashers.
- Check on the load control programs offered by the electric power company. With little or no discomfort or inconvenience to you, one of these programs may save you several hundred dollars over a period of a few years.
In addition to conserving energy, there are other ways to reduce your housing-related expenditures, one of which is the cost of your homeowner’s insurance.
- At least every few years, if not annually, compare the premiums charged by several insurance companies for similar homeowner’s insurance coverage. You may be surprised as to how much difference there can be.
- Before making a final decision to purchase homeowner’s insurance from a company, be sure to investigate the reputation of that company.
- If you own a residence, it generally should be insured for at least 80% of its replacement value, which may be substantially different than its market value. Furthermore, make certain that you have adequate insurance coverage on your residence as it increases in value. If your homeowner’s insurance policy does not have an inflation rider that increases coverage as the replacement value of your residence rises, request your agent to add the rider to your policy.
- Consider getting replacement cost insurance coverage for the contents of your home. If you do not have such coverage, your homeowner’s insurance will reimburse you for only the depreciated value of your possessions, if they are damaged or stolen.
- If you want to reduce the premiums you pay for homeowner’s insurance, one way to do so is to raise the deductible amount on the coverage.
There are also additional ways to reduce your housing-related costs. We will mention only two of them.
- Try doing repairs and maintenance yourself or with the assistance of someone else, rather than paying someone to do the work. You may be surprised at how many things you can do if you set your mind to doing them. However, you may need to check with a “how to” book, a home improvements store, a friend, or a neighbor to determine exactly what you need to do and/or how to do it.
- When you need tools or equipment that do not own, try to borrow them, rent them, or purchase them used, rather than purchase them new.