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Go Green to Save Some Green: Virginia CPAs Offer Tips
As the weather gets cooler, there are several easy steps you can take to reduce your energy costs. The Virginia Society of Certified Public Accountants (VSCPA) offers the following cost-cutting strategies to help consumers conserve energy and lower heating bills.
Take advantage of tax breaks
Virginia will hold a sales tax holiday Oct. 7–10, 2011, to encourage Virginians to buy energy-efficient appliances. During this four-day period, purchases of appliances and products meeting the Energy Star and WaterSense qualifications will be exempt from Virginia sales tax. Eligible products must be priced at $2,500 or less per item and purchased for noncommercial home or personal use.
Watch your thermostat
Many people make the mistake of setting their thermostat once when the cold weather arrives and then forgetting about it. If your house is the same temperature 24 hours a day, you are almost certainly wasting money on fuel costs. It's a good idea to lower the temperature when you are out during the day and at night. That simple step can make a significant dent in your expenses. You can do this yourself or install a programmable thermostat, which you can set to raise and lower the temperature at different times of day. Consider also reducing the overall temperature a few degrees. You probably won’t notice the difference, and it will help minimize your heating bills.
Put your curtains to work
The sun can be a powerful heating source, so make use of it in your home. Opening your curtains during the daylight hours lets sunlight in to warm your house. When you close them at night, you conserve the warmth that natural light and your home’s heating elements have supplied during the day.
Plug those leaks
Some of the greatest heat losses in older homes are due to undiscovered air leaks. The gaps around windows and doors, for example, allow heat to escape and cold air to seep in. Caulk and weather-stripping or storm windows can solve the problems, but you may want to consider replacing older, chronically leaky windows or doors with new energy-efficient models. These purchases may pay for themselves if they provide better insulation and prevent leaks.
Windows and doors are not the only culprits, however. You might also be losing heat through openings around plumbing pipes, through the fireplace if the dampers aren’t properly closed and through electrical outlets and switches on exterior walls. Check all of these places for drafts as the winter weather sets in. Your local hardware dealer should be able to provide advice on how to address each problem.
Keep it covered
Insulation is an excellent defense against heat loss, especially in the attic of an older home. By installing proper insulation, you can prevent heat from rising up to the top floor and seeping out through a leaky attic. In addition, covering your water heater with an insulating “jacket” will keep the warmth inside the heater. It is also a good idea to wrap exposed water pipes, especially those that are in an uninsulated basement. These steps make it possible to conserve the warmth you’re paying for, rather than letting it leak out into the air.
Consult your CPA
These are some of the many steps you can take to reduce heating costs. Your local CPA can offer more advice on smart ways to make your dollar go further. Consult your CPA with any questions on issues that affect your family’s finances. Consumers can find more money management tips and free resources at www.FinancialFitness.org.
LAST UPDATED 10/5/2011