It has been unseasonably cold in Orlando for the past couple of weeks. Nights have dropped into the thirties and days have rarely made it past 75 degrees. While that may seem balmy to anyone living north of Florida, trust me when I tell you that I am not used to this kind of cold weather and I have been wearing three layers of clothing every day!
Despite the cold weather, I recently agreed with my electric utility company that it could install a shut-off switch on my water heaters and some of my other electricity eating devices so that during moments of peak energy usage, the utility can divert power away from my house. The diversions are rare and the utility promises that I will not notice them. More importantly, I shall save about $200 per year on my electric bill as consideration for allowing the utility to stop sending me some power for a few moments every so often.
I think that is a really good deal and I encourage all of you to consider participating in such a program if your utility offers it. Even if your utility does not offer discounts if you allow diversion of your power, you should really take the time to explore whatever discounts your utilities may offer because, as I found out after agreeing to participate in the first program, there are a lot of programs available that can really save you some money.
When the electrical contractor who installed the shut-off switch left my house (my garage, really), he also handed me a couple of flyers with other programs which I might want to consider. I was shocked when I learned that my energy company will pay close to half of the cost of each seasonal check-up for HVAC systems. I have two HVAC systems in my home and I have them checked twice each year at a cost of $259 per year. The cost is worthwhile from my perspective because I want to know that my system is being properly maintained and I cannot do it. I have been paying for these checkups for years without knowing that I could have obtained about $100 in credits from my utility company. Had I taken the time to explore this with my utility company 8 years ago, I would be $800 richer now! Moreover, my utility will pay the first $150 in duct repair costs any time repairs are needed!
Upon further examination, I also learned that my utility company will pay a large part of the cost of improving the insulation in my home, for upgrading my windows, for replacing a heat pump and for installing reflective roof products. Moreover, all of these improvements will help me to cut down on my overall utility bills.
Of course, my utility company is probably not your utility company, but I suspect that if you take the time to explore the benefits that are available from your water, gas and/or electric utility providers, you will find that there are money saving programs available for you. For example, I found several programs available through my water company, at least one of which will save me $1700 on a $2000 bill when I update certain features in my home. I also checked the utilities that serve my parents’ community and their utilities are just as generous.
Even after you have found several programs available locally through your utility companies, you also should determine whether there are any state or federal tax credits available for any improvements that you are making to your home. Visit EnergyStar or doe.gov for more detailed guidelines from the IRS and Department of Energy.
Have you found any great rebates, discounts or credits that you were able to use in connection with a home improvement project? Do you examine all of the programs that are available from your public utilities so that you can minimize your utility bills? Have you installed solar heating or any other technologies that can reduce your bills? How are you keeping your heating bill low this winter?