Great Tips To Start Saving: Part 21


3 more tips to build a brighter future.Here are today’s 3 tips:

Cut heating and cooling loss.

Program your heating and cooling needs in a way that makes sense.

63) Install a programmable thermostat. If you don’t have a programmable thermostat in your home or apartment yet, the small amount of money it costs is a great investment. For as little as $23 on the internet or $30 at your local hardware store, you can buy one and install it yourself or with the help of a handy friend. If your home is typical, you can expect to save about $180 a year on your heating and cooling bills. This amounts to a 780% return on your money in the first year alone!


Here is how it works. Following the instructions, you remove the old thermostat from the wall, and screw on the new one. Except in the special cases mentioned below, the power to the unit should be low voltage, so connecting the wires doesn’t require turning off a circuit breaker. (Note: Low voltage wires are much thinner and smaller in diameter than the wires running to your outlets.)  After connecting the wires according to the directions, you then set the clock on the unit, and set the times you want the furnace or air conditioner to run less—typically for eight hours overnight or while you are at work. For example, in winter months you might set the temperature to automatically fall by 10 or 15 degrees while you sleep, then rise back to normal a half hour before you wake up. In summer, you might set the a/c to cool your home 10 degrees higher while you are at work, and a few degrees higher overnight. Once you set the unit, the temperature is controlled automatically, but you can manually turn on the heat or cooling whenever you like. For an idea of the actual savings on your annual heating bill, turning the heat down 10 to 15 degrees for 8 hours a day lets you save about 5% to 15% per year.


The normal programmable thermostat is best for a forced air furnace and air conditioner. It is not recommended for heat pumps. Some electric heat systems require a high voltage thermostat that should be installed by a technician, but it can still be a good investment. Steam and radiant floor heating systems can take several hours to cool down and heat up, but the thermostat can be set to turn on and off in advance, using trial and error.


Setting your water heater temperature.

64)  Turn down the thermostat on your water heater. Invest a few minutes to turn a knob on your hot water heater, and you may be able to save 3% to 10% on your yearly energy bills.  Most water heaters are shipped from the factory with their thermostats preset to 130 or 140 degrees. When installed in your home, it is perfectly safe to lower the temperature to 120 degrees.  This is still much hotter than is required for a bath or a shower. Turning down the temperature cuts heat loss from the tank.  For every 10 degrees you lower it, you can save 3% to 5% on your energy bills.


By taking this step, you save energy, and your water is less likely to accidentally scald someone. Plus, your heater should last longer, because there will be less corrosion and mineral buildup. A gas water heater has a thermostat near the bottom of the tank, on the gas valve. An electric water heater often has two thermostats, one for each heating element, and they are located behind screw on plates on the tank. Be sure to set both to the same temperature. Turn off the power before removing the panels.


Make extra income by renting a room.

65) Rent out a room in your home. How would you like an immediate bump in your income to the tune of several hundred dollars a month?  Would it sound even better if someone else started paying a portion of your utility bills? If you have a spare room in your home suited to the purpose, renting it out can be easier than you imagine. To see what people are paying to rent rooms in your area, go to Choose your city, or one nearby. Under the category “Housing”, select “Rooms/Shared”, and look at the ads. You may be surprised at how much people are paying to rent rooms. You should also check to see if most renters in the area are being charged for monthly utilities in addition to rent.  If they are, you can probably charge for it, too.


The ideal case would be if you could rent out a separate part of your home, such as a “mother in law apartment”, though any spare room can work.   As long as you take precautions, ask the right questions, and check out the person you rent to, it should be safe and even enjoyable to share your living space with a responsible person. To offer to share your home with a renter, you can advertise on Craigslist, or in a free local classified newspaper. You can also post a notice in the local laundromat or any business or organization that offers a community bulletin board.  If you live in a college town, you might check with the school and see if there’s a student housing office and the need for private room rentals. You can even post your ad online for a small fee at a roommate finding website, such as, or


Finding someone to rent a room is relatively easy, but finding a good, compatible renter can take a bit of effort. It’s important to find a good way to evaluate your potential renter, set clear terms, and make sure there will be no misunderstandings. Disputes between roommates can end up in small claims court. Remember, this is a business arrangement where both you and your renter have certain obligations. To prevent problems from occurring, take steps to protect your belongings and private files, question the renter (in person if possible), get all of his information, check his references, have a signed rental agreement, and make sure all details are in writing and fully understood.  The process is mostly about using common sense. If a person seems evasive, pressures you to hurry your decision, delays giving you information, or cannot pay quickly, those are signs that it is best to keep looking for other candidates. Finding a responsible long term renter is well worth the effort.


For a complete look at all the money savings tips in this series, go to our Great Savings Tip page under the Zero-Base Living tab on the menu bar located above.



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