Tesla Motors is easily one of my favorite car companies out there. They only currently have two models, the Roadster and the Model S, but their cars are light-years ahead of anything the big car manufacturers are offering. Both of their models are stylish and fast, yet get several hundred miles per charge.
In an effort to raise more funds to continue manufacturing its vehicles, Tesla is filing for a $100 million IPO. The goal is to starting making more Roadsters and having the Model S out by 2012 with the help of a federal loan along with these investment funds.
Their new Model S will cost $50,000 after a federal tax credit and are in the works of making a more practical model in the not so far future. As with any stock and especially a smaller company like Tesla, there is a chance in losing money. If you are interesting in buying stocks, this is one company that looks really promising though.
Tax time is always crazy and this year is no exception. The government has several large bills and it’s often hard to keep track of the ways we can be back as much of our taxes as possible. The good thing is that the government is providing us with more “green” tax credit and deductions than ever before.
Photo by tony_axelrod.
Tax Credit vs. Tax Deduction
Before going too far into the various green tax credits and deductions available, I just want to make sure everybody knows the difference between the two because it is extremely important. A tax credit is a one-for-one dollar reduction in your total tax bill. Think of it as the government literally giving you a credit for a particular amount of money off of your tax bill. A tax deduction on the other hand reduces your taxable income. Once you have all of your deductions taken off of your total income, this amount is then the amount of money you will be taxed against. The difference is a large one in that a tax credit is much more beneficial than a deduction, but both are useful in reducing your tax bill.
Now that I’ve discussed the difference, lets go through some of the top incentives that the government is providing to those who are making their lives a little more green:
Heating and Air Conditioning
By upgrading your heating and air conditioning system to an Energy Star rated system, you could qualify to get a tax credit of 30% of the purchase price with a $1,500 cap. The types of systems include electric, natural gas, propane and oil. There are various minimum efficiency requirements depending for each type of system, so be sure to check the the system before putting this credit on taxes. With energy companies always raising their rates, I consider this an extremely important tax credit. Heating systems are essential and even having it at a low temperature can still cost a fortune. I have heard of people in Maryland getting energy bills of $500+ while only having the temperature at around 65°. By upgrading your system you can not only save on your monthly energy bills, but also get up to a $1,500 incentive to do so.
Renewable Energy System
Renewable energy was really given a large boost during the 2008 Economic Stimulus package including huge tax benefits if you have installed one this past year.
Geothermal Heat Pumps
Geothermal energy has really become popular of late especially in terms of a heat pumps. They allow you to transfer heat from the ground and use it throughout your house with the use of minimal electricity. Many consider a geothermal system one of the most efficient heating systems on the market. The only problem is that they can not be installed everywhere and existing duct work may need to be replaced in order to install one in your home. What’s nice about a geothermal heating system is that it can provide a 30% tax credit with no cap like a traditional heating/cooling system. On top of having huge savings on your energy bill, you could get 30% off the total cost of the system. Be sure to
Solar and Wind Energy Systems
Just as with the geothermal system, both wind and solar systems provide a 30% tax credit with no upper limit. Whether it be solar panels, a solar heating system or a small wind generator, all qualify for the tax credit. There are some qualifications on the solar heating system as it must generate heating for more than 50% of the household. If you are planning on buying a system in the near future, this tax credit is available all the way through 2016.
Insulating Your Home
If you bought new doors, windows, insulation or roofing that provide better insulation for you house, you can get a 30% tax credit of a value up to $1,500. All of these changes can help keep your house warmer/colder depending on the season and you can also get part of the cost funded by the government. The general requirement for many of these items is that they are Energy Star rated or meet a particular quality requirements. If you plan on insulating your house, these tax credits are available for products purchased through the end of 2009.
If you bought a hybrid, battery electric or alternate fuel vehicle, be sure to take advantage of this tax credit. The tax reduction depends on the particular vehicle you purchase and how efficient the vehicle is. The amount can range anywhere from $250-$7,500 depending on the particular vehicle. There are some restrictions including a vehicle limit of 60,000 per year with tax credits for Toyota and Honda already being used up. Be sure to check with out FuelEconomy.gov or a tax consultant to find out more information on what types of tax breaks are available for different types of vehicles and further requirements.
I covered the major tax breaks available that can help reduce your tax bill whether it be this year’s taxes or next years. With many of the incentives I mentioned above, you not only will be getting a break through you tax bill, but also through your monthly energy bills. As I stated above, if you are not clear of all of the details, be sure to check with a tax professional so you don’t get audited.
Additional Tax Incentives?
If there are any additional incentives that I failed to mention or you are utilizing any of the above that I mentioned, please share them with us.
A few months ago, after discussing ways to save energy with some people at work, a co-worker said that he unplugs his computer at night to save on energy. I had never thought of just simply unplugging your computer to save additional energy. This is probably a pretty common question most people would like to know, but don’t really know the true answer to. I wasn’t totally sure myself so I looked into how much energy do our computers use and ways to save money on cutting their energy usage.
Photo by functoruser.
Computer Energy Use
I never realized that computer use as much energy as they do, especially desktop computers. PCs alone can consume anywhere from 50 – 250 watts of energy!!! The monitor itself also consumes tons of energy, with a traditional CRT monitor consuming more than newer LCD monitors. Laptops on the other hand use far less energy at around 45 watts and are way more energy efficient than your average desktop computer. In order to get a better idea of how much it would cost to run your computer, I crunched some numbers and determined how much it would cost to run.
I first want to preface the numbers I calculated with some basic definitions and assumptions I made. I found a great definition on Wikipedia that sums up how a kilowatt-hour is calculated:
If a 100 watt light bulb is turned on for one hour, the energy used is 100 watt-hours or 0.1 kilowatt-hour
Most energy companies charge customers on a kilowatt-hour basis, making it an important number in my calculations. There are several assumptions I will be making throughout the rest of this article used for my calculations:
- The computer is in use for 2 hours a day for 7 days a week.
- Each value displayed is in kilowatt-hours, unless specified with a dollar sign.
- The cost of electricity is $0.12 per kilowatt-hour.
24/7 Computer Energy Usage
|Watts Used||Day||Week||Month||Year||Year Cost|
|Old CRT Monitor||80||1.92||13.48||58.4||700.8||$84.10|
As you can see from the above table, a desktop computer with a LCD monitor running 24/7 can cost you over $160 per year. That’s a huge number considering most desktop computers can cost as little as double that amount. This not only has a major affect on your wallet, but also has a huge impact on the environment. There is no need to waste that much energy when the average person only uses their home computer a few hours a day.
Let’s see how much you can save by simply setting the sleep or standby functionality on your computer.
Energy Saving: Sleeping Computer
|Watts Used||Day||Week||Month||Year||Year Cost||Year Savings|
|Sleeping CRT Monitor||5||0.27||1.9||8.21||98.55||$11.83||$72.27|
|Sleeping LCD Monitor||3||0.14||0.95||4.14||49.64||$5.96||$30.84|
By simply turning the sleep functionality on your computer and monitor, that $160 above goes down to only $20 per year.
Setting the sleep functionality on your computer is a great idea, but should only be used if you forget to turn off your computer. The best way to really save money on computer energy use is to turn off and unplug your computer when not in use. Even if you turn your computer off or allow it to sleep, it still is using a slight amount of energy. Though the energy difference is small, it can really add up if you allow your computer to sleep instead of turning it off.
Energy Saving: Turning Off/Unplugging Computer
|Watts Used||Day||Week||Month||Year||Year Cost||Year Savings|
|Turned Off Computer||3||0.31||2.15||9.31||111.69||$13.40||$112.74|
|Unplugged CRT Monitor||0||0.16||1.12||4.87||58.4||$7.01||$77.09|
|Unplugged LCD Monitor||0||0.07||0.49||2.13||25.55||$3.07||$33.73|
You can save even more money by unplugging your computer whenever you are not using it. Not just that, you will be using less than 1/10th of the amount of energy that you would be using if you keep your computer running at all times.
Save Energy on Computer Accessories
You can save additional energy on top of what you can save on your computer. Think about all the accessories you can have for you computer. Most people have common accessories like printers, modems, routers, speakers and many others. The table below shows the cost to run various computer accessories.
24/7 Computer Accessory Energy Usage
|Watts Used||Day||Week||Month||Year||Year Cost|
|Home Inkjet Printer||50||0.15||1.02||4.44||53.29||$6.39|
|Home Multi-function Printer||30||0.32||2.23||9.64||115.71||$13.89|
The printer is one of the larger energy users of of all computer accessories. All-in-one printers in particular use much more energy than traditional printers because they have much more functionality. Many accessories including your router and modem are not able to go into standby and therefore are running at all times. Even though they use far less energy that a computer, it still makes a difference to turn them off or unplug them when you are not using them.
Energy Saving: Computer Accessories
|Day||Week||Month||Year||Year Cost||Year Savings|
|Home Inkjet Printer||0.05||0.35||1.52||18.25||$2.19||$4.20|
|Home Multi-function Printer||0.08||0.54||2.34||28.11||$3.37||$10.51|
Easy Ways to Save
One very easy way to save money is to ensure that you set the sleep functionality on your computer. This can be easily done on a Windows machine by:
- Under the Start Menu go to your Control Panel.
- Under the Control Panel, click on Power Options.
- Click on the Power Schemes tab to be able to set all of your power settings.
Under the tab I described above, you can set the amount of time your computer is inactive before it will go into standby ( or sleep ). You monitor can also automatically be turned off through this menu as well. Sorry to Mac and Linux users, but it should be pretty simple to find out how to set these settings on your machine.
One extremely easy way to make sure you computer and its accessories are all turned off is to use a power cord. I have my computer, monitor and any accessories plugged into one power cord. When I am completely finished using my computer, I simply switch off the entire strip. It’s really that simple and it makes it extremely easy to ensure that computer and its accessories are using absolutely no power.
If you are in need have to use a computer all the time, you could try using a laptop instead of a traditional desktop and monitor combination. Not only does the laptop use 1/3 of the energy, but they are much more portable and takes up less room. It can be hard to use a laptop all the time, so you could also look into buying a more energy efficient computer. Many of these computers use the same amount of energy as a laptop, but are as powerful as a traditional desktop computer.
At work, I often see lots of servers being under utilized because they have a dedicated application running on them. It seems like a waste since many of these server machines aren’t being fully used to their full potential as many of the applications only have a few users on at a time. There are ways to save money at your work and also conserve energy by using few server machines.
Photo by JOHNNIE W@LKER.
A concept that has been getting popular as computer get faster and have large hard drives is virtualization. The basic idea behind virtualization is that a virtual computer can take up part of an existing computer and have no knowledge of other possible virtual computers on the same machine. What’s even nicer is that you can run multiple operating systems on the same computer. There can be an instance of Linux on a Windows box or vice versa. There can even run different size processors on the same machine.
This probably seems a little techie for most people, but it’s not hard to see how you can really save money. One nice thing with computers is as the capacity of a hard drive increases, the cost per GB of memory actually decreases. There is an upper bound, but this means you can actually buy a much larger hard drive at a cheaper cost to a few smaller ones with the same capacity. This means a single server machine has enough space to hold several applications instead of a single server for each application. This is especially useful with other applications that only have a small user-base.
I currently work in a lab that is also a server room. The temperatures must be below 60 degrees in order to prevent the servers from overheating. Imagine how much your company can save by choosing virtualization. A smaller room could now be used as there are fewer servers. This could drastically increase savings on energy by simply having a smaller room to now cool. Time can also be saved because you now only have to make system updates on few machines.
While virtualization is only available free on the Linux operating system, server machines are usually better off without having Windows on them. Linux contains far less overhead that Windows making it a smarter choice for a server OS.
Next time the idea of buying new servers comes up in your office, remember computer virtualization. It could save your company tons of money and cut back on your energy usage that will help contribute to a cleaner environment.
With all the talk about moving our country to alternative forms of energy, it made me wonder if there were ways I could help move this process along a little faster. I am currently invested in a variety of mutual funds, but many of them only invest extremely small shares in companies that are pushing for alternative sources of energy. One big company I found in many of them was General Electric. This is just one company though.
By pure luck, I saw a news article talking of a new ETF by Financial Trust called Global Wind Energy Index Fund (FAN) by First Trust Financial. This fund has only been out for a month now, it is one of the first of its kind. The Wind Energy ETF invests in companies that are involved in the process of making wind turbines. This fund invest in some of the major players of the Wind Turbine market right now including Vestas Wind Systems, Hansen Transmissions and even GE.
Wind energy is not the only alternative energy sector that has an ETF associated with it. Solar Energy does as well with the Market Vectors Solar ETF (KWT) that is really similar to FAN, but invests in major companies involved with producing solar panels.
Before I proceed any further, I want to make sure all the financial terms are not confusing everybody, so I will go into what an ETF is. Wikipedia is not always the most reliable source, but their entry on ETFs really sums up what one is:
ETFs offer public investors an undivided interest in a pool of securities and other assets and thus are similar in many ways to traditional mutual funds, except that shares in an ETF can be bought and sold throughout the day like stocks on a securities exchange through a broker-dealer.
The basic idea is that an ETF is a mutual fund in which you can publicly trade like stocks, but don’t have many of the expense fees that mutual funds have.
What I really like about these new alternative energy ETFs is that I feel like I am making a difference. Since many of the companies in this sector are up-and-coming, investing in them can really help with the push to begin using alternative energy sources. With just a small amount of money, you can invest in many of the top companies of the alternate energy sector. This also reduces some of the risks involved with investing in smaller companies like these.
Just a word of caution. Be very careful and make sure you thoroughly research these and other investments before committing any money to them. They are very specific sectors and could lose money just as with any investment.
When I scrape a little extra money together, I will try investing in FAN and see how it turns out. I found a great article with further green mutual funds and ETFs. Good luck investing and hopefully you will be able to incorporate green stocks in your portfolio.
After the Supreme court ruled last year that the EPA determine whether greenhouse gas is dangerous to the public. If they are in fact dangerous, they mus take regulatory action to reduce them under the Clean Air Act. Instead of following through with this plan, the EPA administrator signed a 1000 page document saying instead how making such regulations would hurt the economy. He said that it would be the wrong way to go and it would cost way too much.
Once again, our government fails to do anything to help our country’s pollution problem. I think this is completely ridiculous that time after time, our government ignores ways to possibly help preserve our environment and instead find ways to get around doing anything. Apparently, there was also a major change in the document from a previous draft where $2 trillion in savings could be achieved for consumers at the gas pump. This number somehow changed to more than half that amount and used improper numbers to make the claim. It’s no surprise that numbers were changed so that they can waste more money contributing nothing to this country.
This bill could have made huge strides to help save money for consumers as well as moving our country in the right direction. My biggest complaint is that the President has said continually that he thinks the better direction for this company is to fund new technologies that could help reduce greenhouse gas. The problem with this plan is we may not see these changes for years to come. I fully support funding technologies for the future, but you can’t just ignore the problems that we are faced with now.
My biggest hope would be for our country to follow what others have done. In my previous article on last week’s green news, Britain has already taken legislation to ensure that they turn to sustainable sources of energy instead of relying on oil and coal.