Maximize Your ROI by Going Green
Money saved is money earned. It's a green mantra, and it's looking like it might be the best investment, as the financial markets roil so tumultuously.
The stock market decline and the unprecedented government buyouts of investment firms and insurers has investors looking to gold and government bonds as the safest investments. Here's another option: Energy efficiency.
Investing your dollars in saving energy can provide a better return on investment than many stock bets, even when the market is bullish. This bear of a market might inspire you to invest in your cave, where you can hole up counting your earnings. Here are six safe ways to invest green for a good return on investment.
Install Solar Panels
This won't work for everyone, but particularly if you have a south-facing roof that gets sun, this is a long-term investment that can yield a much better rate of return than most stock investments, even when the market is rising.
How is that possible? First, generous federal and, in many cases, state tax rebates help defray the up-front costs, and you make up the investment in savings on your energy bill.
Take the case of Newt and Inez Stevens, Phoenix residents who installed a $29,000 photovoltaic system. Federal, state and local tax credits will give them half of their investment back this year, and they'll save $865 – at current prices – on electricity every year. So it will take 17 years to pay off their full investment, but it amounts to a cheap loan that will start "earning" them about 6% every year thereafter.
Buy a Fuel-Efficient Car
Before you do, consider investing in some subway or bus tokens, because public transit – once you factor in gas prices and vehicle maintenance – is a bargain for many commuters. But if you are in the market for a new car, buy a fuel-efficient model.
Say you're driving a 2005 Chevy Suburban: If you're an average driver, you're paying $3,842 every year just to fill the tank. Swap for a 2008 Toyota Prius, and you're paying just $970 per year – a savings of $2,872. At current gas prices, you'd pay off your investment in the seventh year, and see a 13% return in the eighth year.
Use fueleconomy.gov to compare the various models for sale, new and used. Or, if you're buying new, jump straight to this list of the 10 most fuel-efficient 2008 cars and SUVs. And invest some time learning to drive stick, which can save you as much as $30,000 on fuel and maintenance costs, over the course of a lifetime.
Pay the Mechanic
If you're not looking to invest in a new car, at least get a thorough tuneup, including checks of the engine, air filter, tires and alignment. Together with simple driving tips basic maintenance can save you as much as 20% on fuel costs.
If you're paying to fill that Suburban, that means saving up to $768 this year – well worth the cost of a tuneup.
Get a Home Energy Audit
The average American household spends between $1,000 and $2,000 on electricity each year, and many Americans can cut their bill in half by taking the advice of a home energy auditor.
Some utilities offer home energy audits for free. Fee-based professional services are available. Or, you can do it yourself.
The cost of implementing the recommendations – from insulating to installing new windows – and the ultimate savings will vary, but the return on investment can be impressive.
Install Compact Fluorescent Light Bulbs
Granted, no one will get rich switching light bulbs, but while each bulb costs more, it uses 75% less energy and lasts 10-times longer - yielding a $30 savings over its lifetime.
An average home has 45 light bulbs, so at $5 per bulb, the cost of replacing all of them is $225. The cost-savings over their lifetime is $1,350, for a profit of $1,125 - five times the initial investment.
Let us help you find a CFL to fit any lamp.
Buy a Power Strip (or 2 or 3)
Another cheap hidden investment is the humble power strip.
Today's electronics use power even when you're not using them. Cell phone and other chargers left in the socket draw electricity even if they are done charging, or you've walked off with the phone.
This phantom load can be a significant drain on your wallet – $200 a year, just for a flat-screen plasma TV, according to one estimate.
Hooking electronics that get infrequent use into a power strip lets you really turn them off when they're not in use.
A power strip might cost $30, but plugging that TV into it will have it paid off in just seven months. Go one step further and invest in a home energy monitor to see exactly what electronics are using the most electricity, so you can maximize the ROI on your new power strips.
For more money-saving home energy tips, see these 7 easy tips.