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View Diary: ECSTASY series: Measure the Power! (79 comments)

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  •  I have a power consumption situation... (7+ / 0-)

    ...which is kind of interesting.  Because of my interest in getting us off the food grid, I'm growing lots and lots of our vegetables.

    Since the warm season hasn't really started yet, they're under grow-lights in my office and basement.

    Fortunately I get my power from 100% renewables, thanks to a deal our power company offers...but boy oh boy has my consumption spiked these past 2 months.  It'll be nice to get all my burgeoning tomato plants outside and soaking up the sun.

    Freedom isn't "on the march." Freedom dances.

    by WarrenS on Wed Mar 10, 2010 at 07:27:18 PM PST

    •  what i would do is... (3+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      RunawayRose, trashablanca, WarrenS

      ....find a way to partition this, so you can keep track of how much is "residential" and how much is "agricultural."  More about which shortly.  

    •  partitioning power usage: (6+ / 0-)

      I think it's perfectly legit to separate one's purely residential power usage from any power usage that is part of a production process that normally occurs outside the home.

      In certain cases the IRS agrees: for example power consumption in a home office that is used only as a work space, is a deductible business expense.  (If you do this one, you really need a Kill-a-Watt and you need to be ready to document your methodology, about which more below.)

      As a "policy" matter, we want to reduce unnecessary transportation.   Any production process (within reason) that you can bring onto your land and/or into your home, shouldn't be counted as part of your consumption level in the home.   Otherwise we end up with the perverse paradox that home gardeners, telecommuters, and suchlike are effectively penalized.  

      Examples might be:

      A greenhouse:

      The lighting, water pumps, whatever else you use in there:  this is part of agriculture or horticulture.   Once the food is harvested and taken to the kitchen, the power consumption in the kitchen is residential.  There are no tax implications to this one.  

      A community freezer:

      If you and your friends go deer hunting, someone needs to store the large cuts of meat over the period of time when you're all using it up.  A similar case might obtain for fish, as an outcome of group fishing trips to a nearby lake or stream.  That freezer is replacing part of your need for the freezer in the meat department at your local grocery store, so it should count as a production process rather than a consumption process.

      As with the greenhouse, once the food is taken into your kitchen to eat, the fridge in your kitchen and your cooking equipment are all on the residential or consumption side.  

      Car as bus:

      In a rural area it might be a 50-mile drive to a town for various provisions.  Neighbors can get together to carpool or have one person do all the shopping for them.  (My tribe does this as standard procedure.)  The fuel used for that purpose should be divided by the number of participants.  

      So if your vehicle gets e.g. 25 miles per gallon, and there are members of four households going along (or you are shopping for four households), you have a 100-mile round trip, total of four gallons: each person's share of that is one gallon.  This results in a per-person fuel consumption equivalent to 100 miles per gallon on a moped.  

    •  now here's the piece for IRS: (4+ / 0-)

      Note, I am not a lawyer or financial consultant, check with your lawyer, tax preparer, or the IRS directly:

      You can get a legitimate tax deduction for home office expenses: square footage rental costs for the space used, and other costs including power consumption.  

      It's important to calculate these things conservatively, which is to say err on the side of a lower deduction than you might think is justified.  

      It's important to document your methods in case there is ever an issue about how you calculated your deductions.

      For power consumption, do this:

      A typical home office consists of a desk with a computer and a telephone.  If the phone is a dedicated landline, that bill is deductible.  If the phone is a VOIP phone provided by your employer, it will have an AC power adaptor.  If you have a dedicated broadband connection for the computer and VOIP phone, that's deductible also, so long as you aren't using the broadband for watching porn (in this instance "porn" is geek slang for any bandwidth-intensive media such as music and video, that are for personal use as opposed to work).  

      Get two power strips; one can be relatively cheap, the other should have a good surge protector.

      Plug the power strip with the surge protector into the wall.  Plug the Kill-a-Watt meter into that one.  This also makes it easier to position the Kill-a-Watt meter where it's easier to read, rather than stuck directly into a wall outlet where you have to get down on hands & knees to see it.  

      Plug the cheap power strip into the front of the Kill-a-Watt meter.   Now plug all your home office "stuff" into that power strip: the computer, the monitor, the printer, the broadband modem, router, the switch or hub, the VOIP phone's AC adaptor, and whatever lighting you use at your desk.

      While you're at work, all of this stuff is "on."  When you're done working for the day, it's "off."  

      Measure your power consumption separately for each of two days.  Let's say it all adds up to 120 watts and runs for 8 hours: that's 960 watt/hours, or 0.960 KWH.  

      Now count up the work days in that month:  for example 20 work days.  Multiply:  0.96 x 20 = 19.2.   That's 19.2 KWH.   You can legitimately deduct 19.2 KWH for that month.  If every month has 20 work days, that's  19.2 x 12 = 230.4 KWH for the year.   If you're only paying 15-cents / KWH, that's a whopping $34.60 of a tax deduction.    You'll have a separate deduction for the rent-equivalent of the square footage for your desk & chair (e.g. a 6' x 6' area, 36 square feet, at your prevailing local rental rate,let's say $1 / square foot, thus $36/month, or $432 / year).  

      For the sake of our own integrity we should never cheat on taxes, but we can certainly take all the legitimate deductions we have.  

      Meanwhile, let's say your residential power bill shows a monthly usage of 180 KWH.  Now you can deduct the 19.2 KWH for your home office, and discover that your consumption-level electricity usage is only 160.8 KWH for that month.

      Again, the point being to reward steps that are taken to reduce overall impact.  That 19.2 KWH you just used to run the computer and phone at a home office, probably saved you a good 20 gallons of gasoline that you might have spent driving to an office.  Is that cool or what?  


      One more thing:  when you file your taxes, you might be encouraged by your tax preparer to submit a doc that shows how you arrived at e.g. 230 KWH for the year.  

      In that case, what you say is:  you connected all of your home office electrical devices to a power strip connected to a Kill-a-Watt meter, and took a separate reading on each of two days, and then took the average of those readings and multiplied that by the number of work days in the year.  This plus copies of a typical month's electric bill, should be sufficient.   And best of all it might start a contagious meme at your local IRS office!  

    •  See if you can find LED grow lights (0+ / 0-)

      Also, a cold frame outside, or even a small greenhouse might help eliminate the need for grow lights, if you're at a low enough latitude.

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