Improving your home’s energy efficiency

green home

© 2012, Chris Potter

 

The task of outfitting one’s home for energy efficiency can be a truly daunting one. The costs of a high-tech replacement to one of your home appliances are often steep. Even something like a new dryer can run close to $1,000, and it can be hard to visualize that cost as a legitimately worthwhile use of funds. That said, energy-conscious upgrades are also known for their savings over the long-term; they’re easier thought as investments than one-time replacements. Most notably, in the context of real estate, is the boon that these investments can add to your home’s valuation when you choose to sell. With that in mind, let’s go through a few options to make your home more energy efficient, organized by cost.

 

Home Energy Audit

Before we look at specific upgrades, an important first step is a home energy audit. This is recommended by most residential efficiency experts before diving into any of the costlier methods. You can head to the U.S. Department of Energy’s website to find registered assessors in your area; the cost is generally around $300, but varies based on the contractor and complexity of the home. This assessment can determine how much energy your home uses currently, as well as which upgrades will make the most sense for your home and finances.

 

Appliances

Once your home has been audited, a good start would be to look at upgrading particularly power-hungry or outmoded appliances. To use an example, let’s say you have a fridge nearing 20 years old. On average, the EPA’s Energy Star predicts that an upgrade to an energy efficient model can save you close to $700 over 5 years in electricity bills. Of course, that’s not quite enough to offset the base cost – usually close to $1,500 – but the value is in the savings that add up over the years.

 

Insulation

From there, you could look into insulation improvement. According to Remodeling Magazine, the costs associated with an insulation upgrade can be even more alluring. Where the average cost of such an upgrade is $1,268 according to the same source, newly insulated homes can improve the home’s resale value within a year of completion by $1,482 – a 116% return on investment. You can also save close to $200 a year in heating and cooling cost with sealant improvements, reinforcing just how much this particular upgrade can benefit your bottom line.

 

HVAC Systems

You might also look into improving your healing and cooling systems. According to the Department of Energy, these systems account for about 43% of your energy bill. Replacement costs vary widely for an entire HVAC system, but will likely run you multiple thousand dollars. That said, an energy certified heat pump water heater has a payback time of two years and can save a four-person home over $3,400 over its lifetime, according to the same source. Bear in mind when considering this particular upgrade that there may be a cheaper alternative to the same end: leaky duct systems can be the culprit for energy waste. The cost of a professional duct test is generally no more than $350, and could well be responsible for the majority of your home’s superfluous energy use.

 

Windows

And now for some of the more costly replacements: windows. Replacing the windows in your home could cost up to $20,000 and could take decades to pay off, according to Consumer Reports. You can recoup some of that cost in resale value and energy savings, however; Remodeling Magazine’s Cost vs. Value report found that installing 10 replacement windows can add up to $10,000 in resale value. And Energy Star estimates that adding certified windows, doors, and skylights can reduce your energy bill by up to 15 percent. If your home is already externally secure, a new set of windows may not be worth the cost. But if you live in a colder climate or haven’t gotten the windows replaced in decades, it may be time to bite the bullet.

 

Solar Panels

Finally, solar panels are certainly not in the price range of the average homeowner at an average of $12,500 per panel system. Even so, it’s worth mentioning them for the sheer amount of energy savings they can bring. If you live in certain areas, you can consider a program where your local provider will reimburse you for excess generation pumped back into the grid – refer to Energy.gov for a list of agencies and utilities that will participate. Further, savings over time can shoot through the roof with properly installed solar panel systems. If your financial situation allows, it could be worth it to pay top dollar for your own way to harness the sun.
Don’t forget when making these upgrades – be sure to let buyers know when it comes time to leverage your investments into resale value. Provide your agent with utility bills and your energy rating, if you received one with your audit, to properly market your home’s efficiency to potential buyers. Energy disclosures are commonplace in many major markets, but even in smaller areas, the savings from a previously installed upgrade can do wonders in attracting buyers. To sum it up, going green can be well worth the investment if done right. And if you advertise it well, your energy efficient upgrades could even be the key to one day selling your home at the right price.


 

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