When you commit to making your home more energy-efficient, the rewards can be huge.
Did you know the average home energy bill in the U.S. is about $1,500 per year? But you can greatly reduce that expense by researching which energy efficiency improvements would be best for you.
Last week we walked you through the very first steps to making this happen: getting a home energy audit. But what happens once you’re in-the-know about where your home is losing energy? Today we’ll be your guide as you implement your energy efficiency improvements.
Create Your Whole-House Plan
After your energy audit, you can make a plan by asking yourself a few questions:
- How much money do you usually spend on energy?
- Where are your greatest energy losses?
- How long will it take for an investment in energy efficiency to pay for itself in energy cost savings?
- Do the energy-saving measures provide additional benefits that are important to you—for example, increased comfort from installing double-paned, efficient windows?
- How long do you plan to own your current home?
- Can you do the job yourself or do you need a contractor?
- What is your budget?
- How much time do you have for maintenance and repairs?
Next, ask yourself:
- Which upgrades will save the most money on energy costs?
- Which will add the most value to your home?
Make sure you keep the above questions in mind as you learn more about the different types of energy efficiency improvements.
Focus On Improvements That Address Energy Loss Issues
1. Add Insulation
By simply adding or upgrading insulation, many homeowners can cut what they’re spending to heat and cool their home 10-50 percent. This can make a huge difference – the average family spends $680 per year to heat and cool their home.
While prices can vary, insulation typically costs $.40 to $2 per square foot plus, plus the cost of installation. When you add up your savings this pays for itself within five years’ time.
2. Seal Air Leaks
Air that leaks from your attic and basement can raise your yearly home energy bill by about $70, while the cost of sealing your home is typically in the range of $100-$600.
Seemingly-simple tasks like installing weather stripping to curtail airflow around your windows or sealing duct outlets with caulk might not be as straightforward as they seem. For example, tightly-sealed houses can sometimes trap the exhaust from stoves, furnaces, and water heaters. It’s best to consult a professional when tackling these energy efficiency improvements.
3. Install A Programmable Thermostat
A learning or programmable thermostat is the most efficient. As a homeowner you’re able to set your climate control systems to always stay at the perfect temperature. No manual adjustments needed!
4. Replace Your Windows
There’s no denying that windows are expensive to replace. In fact, an average window costs about $465. As far as energy efficient improvements go though, this might be a great bang for your buck. A study in Madison, Wisconsin (known for it’s cold climate) found that houses equipped with double-pane windows had half the window-related heating costs of homes with single-pane windows!
5. Install A New Air Conditioner or Furnace (Or Both!)
Air conditioning can tack on $350 or more to your annual energy costs. A simple solution to start with is simply raising the thermostat 10 to 15 degrees during the day, which can cut your costs by 15%.
But if your old central air conditioner simply isn’t working anymore, be sure to purchase a new Energy Star-rated system (these generally run between $3,500-$7,000). These types of units are far more effective than a standard unit and quickly become solid energy efficiency improvements. In fact, they typically pay for themselves within three to four years.
When it comes to your heater, your first step should be plugging air leaks (see above). Once you’ve given that a shot, you’ll likely need to replace heating systems that are 15 years old or more. The modern equipment you’ll find on the market today is usually 30% more efficient and will pay for itself within 10 years.
6. Rethink Your Home’s Lighting
Did you know that lighting accounts for 5% to 10% of your home energy use and $50 to $150 of annual electricity costs?
But there’s good news: compact fluorescent light bulbs sell for around $9 but last up to 13 times longer than the incandescents you’re likely using right now. If you switch just the five most-used lights in your home — for instance, the lights in your living room, kitchen, and entryway, which are probably in use closer to four hours a day — could save you around $44 a year on your electric bill. Use this LED calculator to determine your annual savings!
7. Take Another Look At Your Appliances
Your washer, dryer, and dishwasher combined are costing you about $150 in energy annually – but 80% or more of energy use comes just from heating the water needed to run these appliances.
Modern dishwashers have a built-in heating mechanism for killing germs, which lets you turn down your central water heater to 120 degrees.
Front-loading laundry machines, meanwhile, use up to 60% less water and 70% less energy. While the high-efficiency machines come with a $300 price tag you’ll likely recoup your investment in about six years.
Energy efficiency improvements for refrigerators have grown by leaps and bounds in recent years, with some modern Energy Star-rated models using as little as $40 worth of electricity each year.
Refrigerators manufactured before 1993, on the other hand, may cost $140 per year. This is one of the energy efficiency improvements it makes sense to jump on as soon as you can. You might consider replacing your older-model refrigerator, even if your current refrigerator is operating perfectly right now.
8. Install A High-Efficiency Water Heater
Heating your water accounts for around $300 in yearly energy costs. Meanwhile, a $20 insulating water heater jacket can easily reduce costs by 9% and pays for itself within a year. A $60 water heater timer pays off within 14 months. If you know it’s time to replace your water heater be sure to do your research on what type of will best fit your needs.
Start Small With Energy Efficiency Improvements
When you’ve pinpointed exactly where you can improve your energy use, start by making the changes that are most affordable and pay for themselves quickly. Give yourself time to mull over whether the more expensive energy efficiency improvements are worth the investment. Don’t forget that tax credits and financing options are often available for energy efficiency improvements.
Also remember that when it comes time to sell your home, you can market it as energy efficient. Simply give your real estate agent your utility bills or your energy rating if you received one with your audit.
If you consider the costs and savings carefully, these energy efficiency improvements can absolutely be worth the investment.