Making your home more energy-efficient not only lowers your bills, it also increases the home’s value. Several recent studies have found that buyers are willing to pay more for homes equipped for lower utility bills and Energy Star certification.
There are many options for home improvement projects to boost the efficiency of your home, from little upgrades like installing compact fluorescent lightbulbs to major purchases like a residential wind turbine. Which investments will garner the best bang for your buck? Read on to learn about the most popular energy-saving projects, how they’ll save you money, and which make the best long term investment.
Weather stripping is usually the first recommendation for homeowners looking to reduce their utility bills. Energy audits reveal that up to 40 percent of heating and cooling losses occur through air leaks, particularly in older homes. Sealing off these leaks is an easy project that requires no specialized skills and only about $3 to $30 per window or door.
Adding or upgrading insulation is another way to lower heating and cooling costs by preventing losses. This more involved project may necessitate hiring a professional and costs run around $1,500. While often not needed in newer homes, older homes with uninsulated attics suffer massive heat losses equating to $600 per year on energy bills.
Houses lose a lot of their energy through the windows, but replacing all the windows in your home is a big ticket investment that warrants serious consideration. High-quality energy efficient windows cost $800 – $2,000 apiece before installation. This upfront cost makes it unlikely the windows will pay for themselves in energy savings alone, but other reasons can make the upgrade worthwhile including ease of operation and better home resale value.
Programmable thermostats save on heating and cooling costs by ensuring you are not using energy unnecessarily. They can be programmed to turn off the heat overnight or shut down the air conditioning while you’re at work. The cost to purchase and install a programmable thermostat is between $100 and $400 and they are estimated to shave as much as $180 a year off your energy bills.
Gas fireplaces have energy-efficient ratings as high as 77%, compared with just 15% for wood-burning fireplaces. This translates to major savings. Converting a wood fireplace to gas costs about $2,000, but pays for itself both by decreasing heating costs and upping the resale value of your home. Nearly 40% of potential homebuyers say they’re looking for a gas fireplace in the next home they purchase.
Low-flow hardware for toilets and showers is inexpensive to buy, easy to install, and can cut water consumption by up to 50%. Not only is this great for the environment, it can also save you as much as $145 per year. Upgrading your dishwasher to a modern model, which uses about half as much water, can save you an additional $8 per year, though the upgrade cost in this case is not trivial.
A tankless water heater is a smart long-term investment. Not only will it take about 20% off your yearly water bill, it will also last 5 – 10 years longer than a traditional water heater. Tankless water heaters cost about two or three times as much to install, but their longevity and lower consumption pays off over time.
These days, switching to compact fluorescent light bulbs is a no-brainer even with their higher upfront costs. They last up to 10 times longer than standard phosphorescent bulbs and consume less power during this time, saving you about $6 per year per bulb.
Small wind turbines and solar panels are the two primary ways for residential homeowners to generate renewable power. A residential wind turbine is a major investment that easily costs $50,000 upfront with the need for regular maintenance will growing the price from there. In order to reap the rewards from this investment, you need to live in an extraordinarily windy locale. Providers say that for every 100 homes, one will be well-suited for wind while 85 will be positioned for solar.
Installing solar panels can be costly undertaking running about $15,000 – $20,000, though this is not always the case. However, solar installations yield immediate energy savings, require little to no maintenance, and increase the value of your home. A typical solar panel installation saves about $600 a year over its lifespan, and this figure is growing as energy prices rise. Solar panels can also be leased, which eliminates the expensive start-up cost, but also means the value of your home will remain unchanged.
How you make energy investments for your own home is ultimately your decision, though many of the minor upgrades suggested herein are well worth the small financial output. Consider having an energy audit conducted on your home and look into tax incentives supporting energy-efficiency.
Of the three big ticket items discussed — energy-efficient windows, solar panels, and wind turbines — solar panels offer a clear advantage in terms of return on investment. If you have the budget for a major project, a solar installation will begin paying for itself immediately and continue paying you for years to come.