Friday, August 14, 2015 / by Bill Berning*
An energy-efficient home can help you save money on your utility bills each month. It can also add to the value of your home.
As a new homeowner, upgrading your home is not only environmentally conservative, it will also help your wallet by lowering the costs of your monthly utility bills. Making your home energy-efficient can include upgrades to the heating and cooling systems, using renewable energy sources to generate electricity, and installing energy-efficient appliances.
If you are considering updating your new home, you should be aware of the home upgrades that will bring in the most value. Your focus should be on those upgrades that will lower your utility bills.
Many have fond memories of the sky-high rebates offered a few years ago during energy crises. However, the most current appliances don’t pay out all that quickly, according to the yearly Cost vs. Value Report done by REMODELING. Therefore, it is important that you think about longer-term savings when it comes to making upgrades to your home.
Making your home energy-efficient could be as simple as installing new appliances to get rid of old and inefficient ones. However, the biggest savings can result from making structural changes to your home. Here are four major energy upgrades to consider for your new home.
Install New Insulation
Green insulation options are now trending because they are non-toxic, unlike synthetic insulation. It is important to understand what kind of insulation your home needs. If you plan on installing insulation in your home, hire a professional. Higher R-value insulation is typically required for homes in cooler areas. If your home is in a warmer area, lower R-value insulation may suffice. A professional can help you to decide what kind of insulation is right for your home in terms of thickness and density.
Invest in Renewable Energy
Many homeowners choose to invest in renewable energy sources for their homes with solar panels, geothermal heating systems and windmills. In general buyers may be willing to pay more for homes that offer sustainable features. If you are considering making an upgrade to your home with solar panels, it is a good idea to do plenty of research so that you can get an accurate idea of the upfront costs that are involved, as well as long-term maintenance costs.
However, it is important that you research the costs of leased systems so that you don’t end up with an upgrade that does not add value to your home. In certain instances, these systems may not appeal to buyers as a cost-effective green energy solution due to the leasing terms. Homeowners should discuss such upgrades with a real estate agent before pursuing the upgrades in order to determine what an appraiser might give as a estimate for an increase in value to the home.
Replace Your Windows
Windows that offer poor insulation are a major source of wasted energy for homes. “Newer windows slash energy use in the home by 12.2%,” according to a 2013 study by the Department of Energy’s Pacific Northwest National Laboratory. But, “[It] would take anywhere from 23 to 55 years for the reduced energy cost to make up for the increased expense.” There are several options for replacement windows that include wood, vinyl and aluminum fiberglass. These options can vary greatly in terms of installation costs and the level of insulation that they offer.
If you are fed up with the loss of cold or hot air due to poorly insulated windows, then this might be an option that you want to consider. However, in some cases upgrading your windows may not only be about saving energy. In fact, you may want to consider upgrading because other homes in your area have new windows. This can help your home to successfully compete with other homes for potential buyers, if you decide to put your home on the market.
Upgrade Your Heating or Cooling Systems
“Heating systems that are more than about 20 years old and cooling systems that are more than about 10 years old are inefficient by today’s standards.” says Josh Garskof of Money Magazine. “Installing even middle-of-the-road equipment sold today can yield 10 to 20 percent savings—far more if you select high efficiency units, if you can downsize the equipment thanks to the sealing and insulating you’ve already done, or if you’re switching from oil to natural gas.”
As a part of the upgrade, you should make sure that you seal up any ducts with duct sealant. The EPA estimates that leaks and poorly sealed connections account for roughly 20 percent of lost air, which will drive up the costs of your home energy bills. You should also make sure to that you focus on installing the heating and cooling systems only in the part of the house that you use in order to conserve energy. However, there can be some negative effects to strategy. Speak with a HVAC expert before you decide what to do so that you don't end up causing an imbalance in the system that will actually drive up your energy costs by causing the system to run inefficiently.
You should also take advantage of the natural ventilation that your home offers. On a day when temperatures are favorable, opening the windows can actually provide all the heating or cooling that you need so that you don’t have to run the system and waste energy unnecessarily.
Many areas will permit residents to deduct energy-efficient upgrades from their taxes. These incentives are designed to help make communities greener. If you are considering an energy-efficient upgrade for your home, talk with real estate agent to determine how it will affect your home’s value.
Once you have determined which upgrades will positively affect your home, you will be ready to get started on improving your home’s energy efficiency.