Is it Worth the Cost to Make a Home More Energy-Efficient?

Making a home more energy-efficient will be worth the investment, especially over time. Not only will you be doing your part for the environment, you could save hundreds, even thousands of dollars on utility bills over the years you stay in your home. And, an energy-efficient home is much easier to sell when the time comes.

You might not want to just launch an effort to make your home more energy-efficient in one fell swoop, but as you make repairs, do upgrades and maybe do a little remodeling, the small additional costs will be recouped faster than you might expect. After all, some of the things you can do to make your home more energy efficient don’t cost much at all, especially if you are upgrading anyway.

For example, adding weather stripping to doors and windows will probably cost you less than $50. You could save more than that in the next year in reduced energy bills because your home is losing less heated or cooled air. Installing window film on your east- and west-facing windows will probably cost you less than $100 if you do it and less than $250 if you have a professional do the job. It will reduce your heating and cooling bills and prevent fading of your carpet and furniture caused by intense sunlight saving more than your investment in one or 2 years.

Switching from incandescent light bulbs to compact fluorescent bulbs will cost you a little more when you first buy the bulbs, but you will save on electricity and you will replace the bulbs far less frequently.

Adding storm doors and windows will save on both heating and cooling costs by reducing the amount of conditioned air that is lost and reducing the amount of outside air that sneaks in. If your budget is tight, you can try doing what our grandfathers did when they wanted storm windows – make you own storm windows. You just need a little lumber, a few nails and some heavy plastic.

If you are replacing appliances, it is worth it to insist on energy-efficient models and options, such as vent-free moisture sensing dryers, front loading washers, and refrigerators with through-the-door ice and water. If you are replacing a water heater, an attic fan or a heating/cooling system, you can certainly buy replacements that are more energy-efficient. You might replace your water heater with either instant water heaters or a solar water heater; replace an electric attic fan with a solar-powered fan. Replace your heating and cooling equipment with a single, energy-efficient heat pump. To really save, try choosing a programmable zoned system with timers that allow you to control the temperature in various parts of the house according to your family’s needs. Replacing a toilet? Choose a dual-flush toilet to save water usage.

When it is time to replace your roof, choose a metal roof for your replacement. Metal roofs are less expensive and very energy-efficient. If you don’t want a metal roof, you can always install attic foil to prevent heat loss.

All of these options are great choices, both for the environment and for your family. But don’t forget to look for possible rebates and tax breaks.

Many utility companies offer rebates to customers who install energy-efficient appliances and lights. Just give your utility company a call and ask. Then be sure you understand the standards to qualify for the rebates.

If you install a whole-house voltage surge suppressor or disaster-proof features, be sure to check with your insurance company to see if you will be entitled to any reduction in your insurance rates.

Investigate energy-efficient financing for your upgrades if you are making your home more energy-efficient. Check on FHA Energy-Efficient Mortgages, FHA Section 203(k) Rehabilitation Mortgage Insurance, etc.

And don’t forget the opportunities to save on your taxes.

If you will use a remodeled or added room as a home office, be sure to deduct the appropriate percentage of utilities, etc. each year as a business expense.

Get to know the U.S. Energy Policy Act of 2005. It allows homeowners to take tax credits for remodeling that improves the energy efficiency of your primary residence. The maximum credit you can take is $500, but you can take credits for:

10% of cost up to $500 for energy-efficient exterior door or storm doors

10% of cost up to $500 for a qualified metal roof

10% of cost up to $500 for adding insulation expected to last at least 5 years

$300 for qualified central air conditioning, heat pumps or geothermal heat pumps

up to $150 for a qualified gas, oil or propane furnace or hot water boiler

up to $300 for a qualified gas, oil, propane or electric heat pump water heater

up to $2,000 for solar water heating

Making your home more energy-efficient can be good for the environment, good for your family (and your wallet), and good for the resale value of your home. Do your research and shop carefully when you are making upgrades in your home. Going green will usually pay for itself within 5 to 10 years in reduced energy bills.

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