The Best Energy Efficiency Upgrades for Your Money – Have you thought about making energy retrofits to your home? It’s a great way to make your home more energy efficient and reduce your carbon footprint. Home energy efficiency improvements are good for your bank account, too, because money you invest in energy efficiency or renewable energy systems will pay off over time in reduced energy bills. That’s especially true right now, because the federal government currently offers big financial incentives for purchasing solar panels, wind turbines, efficient windows, added insulation, woodstoves and more. It’s also possible to finance home energy upgrades with a loan specifically designed for energy conservation. These loans are usually called energy improvement mortgages. Metropolitan Mortgage Corporation’s website here can provide you with easy determinants for energy improvements you need. Which projects make the most sense for your home? Which are really worth the money? And if you can’t do all of them, where should you start?
Imagine You Had a Little Extra Dough …
Each home is different, and how much you could benefit from a particular project depends on many variables, including the age and design of your home, your financial situation, and your personal priorities. To help focus on what you really need and want, consider this hypothetical scenario: You have been given $5,000 to spend on home energy improvements. What would you do with the money?
Some of the projects that may come to mind first, such as solar-electric (photovoltaic) panels and w
ind power systems, are outside that budget. For example, if you were to purchase a residential wind turbine, you could expect to spend at least $10,000 and easily as much as $50,000. Solar panels usually fall into a similar price range. Energy-efficient windows come with a big price tag, too. They can cost between $200 to $800 per window. Add the cost of installation, and depending on the size of your home and the number of windows, you could easily spend $10,000 or more. If you have the budget to spend, it is well worth the investment to contact a solar energy equipment supplier to see how you can upgrade your home. In the long run, you are going to save on utility bills.
Can you make significant energy improvements to your home on a more modest budget? Absolutely! You could add insulation, buy a new, high-efficiency furnace, or purchase a new energy-efficient refrigerator. The big question is how to decide which of these energy improvements will provide the biggest benefits for you.
Regardless of your home’s age, most residential efficiency experts recommend a residential energy audit as a first step. An energy audit costs about $300, although low-cost or free audits are sometimes offered by local utilities. George Twigg, the deputy policy director at Efficiency Vermont, a state organization that connects homeowners with qualified auditors and contractors, explains how this process works: “The contractor will help guide the homeowner through the most cost-effective things that can be done to save energy. Often it’s sealing air leaks and other ways to tighten up the house. Those strategies have a reasonably fast payback, as opposed to windows, which have a fairly long payback time.” Best Energy Efficiency Upgrades for Your Money
A “payback period” is the time required for the improvement to save enough fuel or energy to pay for itself, and it’s a useful tool in determining which high-dollar home improvements will yield quick results. For example, for home insulation upgrades, a payback of three to five years is not unusual, while for energy-efficient windows, a payback period of more than 10 years is common. One thing to keep in mind is that you shouldn’t rely too heavily on payback period estimates from product manufacturers. Look for estimates from sources that don’t have a vested interest in the results, such as a state energy agency or an energy auditor (especially an energy auditor who isn’t also proposing to do the repair work he or she recommends.) Best Energy Efficiency Upgrades for Your Money
Real People, Real Money
To get a sense of the real costs and savings of home energy improvements, I interviewed three people in different parts of the country whose homes had recently undergone extensive energy retrofits. Here are their real-world experiences, and a breakdown of how much of it they could have done on a modest budget – in this case, our hypothetical $5,000.
#1: Sealing up a leaky house. That includes weather-stripping doors and windows, but the most important step is filling any penetrations in the attic floor, such as around pipes, chimneys, wiring, and recessed light fixtures in the ceiling below. Little gaps and cracks can drastically increase your heating and cooling costs, Golden says, and this job has to come first because you won’t be able get at the openings once you insulate. Best Energy Efficiency Upgrades for Your Money
#2: Insulate the envelope: If you insulate only one thing, it should be the attic floor, since heat rises. You want at least 10 inches of insulation up there, says Golden. Blowing insulation into the walls is a far bigger job since there’s a lot more wall area-and because getting the insulation into the walls involves drilling dozens of holes in your siding. Still, in very cold climates, the job can be very cost-effective, especially if you do it when you’re planning to repaint or re-side the house anyway. Best Energy Efficiency Upgrades for Your Money
#3: Seal and insulate the ductwork: The ducts in a typical house leak so much of their heated and cooled air into the attic, basement, or crawlspace that sealing the seams and wrapping the ducts with insulation can slash your HVAC costs by 30 percent. It also pays to have a company service your HVAC machine once in a while. Universal HVAC is offering some great deals to get the work completed in time for the winter months. The job is not as simple as applying duct tape to the joints; despite its name, duct tape doesn’t last very long on ducts. You’ll want to hire a pro for this messy and time-consuming job, which requires specialty mastic and tape. You may also need an air duct cleaning company to ensure that when you get the HVAC working in your home it comes out clean and to a high quality.
#4: Step-by-step improvements. Your home offers multiple opportunities for energy improvements and purchase a thorough energy audit performed before beginning any work on the house. He chose an experienced home inspector who was listed with Focus on Energy, an organization that helps eligible Wisconsin residents evaluate energy efficiency and renewable energy projects. The inspector produced a report that laid out all of the areas that needed improvement in order of importance. Best Energy Efficiency Upgrades for Your Money
Air-seal the envelope:
Replace or repair your old furnace or boiler and air conditioner: 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. You need a good heating repair and furnace maintenance contractor so that your heating system will remain at its peak performance even if you’ve been using it for years. If you like your old inefficient boiler replaced, apply today for your new boiler grant. You may qualify under the Government’s ECO scheme in 2020. 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. If your boiler is less than 10-15 years old but you think it’s not working efficiently enough, it might need a boiler repair and boiler repair Birmingham can help you repair it. Boilers can be a little temperamental so getting a professional boiler installation service to come and take a look is probably a wise idea and saves you from fiddling about with it.
Replace the windows: Although houses lose a lot of energy through their windows, high-quality replacement windows are so pricey (think $800 plus per window) that they’re almost never cost-effective purely for energy efficiency purposes, says Golden. “Of course, there are many other reasons to replace your windows, like easy operation, tilt-in cleaning, and improved resale value.” Just don’t expect the energy savings to come close to paying back the cost.
When you’re ready to get started, Golden advises, look for a home-efficiency contractor who offers all of the above solutions; that way he doesn’t have a vested interest in selling you one method or product over another. The contractor will send a crew to do some tests on your house and make recommendations for the most cost-effective steps you can take.