Energy Efficiency Projects Give Homeowners Financially Savvy Alternatives to Saving Money Today, Tomorrow and Longer Term
More Americans are downsizing their budgets and their home remodeling projects. This means larger-scale renovation projects are out, frugal remodeling is in.
When it comes to saving money, experts say home improvement projects that increase energy efficiency are among the best investments to deliver paybacks -- now and in the future.
“Energy efficiency upgrades provide homeowners with the rare opportunity to see a return on their investment almost immediately and at resale,” said Kateri Callahan, president of the Alliance to Save Energy, a Washington D.C.-based non-profit dedicated to promoting energy efficiency. “We can’t predict how the market will impact the value of our homes, but we can all make improvements that will increase energy efficiency to have a lasting impact on our heating and cooling bills and our home’s value.”
Since heating and cooling can account for nearly half of a home's energy bill, this is one of the most critical areas that homeowners can target to reduce costs, according to the Alliance to Save Energy. With October as national Energy Awareness Month, it’s also the perfect time for homeowners to focus on ways they can trim costs and energy consumption.
“The reality of the new economy is that homeowners want to save money while maintaining the value and comfort of their homes,” said Mike Lawrence, vice president and general manager of Insulation Systems for Johns Manville, a Berkshire Hathaway company and leading manufacturer of premium-quality building products. “There are economical and smart steps homeowners can take that will positively impact their monthly energy bills today and their home’s value tomorrow.”
Johns Manville offers four practical ways homeowners can tackle projects that are low in cost and high in value and ROI, either as do-it-yourself projects or by hiring a professional contractor:
- Take an energy audit of your home. To get started, homeowners can estimate the energy efficiency of their home online by using the Home Energy Analysis test available at JMHomeowner.com. By answering a series of simple questions, the calculator estimates a home’s energy performance and provides the homeowner with a report that includes a series of recommendations to increase energy efficiency. Based on the energy performance, the calculator also estimates an approximate percentage of savings that could be realized by making the recommended efficiency upgrades.
- Add insulation to your home’s attic. Adding insulation is one of the easiest and most cost-effective ways for homeowners to improve their home’s energy efficiency. The right insulation can decrease monthly energy bills for an immediate return on investment, as well as maintain consistent temperatures room to room for a comfortable environment. By selecting fiber glass insulation that is made without formaldehyde, homeowners can also help improve indoor air quality. Homeowners simply need to measure the amount of insulation in their attic with a ruler to see if they have adequate depth. The average home needs 19 inches of attic insulation for maximum energy efficiency.
When adding insulation, it’s also a good time to consider air sealing the attic to help eliminate any holes or gaps that may exist in the attic floor and/or walls. By using caulk, spray foam or weather stripping to close such gaps, homeowners can maintain comfort and decrease wasted energy by sealing common sources of attic leaks, such as wiring holes, attic hatches or recessed lights.
- Install a programmable thermostat. A programmable thermostat lets homeowners regulate the temperature of their home to deliver savings without sacrificing comfort. Homeowners can pre-set temperatures to reduce heating or cooling in their home when they’re asleep or away. The Environmental Protection Agency reports homeowners can save about $180 a year by properly setting their programmable thermostats and maintaining those settings.
- Weatherize your home’s windows and doors. Homeowners can easily evaluate air leakages in their homes by inspecting common sources of air leaks, including wiring and gas line entrance holes, windows and doors. By caulking and sealing areas where warm air can escape and the winter chill can come in, wasted energy is decreased and indoor comfort is increased.
How to Get a Triple Return on Your Remodeling Investment
Compared to other home improvement projects, energy efficiency upgrades come with a considerably smaller price tag, compared to aesthetic-focused renovations like kitchen and bathroom remodels. In addition, there’s a triple return on these remodeling investments over the course of home ownership:
- Save on your energy bill today: Homeowners can expect to see immediate savings when their next energy bill arrives in their mailbox. According to the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE), with a properly air sealed and insulated home, homeowners can reduce their heating and cooling costs by as much as 30 percent.
- Save up to $1,500 with a tax credit: Through 2010, insulation purchases qualify for a 30 percent federal tax credit for energy-efficiency improvements, which reimburses homeowners up to $1,500 for the cost of materials. Other qualifying products through this American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009 program include windows, doors, water heaters, roofing, and heating and cooling systems. Homeowners across the country may also be eligible for additional incentives from adding insulation or making other energy efficiency improvements from state and local governments and utilities. Check with your local utility company for more information and visit DSIRE, a searchable database of energy incentives by state.
- Save for the long term: Investments made in home energy efficiency pay dividends for the lifetime of a home and improve the home’s resale value. According to the Appraisal Institute, for every dollar saved in annual utility costs, homeowners can expect to add $20 to their home’s market value.