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7 Home Upgrades That Pay

How to Make Your Home More Energy Efficient


Tackling energy-efficient home improvements is worthwhile for two big reasons. First, these updates can help you cut down on costs for utilities and other bills long-term. Saving energy at home can also help reduce your overall impact on the environment.

Keep in mind that these projects do not all need to be done at once. This list can be part of a long-term transition toward making your home more energy-efficient.

7 Home Upgrades That Pay

These money-saving home improvement ideas will help you not only keep some cash in your bank account, but also boost the value of your home over time as you complete each project.

“Before you start making upgrades at your home, look up your utility providers to see what incentives they provide. Most utilities offer rebates for recycling old appliances, incentives for energy efficiency upgrades like air sealing and insulation, and free products like LED lightbulbs for homeowners.”
Emma Baumgart | Elevate Energy

1. Repair or Replace Your Roof

Between the hot summer sun and freezing temperatures in the winter, your roof takes the brunt of seasonal weather changes. It’s time to replace your roof if it’s older than 20 years, if you are experiencing leaks, or if you notice shingles that are missing, cracking or curled. After removing your old shingles, consider using materials like clay or sheet metal instead of asphalt. They will help to reflect heat rather than absorbing it, naturally keeping your home cooler. If you don’t have to fully replace your roof, you can try adding a cool roof coating to help reflect heat.

Insulation Installation in Attic Walls

2. Add an Extra Layer of Insulation

None of the changes you make on your roof will improve home energy efficiency unless you have a quality ventilation system. Make sure all areas in your house such as attics, basements and crawlspaces are properly insulated. This will help keep the cool or warm air inside, reduce your heating and cooling costs, and improve the overall comfort level in your home.

Pro Tip: When shopping for appliances, look for the Energy Star label, which means the product has met the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s energy-savings standards.

3. Upgrade Your Appliances

An energy-efficient home upgrade you can take on over time is replacing your appliances. Make sure you know the life expectancy of your current appliances, as they may become less energy-efficient towards the end of their life span. Refrigerators, washing machines and dryers are at the top of the list for highest energy consumption. Replace them on an as-needed basis, but make sure to do your research on which brands have earned the Energy Star seal of approval.

“On average, appliances are responsible for roughly 13% of your total household energy use. When purchasing an appliance, you should pay attention to two numbers: the initial purchase price and the annual operating cost. Although they usually come with a have a higher purchase price, their operating costs are 9-25% lower than conventional models.”
Nick Liberati | EnergySage

4. Replace or Seal Windows and Doors

If your current windows are more than two decades old, consider replacing them with more efficient models. If you aren’t in need of a full window replacement, storm windows are an easy, economical way to increase the efficiency of older, single-pane windows. When fully replacing your windows, consider buying double-paned models with a u-factor of .22 – .23. The lower the u-factor, the better a window insulates.

“Windows are a significant source of energy waste, which can amount to 10-25% of your total heating bill. Depending on the climate where you live, Energy Star windows can save you $20 – $95 each year on your utility bills.”
Nick Liberati | EnergySage

Lit Up LED Lightbulb Amongst Incandescent Bulbs

5. Opt for Energy-Efficient Lighting and Power Strips

Want a project that you can accomplish today? A simple energy-efficient upgrade you can make in your home is to change all your light bulbs out for LED models. Energy Star certified LED bulbs use up to 90% less energy than a standard bulb and can last up to 15 times longer.

According to Nick Liberati of EnergySage, it’s estimated that 75% of the energy used to power household electronics is consumed when they are switched off, which can cost you up to $200 per year. If you haven’t changed out all of your bulbs yet, this is the perfect time for an energy-efficient upgrade. A single light bulb that has earned the Energy Star can save more than $55 in electricity costs over its lifetime.

“Did you know? The average home has 45 sockets or bulbs and about 60% of U.S. sockets still contain an inefficient light bulb. If you haven’t changed out all of your bulbs yet, this is the perfect time for this energy-efficient upgrade. A single light bulb that has earned the Energy Star can save more than $55 in electricity costs over its lifetime.”
Brittney Gordon | EPA

6. Install Ceiling Fans

With both your air conditioner and ceiling fan operating, you can lower your thermostat by 4 degrees without losing any comfort during warmer months. Additionally, ceiling fans do more than just keep you cool in the summer. During colder weather, they can save energy in the reverse setting by circulating hot air that rises to the ceiling and blowing it back down into the room.

7. Replace Heating, Cooling and Water Systems

A big home upgrade that pays is installing a new water heater. Electric heat pump water heaters (HPWHs) are now available from all major water heater manufacturers, making it easy to choose electric over the less efficient fossil fuel options.

“A standard water heater is about 60% efficient. Some of the better models of HPWH’s already exceed the new appliance standard – reaching between 200% and 350% efficiency.”
Bruce Sullivan | Zero Energy Project

If your HVAC equipment is more than 10 years old, or not keeping your house at a comfortable temperature, you may consider investing in a new unit that is Energy Star certified. Depending on where you live, this can cut your annual energy bill by more than $115.

Another simple, budget-friendly way to increase energy efficiency is to install a programmable thermostat that will automatically turn off or reduce heating and cooling during the times you are asleep or away from home.

If you’re willing and able to make a larger investment, installing solar panels can save an average of $1,408 in home energy bills every year. According to EnergySage, the average home can save between $10,000 and $30,000 over the lifetime of your solar panel system. There are also significant incentives for homeowners to install solar panels, including a nonrefundable tax credit that can help reduce or eliminate what you owe on your taxes. Depending on your state, you may be eligible for additional incentives.

Pro Tip: Hold off on investing in solar panels if you’re planning on moving within a few years after installation. Some experts say it’s safest to stay put until the panels pay for themselves.

Improve Home Energy Efficiency With an Energy Rating

The best way to see where your home can specifically benefit from energy-efficient updates is by investing in a Home Energy Rating System (HERS) Index Rating. A certified Energy Auditor will come to your home and conduct a computerized energy model to calculate your home’s efficiency, based on a scale of 1-100. Knowing this score can help you assess what improvements you need to make and can add to the overall value of your home. An energy audit will run you between $200 to $600, though it can be higher in certain locations, but it will save you money for years to come.

“If possible, one of the best times to do these improvements is when a house changes hands or when building a new home. The new home buyer can finance these fairly major improvements into their new mortgage. Well-planned energy efficiency features almost always pay for themselves.”
Bruce Sullivan | Zero Energy Project