There's no questioning whether homeowners want to save money on their energy bills. Any extra funds wasted on inefficient walls and poor appliances can be put to good use elsewhere. The real problem is deciding which upgrades to make and when. Energy efficiency will look different for every home, depending on its construction date, environmental factors, and specific property traits. The best way to calculate the ones that are right for any given property is to rely on the average returns on investment. Here are a few suggestions with good rates of return for a better idea of how to get started.
Assess the Problem
Too many homeowners will invest money in a feature of their home that doesn't need quite so much attention. Like a home inspection, a home energy audit has a professional check out the problem, so they can tell the owner how they should handle different components of the home:
An energy evaluation gives homeowners a better idea of where the problems are, so they can prioritize each fix.
Full audits can cost around $500 and will go through the entire home (e.g., walls, eaves, exterior, furnace, insulation, etc.).
If homeowners don't want to pay the full costs of an audit, they can instead have their ducts tested for around half the price. This is recommended only if owners believe that their lack of efficiency is related to their HVAC.
Some neighborhoods have offered incentives for homeowners who want to improve their properties, especially if those fixes promote green living. It's worth the time for homeowners to research tax credit eligibility or whether they qualify for more forgiving financing terms.
Up to 90% of homes across the country do not have proper insulation, a percentage that adds up to countless dollars wasted to heat and cool the air outside a home. Proper insulation is not always easy to get right for most homeowners, as there needs to be enough to protect from bitter winds, but not so much to stifle all ventilation throughout the building.
The exact return on investment for insulation will vary, depending on which source a homeowner consults. However, insulation replacement usually boasts some of the best possible return rates on a home's resale value. By some estimates, homeowners will profit off their insulation by 15% while saving hundreds of dollars per year in utility bills before selling.
Better insulation can safeguard the home from water damage and mold. It can soundproof the home, making all the rooms more comfortable and functional for residents. Homeowners who don't want to invest tot upgrade the whole home's insulation should (at the very least) weatherstrip their whole home and seal any leaks with caulk.
The appliances of today have been redesigned for convenience and energy efficiency. A smart fridge can tell homeowners when they're out of eggs and cut back on power at the same time. A smart smoke detector can be linked to a smartphone, giving the homeowner the chance to react in time.
Investing in a programmable thermostat will keep every room at its ideal temperature, meaning homeowners won't pay full costs to heat areas that they rarely use. There are dozens of examples like this, and each homeowner will derive different benefits from each choice.
And while new washing machines and dishwashers are undoubtedly expensive, they do tend to make their money back over the years (e.g., a new water heater might cost $600 and save homeowners $100 per year in bills). For homeowners who aren't planning to spend much longer in their home, they should at least change their lighting for a chance to cut their expenses down by 75%.
The Bigger Picture
From solar panels to zero-waste homes, sometimes it makes sense to go above and beyond when it comes to energy efficiency. This is especially recommended for owners who intend to spend the foreseeable future in their home.
In a larger sense, investing in more efficient systems (or ones that rely primarily on the resource of the land) can encourage neighbors to do the same. The more everyone takes efficiency seriously, the more likely that entire neighborhoods can drastically reduce their footprint.
Some neighborhoods in the US might also offer community solar for those in sunnier areas. This is a chance to purchase several grouped cells for the benefit of multiple homes. Community solar can cut down on the costs for everyone while bringing everyone together under a common goal.
It's not easy to decide how and where to make energy-efficient improvements, but there are ways to develop a strategy. Whether a home is modest or is a mansion, reducing waste in all forms is always the right decision. These suggestions will give homeowners a starting point, so they can develop their own plan from there.