What Are the Best Energy-Efficient Upgrades for Your Home?
Energy-efficient upgrades can improve the value of your home while also reducing your utility bill costs and improving your overall comfort. By making your home more energy-efficient, you should be able to stay more comfortable at times of the year when temperatures outside are very hot or very cold. You also may be able to sell your home for more money because buyers like energy efficiency. Below are some simple home improvements that can make all the difference.
Appliance usage accounts for about 15% of a home's energy bill, so installing new appliances can result in significant savings. When purchasing new appliances, look for the ENERGY STAR label that shows the product has been approved by the EPA ENERGY STAR program. Efficient new appliances often cost a little more money upfront, but many homeowners are amazed at how much money they save on a monthly basis after the appliances are installed. Some appliances that do an excellent job of saving money include:
- Heat pump water heater, which can save as much as $330 per year
- Tankless water heater, which can save as much as $100 per year
- New refrigerator, which can save up to as much as $200 per year
- New washing machine, which can save up to as much as $135 per year on electricity and water
New Air Conditioner or Heat Pump
Air conditioners can lose energy efficiency as time goes by. Air conditioners built 15 years ago were never as efficient as modern air conditioners, even when they were brand new. Although installing a new HVAC unit entails significant costs, a new air conditioner can save homeowners money during the hottest time of the year. Heat pumps are another relatively new invention that can also save homeowners money.
In fact, heat pumps can save homeowners money throughout the year because, unlike air conditioners, they can heat a room and cool it off. Heat pumps are designed to be ultra-efficient, so homeowners seeking a way to keep their homes comfortable throughout the year can do so by replacing their air conditioner with a heat pump. Homeowners interested in installing a heat pump can talk to an HVAC professional to determine if this would be a good addition to their home.
Insulation improves energy efficiency by reducing the chances of energy leaks in a house. By keeping the warm air out and the cold air in, insulation can help a house stay comfortable throughout the summer. The reverse is true in the winter: insulation keeps cold air outside and helps lock warm air inside, reducing the burden on the HVAC system and enabling the house to stay warm even as the furnace operates less.
Older homes often lack proper insulation, and many homeowners have difficulty determining when their house needs better insulation. Some signs to watch for include:
- Rooms feel drafty in winter.
- Some rooms are hard to keep cool or warm (depending on the time of year).
- Temperatures in the room fluctuate throughout the day, even if the setting on the thermostat has not been changed.
One more way to tell if a home needs more insulation is to go into the attic and inspect the floor joists. If the joists are covered in insulation, then there is likely enough insulation in the attic.
If the joists are visible through the insulation, then more may be needed. Working with an experienced contractor to get the work done can help. Adding insulation to the attic isn't always as easy as it sounds. Insulation that is positioned to cover vents can actually lead to moisture problems over time, so working with an experienced professional can help ensure the work is done correctly.
Cool Roof Installation
Dark-colored roofs can heat up the attic and put a burden on the home's HVAC system throughout the summer. A cool roof is a light-colored roof that reflects energy into the atmosphere, thus maintaining a cooler attic at the hottest times of the year. Installing a cool roof can save money on air conditioning costs while also reducing the wear and tear on the air conditioner, thus saving money in a variety of ways.
Look at Your Windows
There's no doubt that thermo-pane windows, with two or three layers of glass separated by air pockets, are worth the investment. But, if you don't want to replace all the windows in your home, take some simple steps to make your windows more efficient.
- Eliminate drafts by caulking window trim; ensure that windows close tightly and that latches work.
- Use storm windows over single-pane windows in winter to retain interior heat.
- Install insulated shades or draperies, and close them when appropriate.
- Apply solar film; not only will it help insulate your interiors, but it helps prevent damage from fading.
- Invest in shutters: It's what our ancestors did a century or two ago.
- Plant trees strategically to provide shade and windbreaks for your home.
Saving energy is as much about creativity as it is about spending money. Finally, set your thermostat higher in summer and cooler in winter. It makes a difference.
Selling Your Home? Contact a Real Estate Professional Today
If you're selling your home, talk to a real estate professional to get your home listed today. When talking about your home's features, discuss any high-ROI efficiency upgrades you may have made recently. The more your real estate professional knows about home improvements you've made that improve your home's energy efficiency, the easier it will be for your real estate professional to craft an attractive listing about your house.
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