Are you interested in improving your home’s energy efficiency, and more importantly, lowering your homeownership costs? Most everyone would answer yes. A better question that’s usually on your mind when considering home upgrades is whether or not they will create enough savings to justify the upgrade costs.
A strategy that some homeowners employ is building energy-efficient upgrades into their existing improvement plans. For example, if your refrigerator is several years old and you’re already looking to replace it, that would be a perfect time to choose a new, more efficient one since you’ve already set aside those funds in your budget.
Of course, not all of your ideas for cost-saving upgrades will coincide with your planned appliance or fixture-replacement lifecycles. To help with your decision-making, we’re exploring some of the best and most common energy-efficient home upgrades, focusing on their initial cost compared to your potential savings.
UPGRADE YOUR WINDOWS
Most residential windows are designed for a lifespan of 15 to 30 years. If you haven’t changed your windows before, or not in a long time, you’ll notice your AC and heat running less with new, better-insulated windows. This will also help reduce one of your highest monthly costs: your electricity bill.
The most important factor affecting the energy efficiency of your windows is, unsurprisingly, the glass used and its insulating properties. Dual-pane glass with argon gas in between will help keep cool air inside your house during the hot months and hot air inside during chilly times. You can also explore coatings, laminations, and tinting to add a layer of protection if it makes sense for your geographical area and window placement.
Looking at the bottom line, you’ll reap the most savings from window upgrades if your house currently has single-paned windows, and homes in colder climates tend to benefit more than those in warmer regions.
USE ENERGY-EFFICIENT LIGHTING
If you’ve browsed through any energy-saving measures for your home, you’ve undoubtedly read about improving your lighting. Compared to upgrading and replacing fixtures, it’s a much less expensive endeavor.
Switching from incandescent light bulbs to LED or CFL bulbs can save you up to 75% of the operating cost, and they last 15 to 25 times longer. You might be wondering how numbers like that can even be possible. It’s in large part due to the heat that is generated with incandescent bulbs. They burn off 90% of the energy they use as heat, which also drives up cooling costs during the summer months.
Thanks to widescale adoption and new legislation, LED and CFL bulbs have dropped dramatically in price just over the past decade. The average cost for a CFL bulb is $2, and LED is around $4. Factor those prices into the US Department of Energy’s estimate that if you switch your five most frequently used lights and you would save about $75 over the course of the year, and you’ve got an inexpensive upgrade that quickly pays for itself.
IMPROVE YOUR WATER SYSTEM
When most homeowners think about improving energy efficiency through their water system, their minds go right to heating. While that can result in some large savings, you’ll also want to consider managing the water supply itself.
You can reduce your water consumption dramatically by switching to low-flow faucets, toilets, and showerheads. Upgrading your faucets and fixtures has a moderate cost and some noticeable savings – up to 60% over standard fixtures. The even better news here is that you won’t have to sacrifice water pressure or your comfort by switching to low-flow fixtures. You can choose from either an aerating or laminar showerhead and emulate your preferred showering experience.
The more obvious upgrade for improving the overall efficiency of your home water system is heating. Many homeowners consider the greatest benefit of a tankless water heating system to be that the hot water is endless since you don’t have to wait for your tank to fill up again. It also helps that you can save about 25% on your water heating costs. While this upgrade can be costly, it may be a worthwhile upgrade for your home between the new benefits and cost-savings you’ll reap.
UPDATE YOUR AC & INSTALL A SMART THERMOSTAT
Heating and cooling costs are easily the largest category of home electricity costs for most homeowners. If you’ve got an older HVAC system, it may be time to consider a more energy-efficient upgrade.
Before shopping for a new air conditioning system, though, we highly recommend having an energy assessment done. For example, if your unit is constantly running, or if you’re experiencing unusually high electricity bills, both of these could be rooted in less expensive repairs to air leaks, faulty parts, or door and window seal problems. Smart thermostats are also a moderately-priced solution to help control your heating and cooling costs, and they add immense value through their convenient features.
If it is indeed time to consider a unit upgrade, you’ll benefit from the latest advancements to keep both your home and wallet comfortable. You can start your HVAC research with Energy.gov’s Central Air Conditioning guide.
REPLACE HIGH-ENERGY APPLIANCES WITH MORE EFFICIENT VERSIONS
Pretty much everyone gets excited about new technology with fun and useful features. Thanks to major advancements in smart home technology and integration with intelligent assistants, home appliances are getting some significant and much-needed upgrades.
In addition to the exciting feature sets out there, appliances are as energy-efficient as ever. If you’re already in the market for an upgrade, you’ll benefit from both the new technology and energy cost savings. Take the latest washing machines, for example: front-loading ones use less water and finish their wash cycles with less wet clothes than top-loading ones, which also reduces drying costs.
It’s hard to keep up with the advances in every appliance category or to know what you should be looking for from an efficiency standpoint on any given appliance. Energy Star has made it easy to be fully prepared for your next appliance upgrade with their Appliance Resources center.
We’re here to help you both buy your home and thrive in it. Your homeownership adventure doesn’t end on your closing date, and our commitment to being a valued partner in that journey doesn’t either. We hope you have found this energy efficiency advice helpful and valuable to your home upgrade planning.