If you're looking for a return on your investment, fewer improvements pay you back in both the long- and short-term than making upgrades to your home's energy efficiency. While you are still living in your home, energy improvements can save you money immediately on monthly utility bills like gas, electric, and water. And when it comes time to sell your home, energy-efficient upgrades will attract buyers looking to keep their monthly costs down. It's a win-win situation.
As demand increases, energy prices are climbing. Energy efficiency is more attractive than ever before. Here are a few energy-efficient upgrades you can invest in that will result in big savings over time:
Insulating and Sealing
Windows. If you live in an older home (or even if you don't), your windows may not be sealing properly, leading to air leaking in and out, losing heat in the winter and air conditioning in the summer. If you can feel drafty spots around windows, it's a good bet that you would benefit from replacing your old windows with newer, vinyl, energy-efficient windows.
Insulation. Adding insulation in your attic can help eliminate heat loss during winter months as well as keeping your home cooler in the summertime. Older homes (built before 1980) often are not adequately insulated.
Weather stripping. Here's a do-it-yourself project. By using weather stripping and caulk from a home improvement store, you can reinforce the seals around your doors and windows to prevent drafts and heat loss.
Heating and Cooling
Furnace Upgrade. I you haven't replaced your furnace recently, it may be that it isn't as efficient as a newer model. Consider a professional analysis of your furnace's output and efficiency to improve its performance and save you money. Make sure furnace and air conditioner filters are changed regularly.
Programmable Thermostat. Rather than manually setting your thermostat during the day, consider investing in a programmable thermostat that will raise and lower temperatures automatically – for example, during the daytime when no one is at home or at night when the family is sleeping.
Appliances and Fixtures
Appliances. By replacing your existing appliances with Energy Star alternatives, you can reduce both your monthly utility costs and greenhouse emissions. These certified appliances and electronics are designed to save on energy output. From your washer and dryer to your dishwasher to your TV and home stereo system, there are energy-saving appliances available. And unplug your appliances when they aren't in use! Electricity flows continually to traditional sockets and can drain your wallet when you aren't even thinking about it.
Energy-Efficient Fixtures. Swapping out some of your home fixtures is a simple job that you can accomplish yourself. Replace incandescent light bulbs with compact fluorescent or LED bulbs. Install light-blocking shades and blinds that will help keep your indoor temperature even during the heat of the day. Low-flow faucets and toilets can substantially reduce your water usage – and your water bill.
Fossil Fuel Alternatives
Alternative Energy Sources. If you're ambitious, you may be interested in installing solar panels to reduce your reliance on traditional energy sources like oil and natural gas. Some areas of the country are also exploring wind power as an alternative, renewable energy source.
If you want to implement some energy savings but you're unsure where to start, look into having an energy audit done on your home. Experts can help you identify the problem areas in your home where you might want to invest some money. If you don't want to spend the money on a professional auditor, there are a number of online tools designed to help you calculate your home energy output. By looking into your energy consumption today, you'll be saving yourself a bundle in the future – not to mention making lasting upgrades that will attract buyers when you decide to sell.
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