If you’re looking for ways to save money on your monthly bills, or to raise the value of your home, you have probably begun to consider the many energy efficient renovation options available to you. They range from small repairs and maintenance to large investments requiring extensive construction, and it can be difficult to determine which changes will pay for themselves and which will not. When evaluating the cost and benefits of green renovations, understanding the ways that your home uses energy will be the best place to start.
The aspect of modern life that uses the most energy is the process of heating and cooling our homes. Between them these systems use an estimated 46% of the average home’s energy. While it is clearly the biggest percentage of consumption for most families, this estimate has gone down from 58% in the last few years, demonstrating that education and innovative products can and will impact our costs. Water heating, large appliances and lighting account for the next three largest categories, at 12-14% each. They’re followed by small appliances and electronics as the least wasteful aspects of our modern lives.
Clearly, the largest impact that homeowners can have on their own energy consumption and costs will be found in their HVAC systems. One of the most affordable improvements you can make is to improve and repair the insulation of your home. This step can save a great deal of money, and because of the lost cost of initial investment, it will pay for itself very quickly.
Some upgrades will require a little more investment, but the payoff will be worthwhile. Programmable thermostats, for example are available for as low as $40, and the installation process is relatively simple. Most homeowners won’t require a professional to install them, but if you do the cost should be fairly low.
The United States Department of Energy estimates that if used properly these devices can save homeowners between 5 and 15% of their home heating and cooling costs. That significant savings can be achieved simply by adjusting the desired temperature by 10-15 degrees for around 8 hours a day, either while you’re out of the house or at night when you’re asleep. Again, the money saved will outweigh the small initial investment fairly quickly in the life of the house.
Water Heating Updates
The next largest share of energy costs for most homes is water heating, and improving this system will require a bit more commitment. While simply managing usage can impact the monthly cost of this necessity, the best way to save money on water heating is to invest in a new tankless or on-demand water heater.
Although this newer model is more energy efficient by about 22% in comparison to the traditional models, Consumer Reports estimates that due to the high cost of purchase and installation, it would take up to 22 years for the average homeowner to recoup their costs in savings. At a rate of $70-80 per year, this may not yet be a worthwhile investment for homeowners. However, the technology is developing quickly, and innovations in this field will continue to improve as time goes on.
Saving money on large and small appliances has become a simple thing to accomplish in the last few years, with the advent of energy efficiency rating systems and the Energy Star certification process. While the certification alone doesn’t necessarily label something as the most efficient device of its kind, they do offer information about the rate and the way that the device uses power, and offer you an easy way to compare different products.
Upgrading appliances to Energy Star certified versions can save quite a bit of money each month, and over the lifetime of the appliance will more than pay for itself. The question of whether or not the upgrade is worth the investment for you at this time will depend on a number of factors. If you’re looking to replace old appliances anyway it would be foolish to do anything but choose the most efficient. If on the other hand your appliances are fairly new and in good condition, it may be worthwhile to use that money elsewhere for the time being.
Frank Newhouse is a homeowner and a freelance writer with many years of experience in property management. He enjoys passing his knowledge on to other homeowners to help them save money and reduce their environmental impact. He currently writes for Air Conditioning Florida, which helps people in the Miami area find the HVAC services they need.