An Energy-Efficient Home Is Friendly to Your Bank Account, Too

An Energy-Efficient Home Is Friendly to Your Bank Account, Too
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Doing the right thing for the environment can also help you save some serious money.

To improve energy efficiency in your home, you can make a number of improvements such as installing new lighting, appliances, insulation, and even solar power. These enhancements also help save hundreds of dollars in energy costs each year.

The move toward energy efficiency in the home started in the 1970s with the oil crisis, but has really become a focus with the emergence of energy-efficient appliances. Even though energy-efficient appliances may cost more upfront than other appliances, they usually save money in the long run.

For instance, incandescent lightbulbs were the primary source of residential lighting in homes throughout the U.S. for the greater part of a century. But as more efficient bulbs entered the market, households began breaking from tradition in favor of more energy-friendly options. The U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) states that residential LEDs use at least 75 percent less energy than incandescent bulbs and last 25 times longer.

Changing Energy Use at the Source

Ted Trabue, Managing Director of the District of Columbia Sustainable Energy Utility (DCSEU), estimates that the average household can save anywhere between $65 and $100 a year by replacing the five or six most frequently used incandescent lights in your house with LEDs.

Appliances that meet the efficiency standards set by the Environmental Protection Agency’s voluntary Energy Star program can reap major savings, Trabue says. As people begin using new appliances that meet the DOE’s Appliance and Equipment Standards Program, consumers may be able to save an annual average of about $500 by 2030.

“Let’s take a refrigerator as an example,” Trabue says. “An Energy Star-rated refrigerator can save you between $200 and $1,100 over the lifetime of the product. There are a lot of savings that come out of these high-efficiency products.”

Additionally, Energy Star dishwashers and air conditioners can each provide savings of about $40 per year over less efficient appliances, he says.

Money Leaking out the Window

About 90 percent of all homes in the United Stare are underinsulated — the amount of energy lost by air escaping through all the gaps and leaks in an average household is equal to the energy lost by leaving a window open every day of the year.

Trabue recommends a blower-door test to show where your home may be leaking energy. The test will help determine how best to address energy leakage. Installing better insulation or sealing can help lower your heating and air conditioning bill.

Go Natural and Save

Solar energy offers an even greater opportunity for energy savings than insulation or changing bulbs, says Trabue. The number of solar panel installations has grown significantly, reaching 1 million installations and 27 gigawatts in 2015. “This is a technology that’s going through the roof in terms of adoption,” he says.

And for good reason: A solar installation can lower your energy bills 60 to 80 percent, Trabue says.

There are also federal tax incentives offering a credit equivalent of up to 30 percent of the cost of a solar energy system. However, be aware that the tax credit is set to expire by the end of 2021.

One long-term effect of improving energy efficiency around your house is a cleaner planet, but you’ll see savings at once. “That’s one of the great things that I see about energy efficiency,” Trabue says. “These are actions that residents can take now and get immediate results out of them.”

Ready to start planning your energy-friendly home renovations? Here are some tips to help you get started and home improvement finance options to consider.

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