Homeowners looking to cut back on electricity expenses with a few smart upgrades might be wondering which projects will give them the most bang for their buck—especially if selling their home soon is in the plans. The first step to determining which energy efficient upgrades are worth the investment is to find out just how much energy the home uses. Homeowners can use Energy Star's Home Energy Yardstick and get a basic energy audit for free. Another option is to pay for a professional assessor to evaluate the home's efficiency. They will provide an energy rating number and offer upgrade suggestions. However, here are four home energy friendly home updates to consider that are solid investments, either to reduce utility expenses or to make a home more appealing when selling.
1. Home Insulation Upgrades
Adding new insulation in the attic and re-sealing the attic is the most affordable energy-efficient home update and also offers the greatest return on investment. Whether one plans to sell or not, Energy Star estimates that sealing and insulating around the home can reduce energy costs by 10 percent, so savings begin immediately.
2. Heating and Cooling System Updates
According to the US Department of Energy, approximately 50 percent of energy expenses within the home are related to heating and cooling use. Choosing which upgrades are worthwhile will depend on the age and condition of the current system. HVAC systems more than 12 years old tend to have higher operating expenses and might need replacing. While a costly investment, Energy Star claims that cooling and heating costs can be reduced 30 percent with a new energy-efficient system.
Furthermore, Energy Star also recommends programmable thermostats that save homeowners and average of $180 annually in energy costs. Newer systems can also benefit from installing a smart thermostat that gives individuals the freedom to control the HVAC system from anywhere in the world. Another cost efficient upgrade is to check the duct system for any leaks or work ducts, which can cause tremendously inefficient systems and poor air quality.
3. Upgrade to Energy Efficient Windows
This is one of the most costly upgrades that could take years to pay off depending on the immediate plans for the home. Window replacements can cost thousands of dollars, but some studies have shown that even 10 vinyl window replacements at a cost of $14,725 can ultimately recoup $10,794 in a resale situation. In other words, energy savings may be the best benefit if selling isn't in the near future. Energy Star estimates that new Energy-Star rated windows can reduce energy bills by 12–15 percent annually. However, there are also tax credits that vary by state that can make this investment worthwhile right now.
4. Solar Panel Installations
There are many types of home solar installations available today. Small systems for partial use, large systems for whole home power, and options ranging from permanent and removable panels to tape systems that apply directly to the roof. Overall savings will depend on the system's type, size, the cost of energy in the home's location—such as locations like South Loop—and whether it is self or professionally installed. This is a solid investment because more home buyers are interested in solar energy, and there are often generous tax credits that help recoup initial costs—not to mention no more energy bills. There is a free and useful cost vs. savings analysis tool at Energy Sage.
Homeowners should also keep their receipts to document energy-efficient upgrades to provide to realtors or potential buyers in the future as evidence of upgrades to get the most ROI regardless of the updates chosen.
Ted Guarnero, REALTOR® is a full-time real estate agent with over 1000 homes sold and $400 million in sales. Working with Compass real estate offering professional and effective real estate services to help you succeed in the local real estate market. Visit www.seeChicagorealestate.com for information on downtown Chicago real estate and to get in touch with an expert in the Chicago real estate market. Before you hire your next Realtor call Ted Guarnero 855-See-Chicago, it's on the House !