Home efficiency on a budget

Posted: July 19th, 2012 by Brad

Each home is different, and how much you could benefit from a particular project depends on many variables, including the age and design of your home, your financial situation and your personal priorities. To help focus on what you really need and want, consider this hypothetical scenario: You have been given $7,000 to spend on home energy improvements. What would you do with the money?

Can you make significant energy improvements to your home on a more modest budget? Absolutely. You could add insulation, buy a new, high-efficiency heater, or purchase a new energy-efficient refrigerator. The big question is how to decide which of these energy improvements will provide the biggest benefits for you. Regardless of your home’s age, most residential efficiency experts recommend a home energy audit as a first step. An energy audit costs about $300, although low-cost or free audits are sometimes offered by local utilities.

The following are some low cost solutions to reduce your carbon footprint and maximize your home energy savings:
For $500:
Caulking/sealing air leaks
Before installing every fancy gadget and energy-efficient appliance, sealing air leaks from windows, doors and walls is always the first
step toward a more energy-efficient home.
Better lightbulbs
This isn’t exactly breaking news anymore, but if you haven’t already switched to compact fluorescent bulbs, this is step two. If you can’t abide the harsh light of fluorescents, new incandescent bulbs are 30 percent more energy-efficient.
Outdoor solar lighting
This might seem redundant, but it’s worth emphasizing the point that, on a shoestring budget, it’s best to focus home improvements on eliminating drafts and needless expenditures. And there’s simply no reason to use electricity for outdoor lighting anymore. These lights will channel the sun’s daytime energy into free nighttime illumination.

For $1,000:
Replace exterior doors
A more permanent and superior solution to weatherstripping is installing new exterior doors. Energy loss through these doors is about half that of windows. Installation is a large part of this cost, so replacing multiple doors in one shot should lead to a good chunk of savings.
Install a programmable thermostat
As it is with many things, timing matters when it comes to energy use. Despite the extra energy needed to compensate later in the day, shutting off systems in the daytime and trimming use in the middle of the night can still save a substantial amount of energy and cost.
Window coverings
It doesn’t get a lot of attention, but window coverings aren’t just about interior decorating. Versatile window coverings can allow you to employ effective daylighting strategies that will take the burden off interior lighting. In some cases, you may want a covering that will act as a makeshift insulating shield for your window glass.

For $5,000:
Upgrade water heating
Ideally, you’ll install a solar water heating system that will achieve unmatched energy-efficiency and a longer lifespan, but even tankless water heating systems and better-insulated hot water tanks can be a significant upgrade over older units.
Replace a major appliance(s)
Refrigerators are best, followed by washers and dryers, but you should also evaluate those appliances which are oldest and closest to failure. Even replacing dishwashers, oven ranges and microwaves can make a sizable difference.
Install Insulation
Whether it’s blown into wall cavities or rolled onto attic space, there is usually a worthwhile opportunity for new insulation. Though it sounds straightforward, you’ll need to consult with a contractor who can knowledgeably identify the area of greatest need and the most cost-effective solution. A home energy auditor is also a great resource for making such recommendations.

Would you like a home energy auditor referral? Give us a call (866) 766.7325 or drop us a line: info@justrealseattle.com.

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