You want to make improvements to your home that will benefit the earth, save money and save energy, but there are so many options. Where do you start? Some improvements are costly and have long returns, while savings from others can be realized right away. I’ve found a few web sites and articles that have done the math for us. I’m sharing here some of the suggestions from these articles. I hope these ideas will help you determine your priorities when it comes to energy efficient and sustainable home improvements.
Solar panels – You can install solar systems to provide your electricity, pool/spa heating, hot water heating, or space heating. These systems require large initial investments, but current tax credits combined with the savings you’ll see on your energy bill could give you returns long after your system is paid for. This web site has information about the tax credits and a handy calculator to help you determine if it’s a good investment. http://www.find-solar.org/
Home Energy Audit – In a home energy audit a professional will inspect your home and identify areas where you can make improvements, estimate their costs and suggest the savings you may be able to realize. The utility that provides your heating energy may provide this service for free. Homes built before a certain date will qualify. If not, your utility can supply you with a list of service providers that can perform an assessment for you. To qualify for the Alliant Energy home energy assessment program your home must have been built before January 1, 2002. To qualify for the Mid American Energy program it has to have been built before December 31, 2001.
Compact Fluorescent Bulbs – This may seem like small potatoes, but if you consider that the average bulb costs $5, the average home has 45 bulbs and the average payback over the 10-year life of a bulb is $30, it adds up to a pretty significant number. A $225 investment in bulbs could result in a $1,350 pay-back. Any rebates that may be available from your energy provider will be icing on the cake!
Programmable Thermostat – GreenandSave.com has compiled a very useful chart illustrating the ROI of various investments. Their chart suggests that a programmable thermostat could save you more than $1,800 over 10 years. They also suggest that hot water heater blankets and low-flow shower heads will have a high ROI as well.
Green investments can also make your home more attractive to buyers. Take a look at this article from USA today that lists the most common green home improvement suggestions Realtors make to sellers.
This summer I visited the Smart House at the Museum of Science and Industry in Chicago. This home is decorated with lots of recycled materials and “repurposed” accessories and furniture. The vertical design makes a minimal footprint and the green roof features a self -watering garden. It was a very educational and inspiring visit. I highly recommend it the next time you’re vacationing in the area.
What green home improvements have you made that are paying you back?
Find more about these tips and other ideas at these links: