Start Saving Energy—and Money—by Making These Upgrades to Your Home
At some point or another, every homeowner has dealt with the shock of an unexpectedly high gas or electric bill. As heating and cooling costs continue to increase nationwide, homeowners of older homes are making the smart decision to re-invest in their homes by making them more efficient. It’s not just about saving money today: home energy upgrades can actually improve your home’s value and make it more attractive to prospective buyers down the road.
Whether you’re getting your home ready to list, or you’re just looking to put more money back into your wallet every year, invest into your property by completing these efficiency-boosting home improvement projects.
Replace your drafty windows
If your home features single-pane windows as many homes older than 1952 do, it might be time for an upgrade.
Single-pane windows are especially problematic in the summer. As the sun beats down on the window glass, it warms it. Some of that heat is transferred inside, mitigating the work that your air conditioner is doing to keep your home cool. Many homes with single-pane windows were built back when electricity was a lot cheaper than investing in energy-efficiency upgrades. Today, that paradigm has completely flipped!
Dual-pane windows are the right call. As their name suggests, these windows feature two panes of glass. They’re separated by a thin air pocket, which is typically filled with a non-toxic insulating gas, like argon or krypton. As the exterior pane is heated, that heat energy has to then pass through the gas and the other pane in order to heat the inside of your home. This slowed heat transfer means your home stays much cooler in the summer. On the flip side, the cold in winter doesn’t transfer into your home as easily with dual-pane windows, allowing your heating system to stay on top of the cold, keeping you warmer for less money.
As an added bonus, dual-pane windows significantly improve your home’s value and attractiveness to buyers. In many markets, there’s a sizable number of buyers who will only look at homes with dual-pane windows. Why? Well, after years of paying outrageous electric bills in the summer, they recognize that their home’s efficiency really impacts their household budget just as much as their mortgages and fees.
Add attic insulation
Your windows aren’t the only thing that could be wasting energy in your home. You can’t see it, but in older homes, your attic and your roof are actually a superhighway for heat energy. Newer homes use radiant heat barriers and other technologies to keep the heat out and the cool in and vice versa in the winter.
In older, less efficient homes, the heated air produced by your furnace in the winter rises through your ceiling and attic and out of your roof. In the summer, the sun beating down on your roof heats the attic, which then radiates into your home. Without proper insulation, this heat transfer process happens unobstructed, leading to a massive efficiency drop, causing your heater and AC to work overtime.
Attic insulation is a little like putting toll booths on that aforementioned superhighway. It slows down the movement of heat energy, which means you retain more of what your furnace produces in the winter and your air conditioner has less work to do in the summer.
Talk with a local HVAC expert about your current insulation. Every region of the country requires a different level of insulation: homes in the Sun Belt, for instance, generally require less than homes in the Northeast or Midwest. In a snowy winter climate, proper insulation could reduce the wear-and-tear on your home’s furnace during the colder months of the year. This means fewer breakdowns and repairs, which in turn often leads to a longer system lifespan. If you can put off the day you’ll eventually need a new furnace installed, that will save you a lot of money!
Bonus tip! Some states offer a weatherization rebate for those who have additional insulation blown into their attics. You pay for it and the state pays you back since your home will be more efficient and draw less from the power grid. Contact your power provider for details.
Seal your leaky ducts
While your HVAC technician or home energy specialist is up in your attic installing insulation, have them take a look at your home’s air ducts. Your home’s ductwork carries heated and cooled air to all the rooms of your home. But, whether due to age or installation defects, ducts may have leaks that allow the heated or cooled air to escape, drastically reducing your systems efficiency. As a result, your furnace or air conditioner has to work even harder to maintain the temperature inside your home, causing your energy bills to spike while your home gets less comfortable with every passing year.
If you have ducts that travel through an accessible crawl space or basement, you can actually do a quick test for duct leaks on your own. While your heater is running, run your hands above the surface of the duct. If you feel a sudden blast of heat, what you’re feeling is a duct leak. Of course, this is a rather inexact and unscientific approach to finding leaks. If you really think your ducts have issues, you should call in an HVAC energy specialist so they can use specialized heat detection tools to pinpoint every single leak in your ducts and plug them.
Take a detailed look at the home efficiency upgrades discussed above by checking out this new infographic.