How to Afford Making Your Home Energy Efficient

>> Tuesday, May 12, 2009

This post was included in Carnival of the Green #180 at the Ethical Superstore.

Have you ever heard the saying, "The easiest way to make a million dollars is with a million dollars." In other words, if you already have a million dollars, it's easy to make the next million. The hard part is coming up with that first million.

Sometimes, home improvements in energy efficiency can seem similar. Although energy efficiency is an investment that will pay back over time, you can't earn the savings without first spending some money upfront. And especially now with the economy tanking, it can be scary to part with that initial investment.

But there are some methods available to help you finance your energy efficiency improvements.

How to find the money...

Federal Tax Credits

As part of the new Stimulus bill, you can get lots of money back through tax credits by improving your home's energy efficiency.

According to Energy Star:

Weatherization Loans

Many utility companies provide low-interest loans for energy-efficient improvements to your home, such as this one, and this one, and this one. Check out your own utility or energy company for more information. If you live in Raleigh, here's the scoop from Progress Energy's page.

Weatherization Assistance Program

20 to 30 million Americans may be eligible for this program, which provides services to weatherize homes for low-income families. The program includes a home energy audit, an assessment of a home's energy use, and recommendations for weatherization improvements for the home. The average value of improvements is $2,500.

The Department of Energy states,"Some measures, such as insulating your walls or roof, for example, will continue to provide you savings for the lifetime of your house—30 years or more. Others, such as making your heating or cooling equipment more efficient, will provide savings for 10 to 15 years. On average, the value of the weatherization improvement to your house is 2.2 times greater than the cost of the improvement itself."

How to spend the money...

If you have limited funds to work with, you may be unsure where you'd get the most bang for your buck. A professional energy audit would tell you where to start. Or you can check out this chart I found from the Rocky Mountain Institute. It's from 2002, but the information is still useful.

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Carrie May 13, 2009 at 9:47 AM  

it's too bad these options aren't available to renters. the only thing i've been able to do is add a programmable thermostat

Erin aka Conscious Shopper May 13, 2009 at 12:40 PM  

Carrie - We're in the same boat being renters. We've been lucky with our current apartment - it seems to be pretty tightly built except a little draftiness around the windows. But we're moving to a house rental soon, and I'm curious to see if our electric bill will go up.

I would add, though, that some (if not all) of the incentives I mentioned in this post are available to landlords as well. So if your landlord is making upgrades, be sure to remind them to look into improving energy efficiency.

Also, if you're going to be renting in one location long enough and are paying for your own electricity, it might be worth it to pay for some upgrades yourself as you'd end up saving money on your electric bill. You'd have to calculate the costs of the upgrades and the estimated cost of your electricity savings over time to see if it would be worth it. You might even be able to talk your landlord into reducing your rent in exchange for paying for home improvements since energy efficient upgrades ought to increase the value of the home.

Phew! I could have written another whole post there! :)

Wrapper May 15, 2009 at 8:20 PM  

Thanks for the tax credit info, I'd been looking for this. Spreading the word about making the home more energy efficient is good, many ideas are right there and go unnoticed. Your thoughts about drafty windows is a good point. I got out my digital thermometer and took readings inside and out side the glass (sliding doors)- what difference after I added soji screens and caulked the frames

Erin aka Conscious Shopper May 16, 2009 at 8:51 AM  

Wrapper - Thanks for commenting! I checked out your blog as well - very interesting concept for a blog and beautiful pictures.

Steve June 8, 2009 at 9:04 AM  

To make your home man energy efficient wise could really make earn you more savings than usual. By installing a HVAC system could be a great help.

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