The more energy efficient your home is, the less you'll spend to heat and cool it. And that could produce serious savings over time. But where should you focus your renovation dollars? Here are a few energy-efficient home improvements it pays to look at.
1. New appliances
When's the last time you replaced your home's appliances? If it's been well over a decade, then chances are, there's a more energy efficient option available, and while upgrading appliances can be expensive, remember that most devices will only last so long before needing to be replaced anyway.
Take your refrigerator, for example. The average fridge lasts about 13 years, so if yours is nearing that point or beyond, it could pay to replace it with a more energy-efficient model. Now HomeAdvisor reports that installing a new fridge costs $1,500 on average, but for an average-sized fridge that's rated as energy efficient, you could save around $125 per year in electricity costs.
And that’s just one appliance you might choose to update. An energy-efficient washer can save you $35 a year in utility bills, while an energy efficient dryer could save you $215 in energy costs over its lifetime.
Insulation, or a lack thereof, tends to be a problem in older homes more so than newer ones. Improper insulation allows heat to escape during the winter, making it harder to keep your home warm. It can also let too much heat in during the summer. If your home feels perpetually drafty, consider adding insulation to your attic, because that's where cool air commonly escapes from and hot air rises to. It costs $1,700 to $2,100 on average to add attic insulation, but in time, you're likely to recoup that outlay via savings on utility bills. And also, it should make your home much more comfortable.
Along these lines, you may want to install an attic fan. Though you'll pay to run that fan, and you'll also spend money to install it ($600 on average), the result will be that your HVAC system doesn't have to work as hard during the summer, potentially saving you hundreds of dollars a year.
3. New windows
Old, poorly sealed windows can let out a lot of air when you're trying to cool down your home -- and let in a lot of air when it's cold outside. New windows could, therefore, be a wise investment. Insulated, energy efficient windows can cost as little as $120 a piece, depending on size, and they can not only save you money on energy costs, but make your home more comfortable.
If replacing your windows isn’t an option due to the cost involved, your next best bet is to add weather stripping or caulk around the edges of your windows to fill in gaps that would otherwise allow air to get in or escape. It’s an easy process you can do yourself at a minimal expense (caulk can come in at under $5 a tube).
4. A new front door
Just as cold air can get in or escape through your windows, so too can your door cause you to waste energy. If your home has a hollow front door, you may want to replace it with an insulated, energy-efficient door instead. A fiberglass door, for example, is a good alternative, though you can expect to pay anywhere from $150 to $2,000 for it. If replacing your door is out of your budget, try weather stripping or caulking, just as you’d do for a window.
5. Sealed ducts
If your home has a forced hot air heating system, insulating your ductwork could result in a world of energy savings. It costs anywhere from $250 to $2,000 to seal ducts, depending on how extensive a network you have in your home.
6. LED light bulbs
Lighting costs can account for up to one-third of a home's electricity bill. By replacing incandescent light bulbs with LED light bulbs, you stand to save $3 to $5 per year, per bulb. Now, multiply that by the number of bulbs you have in your home, and it's clear that you can reap a decent amount of savings -- especially when you consider that LEDs can easily last up to 10 years.
7. A programmable thermostat
With a programmable thermostat, you can set your heating and cooling system to work more efficiently so that you spend less money in the course of making your home comfortable. With a programmable thermostat, you can set your home's temperature to go lower in the winter, or higher in the summer, for those times when you're asleep or not home. The cost of one of these thermostats is just $50 to $200, on average, and if used correctly, they can lower your heating and cooling bills by 15% or more.
8. A high efficiency water heater
About 15% of a typical home's energy usage comes in the form of heated water, so upgrading to a high efficiency water heater can result in serious savings, as these water heaters use 10% to 50% less energy than traditional water heaters. You can expect to spend $700 to $3,000 on a high efficiency water heater, but you can generally plan on having it around for 10 years or longer.
9. Solar panels
Not every house is suited to solar panels, but if your home gets enough sunlight to capitalize on a solar power system, your savings could be huge. The average cost to install solar panels is $15,000 to $25,000, according to the Center for Sustainable Energy, and you may be eligible for a tax credit that lets you claim up to 26% of your installation costs provided your installation is complete by the end of 2020. But once that system is in place, your electricity bill might go away completely, so in time, that could result in serious savings.
It pays to upgrade your home
A home that's energy efficient is one that's easier to sell, easier to live in, and easier to enjoy. If you're not sure what updates make the most sense for your home, it could pay to invest in a home energy audit. That way, you'll see where you're wasting energy needlessly and you'll get a good sense of how to make your home more efficient on a limited budget.