Wondering if Home Energy Efficiency Updates Are Worth It? Here’s How Much They Might Save You

Wondering if Home Energy Efficiency Updates Are Worth It? Here’s How Much They Might Save You

Improving your home’s energy efficiency doesn’t just help the environment — it also helps your wallet.

Energy-efficient upgrades can reduce the amount of water, gas, electricity, and other utilities your home uses significantly. In some cases, they can even qualify you for valuable rebates or tax credits, too.

Looking to improve your environmental footprint and cash flow? Here’s how much various energy efficiency upgrades can save you.

1. Solar panels

Solar panels don’t come cheap (full systems run anywhere from $16,000 to $30,000, according to HomeAdvisor), but they also come with serious savings. The exact amount varies depending on the placement of the house and the property’s size, but Google’s Project Sunroof can help you get a good estimate of yours. (My home, for example, would save me about $135 per month and $9,000 in the next 20 years, after accounting for costs of the system).

Solar energy systems also qualify you for a valuable tax credit. For systems installed in 2020, you can deduct 26% of the system’s costs from your total tax liability. In 2021, it will go down to 22%. You might also get state tax breaks or rebates from your local utility provider. Use this guide to see what’s available in your area.

2. Energy Star appliances

Appliances and home systems (think water heaters, etc.) that are certified by Energy Star come with significant energy and financial savings. Energy Star refrigerators, for example, use about 15% less energy than traditional models and only cost about $50 annually to run. Energy Star dishwashers and washers also offer similar savings due to their energy efficiency.

You can find Energy Star appliances at any home improvement or appliance store. For more information on what’s available, see this brochure from EnergyStar.gov.

3. Low-E windows

Low-emittance windows emit less radiant heat than traditional models, which helps reduce the amount of energy you need to heat and cool your home. According to the Department of Energy, these windows can save you anywhere from 12% to 33% on your annual heating and cooling bills (around $100 to $274 total). 

Smaller energy efficiency updates

There are also smaller upgrades you can make that are low-cost but big on impact. These include things like:

  • Low-flow showerheads and toilets: Any fixture that uses less water is going to save you cash. Low-flow WaterSense toilets will save you around $100 per year. 
  • Smart thermostats: Smart thermostats like the Nest and Ecobee can save you big, too. Nest saves the average homeowner between 10 to 12% on heating bills and another 15% on cooling bills. Some utility companies also offer rebates for having these devices installed.
  • Smart power strips: We’ve all heard about “energy vampires” — plugged-in devices that eat up tons of energy even when not in use. But who can really remember to unplug a device after every single use? That’s where smart power strips come in. When plugged-in devices aren’t in use, these strips go into standby mode, reducing your energy use (and your bills along with them). They can save you about $200 per year.
  • LED light bulbs: LED light bulbs use about 75% less energy than incandescent bulbs, and they last about 25 times longer, too. Their energy efficiency saves homeowners around $75 per year. 
  • Shady trees: Planting trees is a great way to lower your energy output and your bills in one fell swoop (it also might increase that curb appeal, too). You’ll want trees to shade your home, particularly in areas that get direct sunlight. When done right, it can save you up to 50% on your annual air conditioning costs.
  • Adding more insulation: Insulating your water heater tank and your pipes is a smart way to control your home’s temperature and reduce energy use. You can also use spray foam insulation to fill in any gaps in your home’s framing (like in the attic, in crawl spaces, etc). 

Many of these are pretty small updates you can make in just a couple of hours and with very minimal supplies. (A few weeks in quarantine might be the perfect time to do it!).

Want to improve your energy efficiency? Try this.

If you’re looking for more ways to improve your home’s energy efficiency (or reduce your energy bills), getting an energy audit can help. During an audit, an energy professional will assess your home’s current energy usage and make recommendations for potential improvements. If you’re interested, your electric or gas company can usually provide the name of an energy auditor in your area.

Need help paying for the costs of any updates they recommend? A cash-out refinance might be able to help. Get in touch with Embrace Home Loans today to discuss your options.

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Aly Yale

Aly J. Yale is a freelance writer focusing on real estate, mortgage, and the housing market. Her work has been featured in Forbes, Bankrate, The Motley Fool, Business Insider, The Balance, and more. Prior to freelancing, she served as an editor and reporter for The Dallas Morning News. She graduated from Texas Christian University's Bob Schieffer College of Communication with a major in radio-TV-film and news-editorial journalism. Connect with her at AlyJYale.com or on Twitter at @AlyJwriter.