Building a sustainable society requires solutions targeted at among other things reducing demand, and diversifying energy sources. As a homeowner or tenant, energy efficiency is one way you can reduce your energy consumption with the added benefit of reducing your energy utility bill by up to 30%. Plus, energy efficient homes often report higher resale prices. Many public resources exist that provide information on energy efficiency as well as contact information for energy auditors and contractors.
I want to make my home energy efficient. Now, where do I start? A preliminary energy audit of your home is a great place to start for a more energy efficient home. Energy Saver is a user-friendly DIY energy audit tool that includes air leak locators, insulation checks, and inspections for heating and cooling equipment, lighting, appliances and electronics. With a bigger budget, you can opt for a professional energy auditor who can provide a more accurate analysis of the energy efficiency of and provide recommendations for improvement to your home. Most professional auditors use the HERS index, which is the national standard in assessing energy efficiency of homes. Information on energy auditors can be obtained from local energy offices, utility officers or simply looking in the telephone directory under the Energy section. Remember, in order to get the best out of a professional audit, consider different auditors and contact references where possible.
The audit is over, now what?
Outside of changing the type of light-bulb used and other low-skill tasks, most energy efficient projects require the services of a skilled contractor. The Building Performance Institute (BPI) is a non-profit quality assurance and standard setting organization that provides a large database of certified energy contractors. If energy contractors are outside of your budget, some of the most cost effective energy efficiency measures taken by homeowners that yield the greatest energy consumption reductions can be found at the US Department of Energy website and include:
- Appliances and electronics
- Appliance energy cost estimator
- Upgrading to appliances that are Energy Star Certified
- Using advanced power strip to reduce energy usage while inactive
- Incorporating more daylight, and natural lighting through windows and skylights into home design
- Switching to more energy efficient light bulbs
- Electric space heating and cooling
- Proper home insulation is key
- Electric water heating
- Purchase an electric water heater that uses less energy
How do I pay for these costs?
Starting small usually doesn’t demand a substantial financial investment while home-scale energy efficiency improvement projects are capital intensive. In the latter case, should you not have immediate funds, energy mortgages are something to consider. These mortgages fall into two categories: energy efficient and energy improvement mortgages. The former is used to finance homes that are already energy efficient while the latter is used to finance energy efficiency in existing homes. Additionally, most states incentivize energy efficiency through tax credits and rebates for energy efficiency actions. For example, Massachusetts offers a 15% credit of up to $1,000 off your state income tax attributed to the net spending on adding renewable energy systems to a primary residence. Lastly, always remember to read the fine print when taking advantage of such tax credits.
As a homeowner, or prospective buyer, these are but a few active steps that can be taken to make your home more energy efficient. For more information on energy efficiency best practices for homeowners visit: Mass Save (one stop resource in building an energy efficient home in Massachusetts) Energy Star (government resource on energy efficient products) Energy Efficient Windows (a document highlighting rebates available to homeowners to install energy efficient windows Department of Energy (a huge resources to meet all energy efficiency needs)