Tag Archives: energy efficient homes

Stretch Your Budget the Furthest

By Brad Fletcher, Energy Analyst 

When a homeowner engages in energy efficiency upgrades on their home, the list of possibilities can sometimes feel exhausting. Unlike a kitchen upgrade or the addition of a bedroom, a whole house energy efficiency plan may be designed and executed over an extended period of time. An energy professional will help homeowners find the incentives and/or rebates available for the upgrades they recommend. Homeowners, with the help of an energy professional, typically develop a hierarchy of upgrades based on the cost effectiveness of each improvement for the home. Here are a few to start with:

Air sealing and insulating the home is an investment ranging from $50-$2000. Keeping the heat in and the cold out makes practical sense and is often the upgrade that stretches the homeowner’s dollar furthest.

Replacing the lighting with higher efficiency bulbs such as Compact Fluorescent Lighting (CFL) or Light Emitting Diodes (LED) can cost between $5-$50 per fixture and result in a short payback period making this investment a no brainer.

In a typical home, the heating and air conditioning system(s) consume the most energy and cost the most to operate. Upgrades to the HVAC system can result in considerable savings. Improving the mechanical system can include duct sealing, thermostat replacement, cleaning and tuning or in some cases, replacement with a more efficient system.  These improvements can range from $50-$3000 depending on the size of the home and extent of improvements.

Replacing water fixtures may seem like an unlikely way to save energy, but installing low-water usage or aerated fixtures in your kitchen and bathroom will reduce the amount of hot water needing to be generated by a home’s water heating system. Improving the efficiency of faucets and shower heads can range from $2-$200 and save both energy and water.

Older kitchen appliances can consume much more energy than newer, Energy Star rated appliances. Replacing old appliances that have become one of your home’s largest energy hogs will not only cut your total energy cost, but improve the look of your kitchen as well! A combination of dishwasher and refrigerator replacement range from $1500-$3000.

While there are abundant opportunities to improve the efficiency of an existing home, there are even more possibilities that exist in new home construction. This is due to both the technology that can be applied during the construction process as well as the ‘blank slate’ approach where builders can utilize more stringent standards and design features to improve the energy efficiency of your house. When constructing a new home, be sure to speak with your builder about how they can help reduce the cost of operating the home.

If you’re building a new home or doing energy upgrades to your current home, an energy professional can work with contractors and homeowners to calculate which upgrades provide the homeowner with the biggest bang for their buck. Beautiful light fixtures and stunning floor coverings are amenities you are able to see every day while energy efficiency is an amenity you can also feel and see on your monthly utility bills. With a wide range of upfront investment possibilities, energy efficiency is the only investment that will pay you back!


As we head into winter and high heating bills, many homeowners will be tempted to get some help with their house in an effort to decrease their energy costs. We see contractors and utility companies advertising their ‘free’ energy analysis, … Continue reading

Builders Market New Homes Using Energy Bill Savings

Study after study shows that buyers value energy efficiency when purchasing a newly built home.    However, it can be difficult for new construction to compete with existing homes on the market, particularly the abundance of heavily discounted foreclosed properties.  So how can builders use energy efficiency as a competitive advantage?  By boiling it down to dollars and cents.

A recent Associate Press article (read the whole article here) describes how Los Angeles based KB Builders shows potential homebuyers how energy-efficient features pay off.   KB gives buyers an upfront estimate of  their monthly electric and gas bills.  The estimate label also gives the home’s Home Energy Rating System (HERS) Index  and how it ranks on the energy efficiency scale. The lower the HERS score, the lower the projected energy costs.

A typical home built to code will receive a 100 on the HERS index.  An ENERGY STAR qualified home will typically rank around 85.  Existing homes usually rank around 130 on the scale.  So what does this mean when it comes to utility costs?  According to KB Home’s president and CEO, Jeffrey Mezger, the difference between a score of 80 and 130 could amount to doubling one’s energy bill.

McGuyer Homebuilders, Inc. out of Houston, TX also provides customers with estimates for annual heating and cooling costs.  McGuyer even guarantees these costs for up two years, promising to pay the difference if bills are higher than expected.

In a tight housing market, it takes a little creativity to sell a new home.  However, once buyers understand how energy-efficient features work for them, the decision to buy new construction becomes much easier.