We homeowners tend to delay making large home improvements. We know we need to do them, but they're expensive, and we don't want to lay out all that cash upfront. However, some of these upgrades end up paying for themselves in energy savings—and relatively quickly, too. The four biggest culprits for wasting energy around the home are:
An old, improperly installed or hollow door is a big offender when it comes to wasting energy, and glass-sliding doors lose more energy than other types. Replace your old doors with new, air-sealed doors with proper insulation. A properly installed steel door with polyurethane foam insulation should meet your needs. Solid wood doors are durable, energy-efficient and beautiful, but they're also the most expensive option, and they require regular painting or varnishing to continue looking good.
Replacing an old, worn or inefficient roof will not only reduce your energy costs, but it will also prevent water damage in your home. Choose a roofing system with an excellent leak barrier, especially in wetter climates. Proper ventilation is also essential; it prevents a host of issues, including mold and mildew, damage to your insulation and stress to your heating and cooling system.
For homeowners interested in going more green, consider installing solar panels. The federal government offers the Residential Renewable Energy Tax Credit to help defray the cost, and many states and utilities offer additional tax credits, rebates and other incentives to encourage the use of renewable energy.
If you have old or inefficient windows, don't simply caulk around them—replace them. New windows are usually more cost-effective than trying to make old windows energy-efficient. The three main types of replacement windows are vinyl, wood and aluminum. Wood is excellent for its insulation value, but it is prone to rot in rainy or humid regions. Wood-clad windows can have the same issues. Vinyl rates higher than aluminum for energy efficiency, but in very wet climates, aluminum may be the best option. Insulated glass and tight construction are essential for energy savings.
Fifty-four percent of the average home's energy costs come from heating and cooling, according to the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE). If your HVAC equipment is more than 10 years old, consider replacing it. ENERGY STAR-rated equipment can cut your annual energy bill by up to $200, according to the DOE.
If you don't already have one, install a programmable digital thermostat, too. Older thermostats often contain mercury, which is a hazardous material. Digital thermostats contain no moving parts to break and are more accurate, and you will save money by programming it to cut back on heating or cooling while you sleep and are at work.
Don't Guess What You Need
Consider investing in a professional energy audit to find how you can reduce your home energy consumption and save money. The auditor will evaluate your home's weaknesses and recommend improvements.