Energy-Efficient Home Improvements

Energy-Efficient Home Improvements - Lee Company

Does your utility bill leave you feeling hot under the collar each month? You’re not alone. Homeowners everywhere are feeling the heat as energy costs shoot through the roof. Why endure a financial sweat-storm every time you open your energy bill? Instead, you can make smart changes that save you money! Energy-efficient home improvements are a way to keep cool amidst the financial inferno.

We know what you’re thinking, but energy efficiency isn’t just another trend. It’s a practical, cost-saving solution to:

  • Slashing your energy bill
  • Boosting your home’s comfort
  • Increasing its value
  • Living more sustainably

Ready to turn down the temperature on your expenses? Let’s look at some of the best energy-efficient home improvements you can make.

5 Key Areas of a Home with Energy Efficiency Potential

You might be surprised to discover just how many parts of your home are waiting for an energy upgrade. Below are the key areas where energy-efficient home improvements can make a world of difference:

1. Heating, Ventilation, and Air-Conditioning (HVAC) Systems

Did you know that heating and cooling typically account for 50-70% of home energy bills? That’s right — it’s the single biggest factor contributing to your monthly bill!

Here are a few more shocking stats:

  • On average, a new furnace has a 95% annual fuel utilization efficiency (AFUE), whereas a 20-year-old one could have only a 60% AFUE, meaning you could be wasting 35% of all the energy you’re paying for.
  • An upgrade from pre-1992 to a new air conditioner can cut energy costs by 20-40%.
  • Air leakage, holes in ducts, and unconnected ducts can cause a loss of up to 20% of conditioned air while it moves through your duct system.

What do all those numbers add up to?

A great opportunity to save big on your utility bills each month with heating and cooling upgrades.

If you have an outdated furnace, air conditioner, or duct system, replacing them with modern energy-efficient ones can significantly reduce your bills.

What SEER Rating Do I Need for HVAC?

If your home’s cooling system is over 15 years old, it probably has a Seasonal Energy Efficiency Rating (SEER) of about 8 to 10. So if you’re looking to save big, consider replacing it with a high-efficiency unit with a SEER of at least 14.

Most people opt for a SEER range of 14-20, and as of this year, the required minimum SEER is 14 across the northern U.S. and 15 across the southern states. So if you’re going from a SEER of 8 to 15 or more, the savings can be drastic.

For your heating system, the metric you’ll want to consider is the AFUE (mentioned above). A unit with an AFUE of 90% or higher is considered very energy efficient.

How to Make an Old HVAC More Efficient

Now, if you’re not ready to invest in a new HVAC system installation, there are other things you can do like:

  • Replacing your dirty air filters regularly
  • Adding a programmable thermostat
  • Using space heaters strategically
  • Sealing any air leaks (especially around windows and doors)
  • Using ceiling fans to circulate air more efficiently

2. Insulation and Air Sealing

Think of insulation and air sealing as your home’s cozy winter coat, keeping warmth in and cold drafts out. To make your home more energy-efficient and cozy throughout the year, consider upgrading your insulation and sealing any drafts.

By doing so, you can reduce your need for heating by as much as 30%. This means a potential reduction of 30% on your winter energy bill!

But heat loss in the winter isn’t the only issue. The same applies to your air conditioner’s cooling power during warm weather if your home isn’t properly insulated and sealed.

So, where should you focus your energy efficiency efforts?

Here are the common areas where heat loss and cooling loss occur:

  • Cracks in Walls, Windows, and Doors: These account for the largest proportion of cooling and heat loss at 38%, showing the importance of proper sealing and insulation.
  • Air Ducts: As we mentioned in the last section, unsealed or damaged ductwork can also cause significant energy loss of upwards of 20%.
  • Walls: These act as the main barrier between the indoor environment and outside weather, but that barrier isn’t a total seal. The rate of heat loss and cooling in walls is approximately 17%.
  • Windows: Known for their leaks and responsible for about 16% of heat loss. Improving sealing through caulking and weatherstripping can help reduce this.
  • Attics and Ceilings: Responsible for about 5% of heat loss due to the fact that heat rises and can escape easily through a poorly insulated attic or ceiling. A solar attic fan is a great way to combat this in all seasons.
  • Doors: Known for their leaks and responsible for about 3% of heat loss. Improving sealing can help reduce this. Even garage doors can be insulated to reduce energy waste.
  • Floors and Basements: Cold ground can draw heat out of your home if floors and basements are not properly insulated, leading to about 1% heat loss. Have you considered crawl space encapsulation?

Investing in upgraded insulation and air sealing can prevent a significant amount of energy loss and air leakage. And this translates into a lower energy bill and greater comfort!

3. Windows and Doors

With up to 19% of your home’s heat escaping through windows and doors (as we uncovered in the previous section) they’re the covert operatives in your war against high energy bills.

Yet every home is unique, with several factors that can influence your windows and doors’ performance:

  • Home Design and Layout: The energy efficiency narrative changes with different floor plans and window placements.
  • Installation Integrity: Even the most energy-efficient windows and doors can be as useful as a chocolate teapot if poorly installed.
  • Window Quantity and Size: More or larger windows mean more potential heat escape routes.
  • Type of Window/Door: Different materials and designs have varying insulation capabilities.
  • R-value: A measure of thermal resistance. The higher the R-value, the greater the insulation power.

Remember, you could be looking at a total energy loss of up to 57% when combining the heat loss through windows, doors, and the cracks around them. It’s like having a hole in your pocket!

Investing in energy-efficient windows and doors, along with proper sealing, is a fantastic way to cut down on energy waste.

4. Lighting

Let’s shed some light on another area ripe for energy efficiency improvements: your lighting system. You might be surprised to know that about 9% of the energy budget in an average American household is dedicated solely to lighting!

But here are 3 sparks of good news:

  1. Swapping out your home’s five most frequently used light fixtures or bulbs with their ENERGY STAR counterparts can save you $75 annually. That’s like getting a free dinner just for choosing better bulbs!
  2. LED bulbs use an amazing 75% less energy and have a lifespan that’s 25 times longer than traditional incandescent bulbs. Now that’s efficiency on overdrive!
  3. Daylighting (i.e. skylights, windows, and other architectural openings to harness natural sunlight) reduces the need for artificial lighting during the day. Plus, natural light is a major value booster when it comes time to sell your home.

The next time you’re in need of new bulbs or fixtures, make the switch to energy-efficient options to save money and energy. That’s what the brightest homeowners do!

5. Appliance and Electronics

Finally, don’t forget about your appliances and electronics. Here’s the buzz: appliances and electronics account for about 15% of a household’s energy use. Your fridge, for instance, works around the clock and could be a major power guzzler if it’s an older model.

How can you fix this?

  • ENERGY STAR-rated appliances: These products use 10-50% less energy and water than standard models. A new ENERGY STAR refrigerator, for instance, can save you upwards of $312 per year depending on the age and size of your current refrigerator!
  • Smart Power Strips: Did you know your electronics still consume power even when turned off? Smart power strips cut power when devices are not in use, helping you save energy.

We also have to mention water heaters, as they account for around 20% of the average home’s energy use. If you have an older model, you could be overpaying for hot water due to inefficiency.

So if you’re looking to save money and energy, start with your appliances and electronics!

10 Popular Energy-Efficient Upgrades

When it comes to energy-efficient home improvements, not all upgrades are created equal…

Some will give you plenty of bang for your buck upfront, while others are more of a long-term investment.

But improving your home’s energy efficiency isn’t just about reducing energy consumption and lower utility bills; it’s also about increasing comfort and creating a more sustainable lifestyle.

If you dream of living in a home that not only looks good but also performs better, then below are 10 of the most popular energy-efficient upgrades.

We’ve listed these in order from the simplest and most affordable options to implement, to those that are more complex and a larger investment up-front:

  1. Change Air Filters: Changing your dirty air filters every three months can improve efficiency and reduce energy costs when running your heater or air conditioner.
  2. Replace Old Light Bulbs: As your regular bulbs burn out, replace them with LED or CFL bulbs with an ENERGY STAR rating for greater efficiency.
  3. Weather Stripping and Caulking: Use weatherstripping around windows, doors, and other openings to keep the cold air out in the winter and cool air in during the summer.
  4. Install a Programmable Thermostat: Automate your thermostat to reduce energy use when you’re out of the house to save up to $180 on heating and cooling costs each year.
  5. Energy-Efficient Appliances: Replace older appliances with ENERGY STAR-rated models and get ready to start seeing a decrease in energy costs.
  6. Water Heater Replacement: Upgrading to newer models of heat pump water heaters and tankless water heaters can result in up to 50% energy savings compared to older electric models. This can amount to a lifetime savings of approximately $3,704, which can offset the installation cost.
  7. Electrical Rewiring and Panel Upgrades: An efficient home also needs a safe and efficient electrical system. Rewiring and upgrading your electrical panel can improve energy efficiency and reduce the risk of electrical fires.
  8. Garage Door Replacement: Insulated garage doors reduce energy loss and increase curb appeal, offering an average ROI of over 97%.
  9. Insulation Upgrades: Good insulation can reduce your heating and cooling costs by 15% on average.
  10. HVAC System Upgrade: While more costly upfront, a new HVAC system can cut energy costs by 20-40%, depending on your existing setup.

Financing Energy Efficiency Projects for the Home

While each of these home improvements has different costs, many of them start paying for themselves right away. There are also plenty of ways to finance energy-efficient upgrades, so you don’t have to break the bank just to save money and energy.

There’s also the Federal Energy Efficient Home Improvement Credit, which allows you to claim up to $3,200 for energy-efficient improvements. That’s a huge incentive to make your home more energy efficient! You can learn more about that tax credit here.

And if you’re a Tennessee resident, there are special state energy tax credits and rebates — learn more here.

Each of these government tax credits includes different types of upgrades, from electrical panel upgrades to weatherization and more. Be sure to research the particular state and federal programs for which you could qualify, and let that help you decide which upgrades make the most sense for your home and budget.

***Lee Company is not providing tax advice. The content on this webpage has been prepared for informational purposes only. You should consult a tax professional if you have questions regarding federal tax credits.

DIY vs. Professional: Energy-Efficiency Improvements

At the end of the day, energy-efficiency upgrades are a great way to save money and increase comfort in your home. Plus, they can add tremendous value if you decide to sell your house down the road.

While it’s tempting to turn energy-efficient home improvements into a weekend DIY project, not every task is suitable for even the most ambitious homeowner.

Simple tasks like switching to LED bulbs, installing draft stoppers, and even adding insulation in some areas can be effective DIY projects. They can contribute to your home energy savings without requiring a large investment or complex installation process.

On the other hand, tasks like electrical rewiring, garage door replacement, HVAC system upgrades, or water heater replacements should be left to professionals. These tasks require specialized knowledge and, in many locations, state licenses proving the installer is qualified to do the work. Incorrect installation could lead to inefficient operation, safety risks, or even damage to your home.

Professional services from Lee Company go beyond just installation. We also offer maintenance and repairs for plumbing, electrical, garage doors, and appliances, ensuring your home remains energy efficient long after installation.

Upgrading your home’s energy efficiency is a journey that starts with simple steps. But to reach the highest peaks of energy saving, you might need a little professional help.

When you’re ready to take those steps, Lee Company is here to assist with energy-efficient upgrades that:

  • Reduce your energy consumption
  • Lower your utility bills
  • Increase your property value
  • Contribute to a more environmentally friendly home

Ready to make your home a model of energy efficiency and comfort? Contact Lee Company today for home improvement services in Tennessee, Kentucky, and Alabama!

Want to make some energy-efficient home improvements?

CALL US NOW AT 615.567.1000