Top 10 energy-Efficient home improvements to make that increases property value & comfort

Energy-efficient appliances in the background with a happy family and a child getting milk from the refrigarator

Being energy efficient is not only good for the environment, but it can also be good for your wallet – and your property value. In fact, energy efficient homes sell for an up to 5% more than their less efficient counterparts, according to a recent Fannie-Mae study. If you’re looking to make your home more energy efficient in order to make it more comfortable and boost your property value, here are 10 of the best home upgrades to consider.

1. Energy-Efficient Heating

Heat makes up just a fraction of the energy consumed in a home but about 29% of your home’s energy bill. Upgrading the furnace is one of the best ways to improve your home’s energy efficiency and reduce your heating bill.

Condensing gas furnaces convert heat into energy more efficiently than any other type of furnace, and gas furnaces also score high marks for efficiency when it comes to power consumption; electric condensing furnaces cut power consumption in half. While oil-fired furnaces are also highly efficient, they do have the potential to emit more greenhouse gases than electric furnaces.

For even more on this, explore our energy-efficient heating tips for your home here.

Modern house of future with efficient heat pump reduce living cost

2. Power Strips

A simple way to save on electricity (and reduce your carbon footprint) is to make sure all your electronics are plugged into a power strip and you’re using the switch to turn everything off when it’s not in use. This is especially helpful when you’re not home overnight or on the weekends.

When it comes to power strips, the smart ones (those that can individually control each outlet) are a little more expensive but well worth the investment, as they save you time as well as electricity and gas. A smart power strip may be requested from your local electric utility, so do reach out to them if you need one (for example, in Philadelphia, see this from PECO).

3. Energy-Efficient Appliances

Appliances are becoming smarter and more energy-efficient. They offer new features and capabilities that can help you save money and be more convenient. They also support a more reliable and cleaner electric grid.

While upgrading utilities and windows will have the biggest impact on your home’s energy efficiency, upgrading appliances isn’t far behind.

Smart appliances that score high marks on the ENERGY STAR scale not only save you money but also protect the environment by using less energy and water and manufacturing materials. Of course, replacing all your appliances isn’t necessary but it does make sense if one of your current appliances is broken or very old.

4. Check Your Insulation

One of the best things that you can do to make your home more energy efficient is to upgrade your insulation. This is something that will not only make your home more comfortable, but it will also save you money on your energy bills.

Sealing air leaks and adding insulation to your home can make it more comfortable and energy efficient. This can provide up to a 10% savings on your annual energy bills.

Check your insulation and, if needed, add more in areas where air is escaping or being drawn into your living space. Common places air leaks occur are:

  • Around recessed windows and doors
  • Around plumbing and electrical lines
  • Behind wall-to-wall carpeting
  • In attic crawl spaces

Each of these areas allows warm air to escape, which means your heating system has to work harder to make up for the lost warmth.

Simple fixes include installing weather stripping and caulking. Bigger jobs might include sealing leaks and adding insulation in your attic.

Detecting Heat Loss at the House With Infrared Thermal Camera

5. Seal Your Windows and Doors

Seal your windows and doors. This helps keep warm air in your living space, instead of letting it escape out of cracks or gaps. You can purchase kits that make it easy to seal windows, or you can DIY by following these steps:

  • Move the window panes into single-pane mode by removing the dividers.
  • Remove the painter tape from the jambs.
  • Rub a high-performance sealant or silicone along the jamb.
  • Place new painter tape along the edges of the window pane to keep them in place and prevent air leaks.
  • Replace divider dividers.

Upgrading your windows is another great energy-saving strategy, and it may be needed if you’re experiencing extreme drafts or other issues with your existing windows.

Windows that are low-E can help reduce energy loss, which means your heating and cooling systems will have to work less. Low-E windows have an exterior coating that helps retain heat or coldness.

Summer and winter - home energy efficiency upgrades get savings
Source: Energy Star

6. Upgrade to Energy-Efficient Windows

When it comes to home improvements that boost energy efficiency and cut your energy bills, replacing your windows is one of the top ways to make your home more energy efficient. New windows will help to keep heat in during the winter and cool air in during the summer. These days, windows are more energy efficient than they’ve ever been, so there’s a wide range of options to choose from when it comes to reducing your window energy loss.

Even if you decide to go with more traditional double-paned windows, you can still save around up to 24% in the winter months and up to 18 percent during the summer, according to HomeAdvisor.

At the high end, solar panel windows will cut your energy costs even further, as long as you’re OK with the added cost upfront.

Contractor installs insulated and upgraded window

7. Positive Air Pressure

Positive air pressure improves indoor air quality and can cut energy loss through your ventilation system. While this seems like something you wouldn’t need to think about in an energy-efficient home, the fact is that this is automatically created when there is a big difference in indoor and outdoor pressure (say you have big windows and no doors). This can cause problems with ventilation and air quality.

One way to counter this is by using negative air pressure (having windows and doors open into a space with no ventilation system). However, this isn’t always practical or safe. The better solution is to use positive air pressure in your living areas and negative air pressure in your bedrooms. This helps keep fresh air entering your living space while keeping ventilated air from escaping through open bedroom doors at night.

8. Solar Water Heating

Save money and energy by installing a solar water heating system that provides some or all of the hot water for your house.

There are two types: collectors where sunlight is captured and used to heat water and solar panels that convert sunlight into electricity, which is then used to heat water in a tank. Both systems reduce your gas or electricity bill for heating water.

9. Power Your Appliances Right

When you power your appliances, do it right. This means using the correct wattage for your appliances. A watt is a measure of power, so wattage tells you how much electricity an appliance will use.

In the United States, all appliance labels show the watts and amps/volts. Amps measure the amount of electricity used over time, and volts tell you about the type of current that will be used. Therefore, watts = amps x volts.

So, where does the formula for energy efficiency come into play?

The power (watts) of an appliance is related to how much energy it uses. The  energy efficiency of an appliance is related to the amount of work it does (joules per use) for each watt consumed.

For example, a toaster has a wattage of 600. This tells us it uses 600 watts of electricity. The energy efficiency of the toaster is calculated by determining how much work (in joules) it does for every 600 watts used. The higher the “work done per watt,” the more efficient the appliance is.

10. Smart Thermostat

Smart thermostats can help save energy by monitoring and adjusting your home's temperature when you're away. They can also be used to automatically turn down your heating and cooling when it's not needed. After all, heating and cooling use more energy than any other appliance in the home, making thermostats a good candidate to help save energy.

Upgrade your thermostat to one of the smart varieties, which can monitor and adjust the temperature in your house based on whether any doors or windows are open or closed, who is present in the house and other variables. This allows you to maintain a comfortable temperature without wasting energy.

Look for ENERGY STAR certified smart thermostats, which have been independently verified to save energy based on extensive field data.

Woman using smart home thermostat to control heating in her home

For even more about energy-efficient homes, see our Energy Efficiency FAQs here.

Use the free ENERGY STAR Home Advisor

You can also get started on profiling your home energy efficiency and all-around comfort using the Home Advisor here in 5 minutes.

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