Many people are unaware that going green in one's home can also save some greenbacks in the wallet. For both types of savings, it's all about energy efficiency. A green home -- one that's built to be eco-friendly and sustainable -- conserves energy and, in turn, costs less to power, heat and cool, which makes the dwelling a more financially and environmentally sound investment.
Get a home energy audit. Wasted energy is synonymous with wasted money. Few people are aware of how much energy is being wasted in their home, and even fewer know where to start when correcting the issue. A team of professionals can evaluate your home for trouble spots, such as poor insulation, improper door hangings, outdated windows, inefficient HVAC systems and more.
"A home audit is the first step when making a home energy efficient, as it identifies the trouble spots. This service is actually very affordable and often pays for itself with the recommendations," says Abe Issa of Global Efficient Energy, an energy solutions service based in Fort Worth, Texas.
When getting a home energy audit, there's one thing to know: Timing matters.
"We recommend having the audit down when energy consumption is at its highest; that's in the winter for cold-weather states and in the summer for warmer locations," he adds.
Upgrade to solar energy. Solar panels may seem intimidating to the layman, but solar technology has evolved in recent years, making it accessible and versatile for homeowners. Solar panels can be added to the roof or walls of a home, so the energy efficiency can be improved without compromising curb appeal.
"The residential use of solar energy was fairly rare only 10 years ago. In recent years, the technology has improved, as well as the affordability," says Abe Issa.
Small changes can reap big rewards. According to the Environmental Protection Agency, the average home spends a whopping $2,200 each year on home energy costs. Half of those costs go toward heating and cooling. Simply sealing and insulating a home's envelope -- the outer walls, windows, ceiling and roof, doors and floors -- can reduce heating and cooling costs by about 20 percent.
"It's crucial to address any energy leaks before making any other changes in the home. These leaks can waste up to 30 percent of a home's energy consumption, especially in older homes, so it's imperative to fix these before moving forward," says Abe.
Other easy fixes, like switching to compact-fluorescent bulbs or dropping your furnace a few degrees in the winter, can make a noticeable impact.
Explore energy tax credits, rebates and financing opportunities. Going green is good for the environment, and it's good for your wallet too! The government's Energy Star program offers qualifying homeowners a variety of potential rebates on their tax returns, in addition to money they are already saving on their monthly bills. Various tax credits are available for specific improvements, including a window and door tax credit, solar energy systems tax credit and more.
When it comes to creating a more energy efficient home, there are up-front costs involved, such as an energy audit or replacing drafty windows for new, secure models. However, when done correctly, these costs ultimately pay for themselves in decreased energy bills and even tax savings.