Home Energy Upgrades That Pay

Writer Richard Crume, of Solar Today Magazine, brings us this excellent review of home energy upgrades that pay in their March 2009 issue.  Solar Today is the publication of the American Solar Energy Association. Here is an excerpt, click here for the full article.

Are homeowners making good choices when it comes to reducing home energy consumption? Do they make decisions about improving energy efficiency based on the best advice of experts, or are decisions driven by popular trends and the latest advertising campaigns? If our nation is to make progress toward the goal of energy independence, we need to understand whether homeowners are making rational decisions about conserving energy when remodeling their homes, upgrading their appliances or simply replacing light bulbs.

President Obama’s New Energy for America plan makes efficient use of energy a national priority. Calling energy efficiency the “cheapest, cleanest and fastest energy source,” the president wants to cut electricity demand by 15 percent from projected levels by 2020, saving consumers an estimated $130 billion in utility costs while reducing greenhouse gas emissions. Under the president’s plan, more efficient energy use will be required across all segments of American society — in our factories and businesses, on our roads and in our homes.

Energy efficiency in the residential segment is particularly important because houses consume so much energy — nearly 21 percent of total U.S. energy production. Many homes are old and poorly insulated, and their owners cannot afford to make necessary improvements. Acknowledging this problem, the president’s energy plan sets forth a national commitment to weatherize at least 1 million low-income homes each year for the next decade. With simple improvements like sealing around windows and doors, fixing leaky ducts and installing insulation, the energy plan estimates home energy bill reductions of at least 20 to 40 percent. And by upgrading the furnace and adding energy-efficient lighting and appliances, a homeowner can achieve even greater savings.

Wise Decisions for Home Energy Upgrades
What are homeowners doing right now about energy efficiency? A recent survey by building products manufacturer Johns Manville (jm.com) helps answer that question. When homeowners were asked about energy upgrades made in the past year, 54 percent reported taking some action in their homes to conserve energy. The most popular action was putting in energy-efficient lighting, followed by caulking and sealing and then by installing energy-efficient appliances. Just 16 percent of respondents invested in attic insulation, a suprising outcome given that this may be the single most effective means for conserving energy in many older homes. (According to the U.S. Department of Energy, roughly 80 percent of older homes are poorly insulated.)

An interesting survey outcome concerns what motivates homeowners to conserve energy. Asked about the best reasons to increase home energy efficiency, homeowners gave these responses:
• Reducing home heating and cooling costs — 64 percent
• Reducing home contribution to global climate change — 19 percent
• Home comfort — 11 percent
• Increased resale value — 5 percent

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