The US Department of Energy (DoE) recently reached a major milestone in its bid to make American homes more energy efficient, as the millionth US property was ‘weatherized’ – helping properties retain heat and prevent drafts – using state funds.
The American Recovery and Reinvestment Act in 2009 unlocked $5 billion in federal funds for the Weatherization Assistance Program, a scheme design to help reduce the impact of crippling energy bills for low-income families at a time when household budgets are being stretched to the limit. According to the D o E’s own research (page seven of this lengthy report), the weatherization of properties, which involves caulking windows, adding insulation to roofs and wall cavities and sealing all ducts and vents, can reduce the average annual expenditure on energy bills by $436.34. The scheme has also been credited with providing a boost for employment figures and the retro-fitting economy.
As with almost every government initiative, however, there is not enough money available for the project to be all-inclusive, so only low-income families have benefited. However, homeowners not eligible for the scheme should still take not of the savings on offer – many energy efficiency measures are inexpensive and soon pay for themselves. On top of that, homes with a better energy efficiency rating are more saleable.
Making Your Property More Energy Efficient
Basic energy efficiency measures are about retaining heat, meaning that you have to use less fuel to warm your property to a comfortable temperature. The first place to start is the top of the house: heat rises after all, and according to the UK’s National Energy Foundation (NEF), six to eight inches of good insulation can cut your energy bill by as much as 20 per cent. Insulating your walls is typically more costly, but the benefits again can be significant; the NEF claims that half the heat lost from your home escapes through the walls.
Doors and windows are also a major source of heat loss, and if they are badly sealed they will also let cold drafts in which lower the temperature of your home. Sealants and draft-excluders are very cheap and will address the problem immediately, but longer term you might want to think about replacing single-pane windows with double-glazed ones; they retain far more heat while also making your home more secure.
Thinking even longer term, it is worth addressing the type of energy you use. If you live in an area which gets a decent amount of sunshine- especially those in the south or on the west coast – you can make huge savings on your energy bills by installing solar cells which generate your own electricity. These systems are not cheap, but they last for around 25 years, so if you plan on staying in your property for a long time the savings can be enormous.
Consider The Bigger Picture
Unfortunately, some properties – particularly older ones – will always struggle to retain heat. Investing in the technologies to make them more efficient may be expensive, and the returns may not be what you expected. In cases such as this, you may want to think about the bigger picture and consider moving. Older couples who have no need for the amount of space they have now that the children have flown the nest should consider this especially. Smaller houses are cheaper to heat and easier to manage, and the financial benefits that come from downsizing can be a useful boost for retirement.
Selling your property is not a decision that should be made on the spur of the moment, especially considering the housing market is not nearly as strong as it was five or six years ago. However, if you are selling your home, property-buying firms such as Tom Craven can help those struggling to drum up interest on the open market.
Whether you are able to retrofit your home and make it more energy efficient, or are thinking about moving to a property which retains heat better, it’s promising to see that the government’s weatherization program is spreading the green message.
So, have you done any energy upgrades to your home to save money?