Simple tips to reduce your home's environmental footprint on a budget
While an energy efficient HVAC system can do wonders for your energy bill and carbon footprint, there's no reason to stop there. By making certain home improvements, or even just one, you can substantially reduce your heating or A/C bill, increase your home's value and marketability, and help the environment.
Some of the best ways to accomplish this are through home improvements such as Low-E windows, heat reduction paint and/or roofing, and energy efficient insulation.
Switch to Low-E Windows
While mere double pane windows save money on cooling costs, the savings is nominal compared to double paned windows with a Low-E (short for emissivity) coating; i.e., microscopically thin, transparent oxide layers that suppress radiant heat flow. Ask a window professional about the correct type of Low-E window for your home—low, moderate or high solar gain.
These windows are so efficient that the Energy Information Administration (EIA) forecasts for 2006-2030 that when coupled with good air flow, ample shade and usage of blinds, Low-E windows will reduce the annual cost of cooling and heating a typical Los Angeles home to only $200 per year.
Additionally, new windows can reap an 80% return on investment. The project may also qualify for the 1,500 federal tax credit. Note that all windows purchased after June 1, 2009 must have u-factor and solar heat gain coefficient (SHGC) ratings of 0.30 or less and be certified by the National Fenestration Rating Council (NFRC).
Utilize Reflective Paint and Roofing
A nice paint job can also bring you an 80% return on investment. If the home's exterior is looking dingy, getting it painted can do wonders for its curb appeal and marketability. When getting painting estimates, ask about the various types of low volatile organic compound (VOC) emission reflective paints, as well as insulating, environmentally friendly ceramic paint additives.
However, there is more than cosmetics when it comes to this facelift. Dark colored roofs absorb up to 90 percent of the sun's heat energy, while white roofs absorb as little as 10 to 15 percent. The same percentages hold true for dark-colored siding for a home's exterior.
Energy Star estimates that a reflective roof can save up to 50% on your energy bills. Just white paint alone will make a difference, but white, reflective paint or a white metal roof works best.
Art Rosenfeld, a member of the California Energy Commission says that turning all of the world's roofs "light" over the next 20 years could save the equivalent of 24 billion metric tons in carbon dioxide emissions.
Insulate Against the Heat
The attic is the hottest part of a house during the summer, often rising to temperatures above 115 degrees Fahrenheit. Not only will adequate insulation help prevent heat from entering the living space below, but in the winter it will help deter heat (and your heating bill) from going through the roof. To further prevent hot attic air from entering your home in the summer, consider an attic fan.
A fully insulated home can increase a property's market value by 5%, and if the insulation is only used to insulate and meets standards, you can qualify for the $1,500 tax credit. When getting insulation estimates, ask the contractor to check if the insulation is level with the attic floor joists; if it isn't, you likely need to add insulation. Energy Star recommends R-38 (about 12.15 inches) for most attics, depending on the insulation type.
All of these projects will help reduce the energy load on your A/C or heating system, but when coupled with an energy efficient system, the savings and property value gets even better. You can request central air and heat pump estimates here.
Disclaimer: This article offers general guidelines and is not intended as professional advice.