Keeping a home warm during the colder months of the year can prove to be expensive. With energy costs on the rise, many households are facing higher energy bills each year.
Fixr.com, which provides “Cost Guides” of estimates to common household remodeling projects, highlights five projects to help increase a home’s energy efficiency and keep utility bills lower. (Fixr.com also provides cost estimates below of the projects listed.)
1. Find unorthodox heat sources. More efficient sources of heat are available, particularly if the home is in a milder climate or if the home can be broken into zones.
A heat pump can help lower your electric bills by 50 percent if you currently use electricity to heat your home. Heat pumps cost about $7,500, but will pay for themselves with reduced energy costs. Switching to a geothermal heat pump will save you even more. According to Money Crashers, geothermal heat pumps qualify for a tax credit equal to 30 percent of equipment and installation costs, with no upper limit. Pumps are also frequently paired with things like radiant heat flooring in specific areas of the home, as they are more effective at using energy than either baseboards or radiators and can help supplement the heat in smaller spaces.
Radiant heat costs between $6,000 and $14,000 if covering your whole home, but you can often install it in a single room for around $700. Paired with a heat pump, this will keep your home warm while significantly lowering your energy bills.
2. Add extra insulation. The amount of insulation that your home needs is directly tied to the type of heat source you have. Many homes are actually underinsulated for their climate and their heat source, resulting in their furnaces or radiators having to work harder than they need to and causing a spike in energy bills.
Insulating even a single room in your home can dramatically increase comfort and help you lower your thermostat, resulting in smaller bills. Adding insulation to your attic can also help you prevent costly and damaging ice dams as well, saving you even more. The cost to insulate a single room in your home is around $1,200 to $1,800, and will recoup about 107 percent of the cost at time of resale, making this one of the best improvements you can do for your home.
3. Take care of your furnace. Furnaces are one of the most commonly used ways to heat large homes. Unfortunately, they often have a wide range of efficiency that could be costing you more in monthly bills than they need to.
If your furnace is less than 10 years old, make sure to schedule regular maintenance to keep it running at peak efficiency. This involves changing the filter and making repairs as necessary. The most common furnace repair involves replacing the heat exchange, for around $1,000 to $1,700.
If your furnace is older than 10 years, replacing it can dramatically increase its efficiency. Older furnaces only run at around 50 percent efficiency, while newer models can reach rates of 90 percent, making them a much better choice for keeping monthly bills down. A new furnace costs around $3,000 to $5,000, but will pay for itself in lowered bills over time.
4. Make the switch to gas. If you’re currently heating your home with electricity or oil, you’re likely spending more each month than you would if you switched to natural gas. Gas furnaces are much more efficient than oil or electric heaters, which can save as much as 30 percent on energy bills each month.
The cost to install a new gas system in your home is around $6,000 to $8,000, assuming you have ducts already in place. This upgrade makes the most sense if your current heating system is over 10 years old, as you’ll see the largest gains. The typical ROI of a new gas furnace system is around 15 percent, which means that it will pay for itself in just 6 years.
5. Complete an energy audit. Your home may be losing a great deal of the energy you use to heat it, without you even realizing it. An energy audit—or a comprehensive look at how your home uses and loses energy—will help you find ways to make your home more efficient overall.
An energy audit costs about $150, and many times this cost will be rolled into any upgrades you may choose to make, allowing you to save more. Conducting an energy audit before you have any other work or upgrades done on your home can help you make better informed decisions about the space, maximizing your potential efficiency and savings.