Energy & Water Efficiency
Make Solar & Wind Energy a Better Investment

The best first step toward renewable energy is to make sure your home is energy and water efficient. A big energy bill probably means you will need a big solar system to supply all that power with renewable energy. Investments to improve your home's energy and water efficiency will make an investment in renewable energy even smarter.

Also, saving energy and water improves your home by making it more comfortable. Insulation keeps a home cool in the summer and warm in winter, and energy efficient appliances can make a home quieter. Skylights and windows also help bring in that beautiful natural light.

An energy audit is the first step to assess how much energy your home consumes and to evaluate what measures you can take to make your home more energy efficient. An audit will show you problems that may, when corrected, save you significant amounts of money over time. During the audit, you can pinpoint where your house is losing energy. Audits also determine the efficiency of your home's heating and cooling systems. An audit may also show you ways to conserve hot water and electricity. You can perform a simple energy audit yourself, or have a professional energy auditor carry out a more thorough audit. » more info

Energy Audit Resources Handbooks
» Home Energy Saver Energy Audit/Calculator
» Do it Yourself Home Energy Audit Checklist
» EnergyStar Calculators

White/Reflective Roofs »Learn How Cool Roofs (a white roof or roof coating) will reflect more of the sun's heat so that your attic and your house stay cooler. Flat roofs are especially good candidates, because you can't see them from ground level.

New federal tax credits, local incentives and weatherization assistance programs help pay.

Weatherization Assistance: The Weatherization Assistance Program enables low-income families to permanently reduce their energy bills by making their homes more energy efficient. During the last 30 years, the U.S. Department of Energy 's (DOE) Weatherization Assistance Program has provided weatherization services to more than 5.6 million low-income families. To learn more about the Weatherization Assistance program please visit the DOE's Weatherization Information page

One of the best ways of reducing the high cost of your energy bills for heating and cooling is to weatherize your home or apartment. The US government's Weatherization Assistance Program is available to conduct home energy audits, and to weatherize your home. Weatherization typically costs $2500, and the government foots the bill. As a result, energy bills are cut, on average, by one-third, and can mean savings of hundreds of dollars a year. Most assistance is provided to low-income families, but some is available for higher-earning families as well.

Weatherization Assistance: Instructions
Step 1:Contact your state or local agency (see the link to the list in the Resources, below). You may want to read a bit about the program first, to see if you're likely to be eligible (again, use the links in Resources)
Step 2:Submit an application. Applications are pretty simple, and usually take only about 20 minutes to fill out. You'll have to include proof of income with your submission. For many states, submission are handled in person, at a local office.
Step 3:If you are eligible, your weatherization agency puts you on a waiting list.
Step 4:Schedule a professional energy consultation for an energy audit and analysis of your energy bills
Step 5:Schedule the actual weatherization work.
Step 6:Enjoy a more comfortable home with significantly lower energy bills.

Weatherization Links & Resources

The Profitability of Energy Efficiency Upgrades

According to a study by Lawrence Berkeley National Labs, application of the 10 energy efficiency measures, below, in a typical home yields nearly an impressive 16% overall return on investment.

This diagram provides a representative view of the high profitability of energy efficiency upgrades. Note that the home evaluated here is located in an average U.S. climate and has a heat pump, electric water heater, clothes washer, clothes dryer, and dishwasher.

The example cost-effectively surpasses the 30% savings target for existing homes under PATH (The Partnership for Advancing Technology in Housing). In fact, all of these measures yield a higher return on investment than an ordinary bank account, and most are as or even more profitable than the stock market has been in recent history. The efficiency savings shown above include the effect of income taxes. This makes the savings even more attractive, because you can keep all the money you save on your energy bills, but have to pay hefty taxes on most ordinary investment income.
Source:Lawrence Berkeley National Labs

Note: Values shown are in 1997 dollars, and actual costs may have changed. However return on investment percentages (ROI %) should have remained roughly the same over time, and perhaps improved as utility rates have increased (in some cases significantly) while energy-saving measure costs have reduced in many cases.

To learn more try the » Home Energy Saver Energy Audit Online Calculator

Energy Efficiency Upgrade Purchase Price Annual Bill Savings Simple Payback (yrs) Rate of Return
Fluorescent Lamps & Fixtures $200 $80 2.5 41%
Duct sealing $250 $95 2.6 41%
ENERGY STAR Clothes washer $194 $66 2.9 37%
ENERGY STAR Programmable Thermostat $107 $29 3.7 30%
Water Heater Tank Wrap (R-12) $85 $23 3.7 28%
ENERGY STAR Refrigerator $97 $23 4.2 27%
ENERGY STAR Heat Pump $692 $126 5.5 19%
ENERGY STAR Dishwasher $29 $5 5.5 18%
Air sealing to 0.5 air changes per hour $522 $38 13.7 9%
Increase wall and attic insulation $1,784 $111 16.1 8%
Total $3,960 $597 6.6 16%
Total bill savings as % of baseline bill 36%    

Another Comparison of some energy-saving home improvements

Portland General Electric (Oregon) developed the table below. It provides a comparison of some popular single-family-home, energy-efficiency improvements that reduce energy bills. The return on investment (ROI) is based on 8 cents per kilowatt-hour. Months refers to the number of months worth of savings it takes to pay for the modification. (Source: Portland General Electric. April 2003)

Return On Investment (ROI) Estimates
for household energy efficiency improvements
3High efficiency showerhead400%
13Fireplace pillow-stops air leakage up chimney91%
14Bathroom faucet aerator84%
17Attic insulation (R-0 to R-38)69%
23Compact fluorescent bulb53%
23Kitchen faucet aerator51%
25Wrap 15' hot and cold water heater pipes48%
38Replace incandescent porch light fixture with CFL bulb32%
43Attic insulation (average)28%
44Duct insulation and sealing27%
68Wall insulation (R-0 to R-25)18%
88Floor insulation (R-0 to R-13)14%


Need help?
Using Building Science to Improve Home Performance
Making the most of Residential Photovoltaic Systems
Home Energy Checklist
Home Energy Saver Energy Audit Online Calculator
Energy Savers Resources from the U.S. Dept. of Energy
Energy Audit Information
Passive Solar Design
Reducing Your Water Use
Water Saver Home Page
Weatherization Assistance Program
DSIRE Database of Incentives for Renewables & Efficiency information on residential energy efficiency, performance, comfort, and affordability.
RESNET - Residential Energy Services Network