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When looking to purchase an existing house, it’s possible to assess some aspects of its energy use. You can hire a professional to determine how energy efficient or inefficient a home may be. Whether purchasing a home or wanting to make the best of the house you own, there are many steps you can take to improve energy efficiency. Yes, you pay more on the front end to make improvements such as those listed, but each one of them reduces your expenses – often paying for itself in short order.
As energy costs continue to rise, the more you can do to cut consumption, the more it pays off. You can find information online about how to lower your energy consumption and make wise environmental choices in housing. Chaille Ralph of Heritage Texas Properties is the 2014 chair of the Houston Association of Realtors. The average American homeowner pays about $2,300 a year in utility bills, according to the U.S. The six projects featured here will help trim the bills, and three of them qualify for the generous renewable-energy federal tax credit if they're completed before year-end 2016. The cost, savings and payback period will vary depending on your climate, your home (its size, age, construction and condition) and the type of fuel you use. Savings: The typical single-family home can cut heating and cooling bills by 15% to 35%, or about $165 to $390 in the first year (savings will increase as energy prices rise). The first step, which is easy to do yourself, is to weather-strip and caulk doors and windows, add or replace door sweeps, and adjust or replace locks on window sashes to close any gaps.
Who to hire: Look for contractors who are certified by the Air Conditioning Contractors of America, Efficiency First, the Building Performance Institute, Energy Star or the Residential Energy Services Network. Savings: Replacing 10 windows in a typical home would save about $135 in the first year on heating and cooling bills. Who to hire: Look for window installers certified by the American Window and Door Institute or Installation Masters. Tip: If your front door is old, warped and has single-pane windows, replace it with an Energy Star model (about $400 to $3,000, including installation). Details: If your furnace or boiler is at least 15 years old or your central air-conditioning is at least 10 years old, upgrading to an Energy Star–qualified HVAC system is worthwhile.
When the air-conditioning system uses the furnace’s blower to move cooled air through your home, replace both units simultaneously. If you live in a warm or moderate climate, an air-source heat pump ($2,000 to $8,000) can efficiently heat, cool and dehumidify your home. Cost: A ground-source heat pump costs $3,500 to $7,500, but installation can increase the total cost to $10,000 to $25,000 or more. Savings: $760 to $1,230 in the first year, based on an increase in your heating system’s efficiency by 50% to 70% and your air-conditioning system’s efficiency by 20% to 40%. Details: A geothermal system taps solar energy stored below ground, where the temperature is relatively constant. Horizontal systems, with pipes laid about 4 feet to 6 feet deep in trenches, require the most land but are the most economical to install. Who to hire: Look for contractors who are trained and accredited by the International Ground Source Heat Pump Association. Tip: You can upgrade the system to channel heat to your hot-water heater and pay about half the usual cost of gas- or electric-fueled water heating in winter and nothing in summer.
Cost: The typical home system has 6 kilowatts of generating capacity, which costs about $21,400 to install before any financial incentives and the 30% federal tax credit.


Details: The higher the electric rate you pay, the more sunshine your roof receives and the greater the financial incentives available to you, the better the return on a solar system.
A system consists of photovoltaic panels, usually mounted on the roof of your home, and an inverter that converts the direct current that the panels produce into the alternating current that feeds into your home’s electric service panel. If you pay up front, you’ll enjoy 100% of the savings after you recoup the cost of the system. Who to hire: Attend energy expos and home-and-garden shows to find installers, or contact your local chapter of the American Solar Energy Society for referrals.
Cost: A turbine with a capacity of 10 kilowatts, sufficient to supply a 2,500-square-foot house using about 2,000 kilowatts of electricity per month, will cost $65,000 to $70,000 before incentives (including a 30% federal tax credit). Savings: You can offset 50% to 100% of your annual electric bill with a small wind turbine, for a typical savings of $680 to $1,360. For a small wind turbine to make economic sense, the wind in your area must blow at an annual average speed of at least 10 miles per hour (see the U.S. Bergey says his company’s customers commonly receive bills from their electric provider only in summer, the least windy season.
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SOLAR POWER FOR YOUR HOMESolar energy can actually cost less than what you pay now with low, predictable, locked-in rates. A locked-in rate means protection from unpredictable electricity bills and utility rate increases.
The CleanEnergy Plan™ provides you a lower electric rate from day one with a production guarantee, included maintenance, and a 20-year service promise. Look at the popularity of hybrid vehicles, alternative fuels, locally grown produce and a host of other products designed to use fewer resources and reduce pollution and waste. The energy used for heating, cooling, appliances and lighting most likely comes from a source that produces carbon emissions.
Some agents have taken courses designed to help their clients reap the benefits of environmentally friendly practices.
But as Texas Tech University researchers Emmett Elam and Andrea Stigarall point out, the precise factors that influence a homebuyer’s perceptions of curb appeal are debatable.
Refrigerators are one of the major contributors in your electric bill, choose the right size that will cater your needs. Their first priority will be the attic, where heat escapes, and then the basement, where convection draws cold air. Energy-efficient windows feature at least two panes of glass separated by spacers and filled with air or, better, argon. That will decrease your total cost by about one-third compared with staggered installation. Vertical systems, with pipes inserted into holes drilled from 100 feet to 400 feet deep, are more expensive but are used if space is limited or bedrock underlies a shallow layer of soil.
If you lease a system, you’ll have a monthly payment, but you’ll still see 20% to 30% savings on your utility bill. The best installers are certified as photovoltaic installation professionals by the North American Board of Certified Energy Practitioners. Department of Energy's WINDExchange Residential-Scale Wind Maps and Data page) and your electricity must cost at least 12 cents per kilowatt-hour, which is just under the national average.
Going solar locks in a fixed electric rate and reduces the cost of the electricity you buy each month.
Our customers always know what their energy costs will be, so they can focus on the more important parts of life.


Other factors, such as water use and building materials used to construct or remodel a home, can affect the environment significantly.
If you’re building a new, custom home, you can make decisions that will increase energy and water efficiency greatly. Their responsibility is to review your energy bills, assess the cooling and heating equipment and can detect safety hazards. Almost half of the energy we use goes to heat and cool our homes, and more than one-third goes to keeping the lights on and running our appliances and electronics. Plus, when you replace your heating, ventilating and air-conditioning (HVAC) system, you may get by with smaller, less-expensive units.
Contractors will find and seal holes and gaps in your home’s exterior and add insulation, which works best when air isn’t moving through or around it. Clues to a problem: The window glass inside feels cold in winter and hot in summer, plus windows are cloudy with condensation, and they don’t open easily or close tightly. If you have a split AC system, with an outdoor and an indoor unit, you must replace both units to optimize efficiency. However, when outdoor air temperatures fall to 40 degrees F or lower, air-source heat pumps generally don’t perform well.
The heat pump circulates the solution and transfers heat to the house in winter and carries heat away from the house to the ground in summer.
The pipes are generally warrantied for 50 years, although they may last longer, and the heat pump for five to 10 years, although it can last up to 25 years. In most states, you can sell electricity back to the grid when your system makes more than you need. Wiring and an inverter to convert direct current to alternating current complete the system.
Small wind turbines are best suited for exurban or rural properties of at least one to two acres, says Mike Bergey, president of Bergey Windpower, a manufacturer of small wind turbines in Norman, Okla. Most RGS Energy customers pay about 25% less than they were paying their old electric company for traditional power. You can select the most environmentally friendly building materials and construction methods. You might be able to secure energy bills from the current owner to review electricity and water usage (keep in mind your usage may vary considerably). Improving the curb appeal of your home can boost its value by as much as 17 percent, the Texas Tech researchers found.
They will also check your ductwork to ensure that it’s straight (bends diminish airflow), sealed and insulated. In areas with severe winters, you may need a back-up source of heat, usually your existing furnace. You’ll almost certainly continue to pay your utility a small fee each month for connection and infrastructure.
The structure should be at least 200 feet from the nearest house and a distance equivalent to the tower’s height from property lines.



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