How to Go Green and Reduce Your Home's Expenses
Going green isn't just for environmentalists anymore...it's for all homeowners who want to save thousands when building a new home or updating their current residence. There are a variety of ways to make your home more energy efficient, from simply switching to Compact Fluorescent Light Bulbs (saving about $30 or more in electricity costs over each bulb's lifetime), to installing solar panels (saving up to $2,500 on an average home's annual utility bill). Plus, according to the Appraisal Institute, for every dollar saved on a property's utility bill, a home's appraised value increases about $20.
As a Member of the Top 5 in Real Estate Network(R), I am frequently asked about the best ways to make a home energy efficient-here are some suggestions to consider:
1 Lower utility bills. Appliances, insulation, windows and heating systems all have the ability to be energy efficient. By upgrading everyday appliances to energy efficient models, such as Energy Star, homeowners can expect a minimum of 10-15% savings on their electricity bills right away. What's more, tax credits are available at 30% of the cost, up to a $1,500 lifetime limit, for installation in 2009 and 2010 (for existing homes only) for these products: windows and doors, insulation, roofs (metal and asphalt), HVAC, water heaters (non-solar), and biomass stoves. Installation costs may even be included as part of the tax credit calculation for certain HVAC, water heater, and biomass stove installations.
2 Materials matter. Outside the home, recycled plastic lumber and wood composite materials reduce reliance on chemically treated lumber and durable hardwood for decks, porches, trim and fencing. Inside the home, when it comes to flooring, next to natural wood, greener flooring choices include low-VOC (volatile organic compounds) carpets for better indoor air quality, laminates that successfully mimic scarce hardwood, and linoleum, a natural product making a design comeback.
3 Control your environment. Install a programmable thermostat to set your heating and cooling equipment to automatically turn on or off to match your schedule and create a comfortable and energy-efficient living environment. These units typically offer savings of 10 to 15% and cost anywhere between $40 and $100.
4 Think outside of the box. Not all greening is done within the walls of the home. Thanks to the Wind, Solar, Geothermal and Fuel Cell Tax Credit (Tax Code Section 25D), tax credits are available at 30% of the cost, with no cap through 2016 (for existing homes and new construction) for Geothermal Heat Pumps (use the earth as a source of heat in the winter, or as a coolant in the summer), Solar Panels (use light energy from the sun to generate electricity), Solar Water Heaters, Small Wind Energy Systems, and Fuel Cells. More detailed information on Solar Energy can be found at the American Solar Energy Society website: www.ases.org.
5 Conserve water. This includes both inside and outside. Toilets, showers and faucets account for 60% of water usage in the home, according to the EPA. Green efficiency experts recommend that homeowners install low-flow showerheads, for example, which will save on water heating and use. Repair water leaks in tubs, showers and sinks. Replacing household appliances like dishwashers with more efficient models can save 11,000 gallons of water per year.
Lastly, when looking to upgrade your home, keep an eye out for the Manufacturer's Certification. This is a signed statement from the manufacturer certifying that the product or component qualifies for the tax credit. The IRS encourages manufacturers to provide these certifications on their website to facilitate identification of qualified products. Tax payers must keep a copy of the certification statement for their records, however, they do not have to submit a copy with their tax return.