Green your pocket with low-cost energy improvements

June 22, 2013 by  
Filed under Wind Energy Tips

Energy upgrades don’t just help the planet. They also help your bottom line.

Can you afford to upgrade your home? These days, how can you not? Even low-cost options will save you money, and these upgrades will pay you back.


Uninsulated crawlspaces, poorly insulated or uninsulated attics, recessed lights and electrical outlets and light switch plates are common culprits. Find the leaks by shutting all doors and windows, turn on kitchen and bathroom exhaust fans and then feel where the air is flowing into your home.

PAYOFF: Your home’s comfort level will increase along with your energy savings—by at least 10 percent.


High-efficiency, argon-filled, double-pane, Energy Star-rated windows with low-”e” coatings block thermal radiation and protect against heat and cold.

PAYOFF: Expect to spend $300 to $1,000 per window, including installation. An average homeowner (one with a 2,000-square-foot home and 300 square feet of windows) should see a payoff in three years.


Solar hot water heaters use solar collectors on the roof to heat the water in your home.

PAYOFF: The initial investment is high—costs range between $8,000 and $10,000 installed—but you should see savings in four to eight years, depending on family size, typical hot water usage and other factors.


Energy Star-rated appliances can increase efficiency by 15 to 50 percent, says Brian Castelli of the Alliance to Save Energy in Washington, D.C. A horizontal-axis washing machine, for example, can save 70 percent on water usage.

PAYOFF: If you need to replace an appliance, it makes sense to buy an energy-efficient model. But if you’re just buying with the hopes of reducing energy costs, spend your money elsewhere. Unless you have a 25-year-old fridge.


Don’t overlook the small upgrades that can save you down the road. Change your incandescent lighting to fluorescent bulbs or, better yet, LED bulbs. Install dual-flush toilets to dramatically reduce water usage and install low-flow water fixtures, particularly in the shower.

PAYOFF: Using less energy and water to keep your home running means more green for you—and the planet.


  • Energy Star products: Check out this site to do a custom calculation of your home appliances’ electric usage. A buying guide will direct you to Energy Star-certified products, recommendations on window and insulation upgrades and more.
  • Energy-saving tips: Use this site to scout out upgrades, products available for tax credits and how to claim them. This site also has consumer tips to cut energy costs in the home, as well as guidelines for how much insulation your home needs, depending on climate and location.
  • Incentives: All policies that support renewable energy and energy efficiency at the state, federal and local level can be found here.

This article is excerpted from USA TODAY Green Living magazine. The special publication contains articles on sustainable living, green products, DIY projects, and people and companies helping to save the planet. Get an eco-friendly version for your tablet or computer at

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