Dear Mr. Energy,
I want to make energy efficiency improvements to my house, but I have less than $1000 to work with. What can I do to make the biggest impact?
–Champagne tastes on a beer budget
You’re in luck! Between rebates, tax credits, and basic maintenance to your home’s systems, you can accomplish quite a bit with a budget under $1000. Provided your home doesn’t need a new HVAC system, which can run in the several thousands, most people can make significant improvements to their homes that will yield about a 30% improvement in their home’s energy bills.
The first step in making energy improvements is getting a professional home Energy Audit. An energy audit, done by a qualified professional (one who is a RESNET-HERS certified energy rater and a BPI Analyst) using specialized equipment, will pinpoint exactly the areas where your home is leaking energy. If you know where your home leaks, you will know where you’ll need to spend the money to seal it up. Some of the leaks, like those around doors or electrical outlets, cost very little to stop and are ones that the homeowner can do for him/her self. Others may be a bit more expensive to fix, but air sealing is not typically a huge expense and is well worth the savings in the long run.
In addition to checking the air leakage in the living space of your home, an energy audit will also investigate leaks in your home’s HVAC’s air ducts. Even new HVAC systems may not be operating with complete energy efficiency, so it’s always worth it to have your ducts tested. Once tested, ducts can be sealed fairly inexpensively. Industry experts estimate a 20-30% savings on most homeowners’ energy bills through duct testing and sealing alone. And the great news is that if you live in North Carolina (which is where we’re located) and are a Progress Energy customer, you can get a significant rebate on both duct testing (part of the Energy Audit) and duct sealing if you use someone from their providers list: up to $90 for air duct testing (applied towards the Energy audit) and up to $240 for duct sealing.
The best thing about using your hard-earned money to get an Energy Audit and following up on subsequent improvements is that within a year or two the money you’ve saved in your energy bills will have paid for the Audit and weatherization. This is really a no-brainer!