Better Buildings Challenge Partners on track to reduce energy usage by 20% in 10 years

More than 1,000 proven solutions are now available on DOE web site.

May 25, 2017 | Peter Fabris, Contributing Editor

According to the latest report from the U.S. Department of Energy’s Better Buildings Challenge, on average, participants are improving energy efficiency by more than 2% per year.

This is in line with meeting energy savings goals of 20% over the next 10 years. Energy performance results for nearly 38,000 properties have been recorded to date.

Participants are contributing to the more than 1,000 proven solutions now available online in the Better Buildings Solution Center. “When partners share their energy and water savings strategies and results, they demonstrate their collective leadership by making it easier for others to replicate their success,” says a DOE news release.

Energy efficiency efforts have led to a reduction of a combined 240 trillion Btus and an estimated $1.9 billion in cumulative energy and cost savings, DOE says. The results are summarized in the 2017 Better Buildings Progress Report.

adding value to home

Add Value to Your Home with Energy Efficient Upgrades

Energy efficiency upgrades can not only shrink your utility bill; they can also increase the value of your home.

Homebuyers are becoming increasingly aware of the benefits of energy-efficient homes. In fact, they’re often willing to pay more for homes with “green” upgrades, says Sandra Adomatis, a specialist in green valuation with Adomatis Appraisal Service in Punta Gorda, Florida.

Just how much your home will increase in value depends on a number of factors, Adomatis says, like where you live, which upgrades you’ve made and how your home is marketed at sale time. The length of time to recoup the costs of green upgrades also depends on the energy costs in your area.

In 2014, upgraded homes in Los Angeles County saw a 6 percent increase in value, according to a study from Build It Green, a nonprofit based in Oakland, California, that works with home professionals. Upgraded homes in Washington, D.C., saw a 2 to 5 percent increase in 2015, according to a study Adomatis authored.

While upgrades like a brand new kitchen or a finished basement may give you more bang for your buck than energy-saving features, going green has its benefits.

Here are some common energy upgrades, from least expensive to most.

1. Insulation. A 2016 Cost vs. Value report from Remodeling magazine found that the average attic air-seal and fiberglass insulation job costs $1,268, with an added value to the home at resale within a year of completion of $1,482. That amounts to a 116 percent return on investment. And according to Energy Star, homeowners can save $200 a year in heating and cooling costs by making air sealing and insulation improvements

2. Appliances. Your appliances account for about 15 percent of your home’s energy consumption, the DOE says. Certified clothes dryers can save you $245 over the life of the machine, according to Energy Star. A certified dryer from General Electric can run from $649 to $1,399.

When upgrading, look at the kilowatt-hour usage of a new appliance and compare it to your current one — a good Energy Star rating doesn’t necessarily mean it will use less energy than your existing appliance, Adomatis says.

3. Heating and cooling systems. These systems account for about 43 percent of your energy bill, according to the DOE. Replacement costs for an entire HVAC system — heating, ventilation and air conditioning — vary widely depending on equipment brands and sizing but may run several thousand dollars. Energy Star estimates you can save 30% on cooling costs by replacing your central air conditioning unit if it’s more than 12 years old.

While addressing your home’s heating and cooling systems, bear in the mind that leaky duct systems can be the biggest wasters of energy in your home, according to Charley Cormany, executive director of Efficiency First California, a nonprofit trade organization that represents energy efficiency contractors. The cost of a professional duct test typically runs $325 to $350 in California, he says.

4. Windows. Replacing the windows in your home may cost $8,000 to $24,000, and could take decades to pay off, according to Consumer Reports. You can recoup some of that in resale value and energy savings. Remodeling’s Cost vs. Value report found that installing 10 vinyl replacement windows, at a cost of $14,725, can add $10,794 in resale value. Energy Star estimates that certified windows, doors and skylights can reduce your energy bill by up to 15 percent. If you’ve already tightened the shell of your home, installing a set of new windows may not be worth the cost. But the upgrade may be worth considering if you live in a colder climate.

5. Solar panels. EnergySage, a company offering an online marketplace for purchasing and installing solar panels, says the average cost of a solar panel system is $12,500. The payoff time and the amount you’ll save will vary depending on where you live. Estimated savings over a 20-year period in Philadelphia, for example, amount to $17,985, while it’s more than twice that amount in Seattle: $39,452, according to EnergySage.

This article was written by November 7, 2016  for NerdWallet and was originally published by The Associated Press.