Another inexpensive way to save money by adding green features to your home is by changing light bulbs from incandescent to fluorescent. Replacing five heavy-use bulbs will save you about $100 per year on your electric bill, according to the U.S. Green Building Council.
Using a programmable thermostat and setting it to reduce output when you are sleeping or are out of the house will save another $100 or more per year. Have your furnace and cooling system checked regularly to keep it running efficiently. Insulate your hot water heater. When you buy new appliances, buy ENERGY STAR appliances that meet high-level energy efficiency. Rebates are available for purchasing some energy-efficient appliances.
It will cost you nothing, just discipline, to break old habits that will save you money and conserve resources. Take shorter showers. Wash only full loads of dishes and clothes. Turn off lights when you leave a room.
According to Kerry Mitchell, Green Real Estate Education, you can reduce your energy bill by 9-10 percent by unplugging electronics when they're not in use. A TV uses 25 percent of its energy when it's plugged in but not on, according to Mitchell. Plug infrequently used electronics into a power strip. Leave the power strip off when the electronics are not in use.
There are also incentives available to help offset the cost of installing more expensive energy-savers such as solar systems, home insulation, dual-pane windows, and graywater systems that use wastewater from washers, showers, tubs and sinks to water landscaping.
Will green features pay off when you sell your home? If buyers had a choice between a house whose owners pay low water and energy bills and one where the bills are high, they'd probably choose the home with lower operating costs.
Recently a home with large single-paned windows sold in the hills of Oakland, Calif. Three buyers seriously considered buying it. All three factored the cost of installing dual-pane windows into the price they would pay.
According to the 2008 Remodeling Cost vs. Value Report from the National Association of Realtors and Remodeling Magazine, on a nationwide basis window replacements returned more than 76 percent of the cost when the home sold. Combine this with a possible incentive, lower energy bills during your ownership and the appeal to buyers when you sell, and it's worth the investment.
Home buyers should be skeptical of green advertising. Some agents advertise that a house is green when in fact the home might have only one green feature.
THE CLOSING: It's quite likely that energy retrofit requirements for older homes in California will be required at some point in the future.
2009 Dian Hymer. Distributed by Inman News