Colder weather is coming, and for many that can mean bigger energy bills. Fortunately, there are plenty of ways you can cut your energy bill, or just save money through some financial incentive programs.
Energy efficiency programs can save you money through tax credits, rebates and grants. By updating or changing out energy systems and using the incentives, you can increase the resale value of your home and make it more attractive to buyers.
As a buyer who wants to save money, implementing energy-efficient appliances, heating and cooling systems, and other systems can help you by minimizing future utility bills.
“The good thing about making energy efficient improvements in homes, you can start anywhere and go anywhere,” says Jonathan Passe, manager of the Energy Star residential program through the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). “We are a trusted and unbiased resource for consumers to improve their home’s energy efficiency.”
Here are some ways to get started in saving money and being eco-friendly.
Get an energy audit
Some utility companies offer free or discounted energy audits.
“This is a great way to get a sense of how your home is performing compared to others and what you can do now or later for immediate or long-term energy savings,” Passe says.
You can also find a qualified home energy professional to conduct the audit. Some of these auditors will credit the cost of the evaluation back to you if you pick them to get your work done with them, he adds.
Get federal tax credits for Energy Star products
You can get credits for 30 percent of the cost – with no maximum amount – to update geothermal heat pumps, solar energy systems and small wind turbines.
“Whether these tax credits will be renewed for another year, we don’t know yet,” he says. “They have been renewed before, and sometimes, they go away for a while and come back. But a large number of utilities provide incentives for building a whole Energy Star certified home.”
Energy Star also gives tax credits up to 30 percent of the cost to update fuel cells.
Check out rewards given by your state
Each state has its own incentives and rewards tax credits, rebates and savings.
If you are looking for new appliances, ceiling fans or other products, make sure you go to the EnergyStar website to plug in your zip code and find out which companies and businesses are offering special offers and rebates.
Energy Star partners also occasionally sponsor recycling incentives for the proper disposal of old products.
Apply for an Energy Efficient Mortgage (EEM)
Whether you’re buying, selling, refinancing or remodeling, you can get a loan to add energy-saving features to your house.
The loan helps you cover the cost of energy improvements through your mortgage. Lenders can increase loans to cover the energy improvement costs, and increases in your monthly payment can be offset by money saved from your energy bills.FHA’s weatherization program also lets borrowers finance up to $3,500 to pay for such things as thermostats and insulation.
Switch out your light bulbs
You can trim the cost of your energy bill just by switching out your light bulbs.
The energy budget used for lighting in an average household is five percent. But by just switching to energy-efficient lighting in five of your most used lighting sources, you can save up to $75 a year, according to Energy Star. You can choose from halogen incandescent, CFL and LED light bulbs.
By adding timers and photocells, your savings will be even greater because the lights turn off when no one is using them. Dimmers can also cut down your electricity bill when you lower the light level to set an ambiance.
“It’s impossible to say how much you will save by changing a few lightbulbs or weather stripping around your doors,” Passe says. “But we have found that once homeowners start to engage in this type of things and have some success early on, they keep going on and doing more things.”