Save Money, Save the Planet


Published in the ECHO Journal, August 2009

If you own a home in today’s unstable financial marketplace, you are vulnerable. Fortunately, each dollar we spend on energy efficiency upgrades adds $20 to the value of our home, according to the Appraisal Institute. High efficiency homes are also worth more at the time of resale because it is increasingly harder to sell out-of-date homes whose owners are burdened with high utility costs.

Energy-efficiency in our homes also has environmental implications. In the U.S., energy consumption of our buildings account for at least 40 percent of our total energy use, with about half of that attributed to residential structures. Every year, the energy consumed by a typical American home is responsible for the release of at least 20,000 pounds of carbon dioxide, a potent greenhouse gas that contributes to climate change.

Buildings Share of U.S. Primary Energy Consumption (2006)

Home Performance with ENERGY STAR, a national program from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and the U.S. Department of Energy offers a comprehensive, whole-house approach to improving energy efficiency and comfort at home, while helping to protect the environment. Home Performance takes your entire home into account—from heating and cooling systems to weatherization—to show how your house uses energy and what improvements will help your home work at peak performance, using the least energy. The figure illustrates the many aspects of a home that need to be considered in upgrading its energy performance. Using state-of-the-art diagnostic equipment, a Home Performance contractor will test and evaluate all components of your home’s interior and exterior. 

A Home Performance Contractor Can Answer Questions Such As:

  1. Are there pollutants, allergens or gas leaks contaminating my indoor air quality?
  2. Why is my bedroom cold while the rest of my home is warm?
  3. My utility bill seems too high in the summer and winter months for the size of my house. What’s causing this?

Following a home assessment, you can expect a plan of action to identify which improvements are most cost effective to reduce energy costs, improve your indoor air quality, and how they’ll enhance the comfort of your home.

So What Can Home Performance Do For You?

  • Lower Energy Usage and Costs: Enjoy using less energy, while saving 30 up to 50 percent on energy costs, when you make recommended home improvements.
  • Increased Comfort: By making your home work as a system, you can stay cooler in summer and warmer in winter, and eliminate drafty rooms all together.
  • Safety: Know your home is safe when the contractor tests the carbon monoxide levels of all your combustion appliances—stoves, furnaces and water heaters. Your contractor will also inspect any known problems in the home—water leaks, moisture build-up—that could lead to mold issues.
  • Long-Term Home Investment: The investments you make to improve the energy efficiency of your home today will increase the overall value of your home for years to come.
  • Federal and State Incentives: Receive Federal and State cash incentives and tax rebates to offset the cost of your energy-saving home improvements.

For those Do-It-Yourselfers: Five Energy Saving Tips

  1. Replace standard light bulbs with Compact Fluorescent Bulbs (CFLs) to reduce lighting energy consumption by 75 percent.
  2. Unplug energy vampires: 75 percent of a TV’s energy use comes from when it is turned off.
  3. Insulate yourself against rising energy costs: Well-installed insulation is the biggest bang-for-your-buck improvement you can make.
  4. Get your ducts in order: In California, duct leakage accounts for a loss of 30 percent of heating and cooling energy.
  5. Reduce, than produce: Before installing an expensive solar array, make your home a lean, efficient machine. Then you will pay a lot less for your sun collectors.

Damon Burk and Patrick Hendry are Co-Founders of RENEWABLE REAL ESTATE, Inc., a Green Home Retrofitter and Real Estate Firm located in the San Francisco Bay Area, specializing in energy-efficient upgrades for residential property. For more information visit