Top 6 Energy Efficient Home Improvements and Their Costs in 2021

Are your ready to make your home greener and more energy-efficient? If so, consider the following five home improvement upgrades that can be completed by a professional remodeling contractor, as well as by an experienced DIY enthusiast working collaboratively with a handy friend. πŸ˜‰

1. Cool Roofs vs. Traditional Asphalt Shingles and Dark EPDM Rubber

A premium color standing seam metal roof with integrated PV solar panels

Dark roofs make houses hotter, light roofs make houses cooler. To achieve the “Cool Roof” benefits, a specialist applicator can coat your roof with solar reflective materials/coatings that can be applied like paint or sprayed directly on the surface of the existing roof. Of course, this is often (but not always – a liquid roof coating can last 5 to 20 years when applied professionally) a one-season solution.

More Info on Cool Roofs: https://energy.gov/energysaver/energy-efficient-home-design/cool-roofs

Energy conservation wizards are currently working on tiles that will go from light to dark as needed — they can cut the sunlight absorbed into your house by 80% when they are white and slice heating costs by 20% and more when they turn black.

You can find a cool roof coating formulated with acrylic polymers, resins, fillers and titanium dioxide pigments for about $150-$200 for a 4.75-gallon container (Via GreenHomeGuide.com).

If rather than applying it yourself, you would prefer to hire a professional, expect to pay anywhere from a few to several thousands of dollars to properly apply a liquid roof coating. You should know that most liquid roof coatings are only suitable for durable membrane-based flat roofs and aging metal roofs.

Surely, cool liquid roof coatings can also be applied over roofing shingles, but the results will not be as good, because asphalt composition shingles have a tendency to chip and crack. Thus, a complete re-roofing application may be a better option for an aged asphalt roof.

Energy Efficient, Solar-Reflective PVC membrane on a flat roof

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If you have a flat or low-slope roof that is starting to show the signs of age, and may thus require replacement soon, then consider installing one of the following membranes: white, energy-efficient and solar-reflective PVC membrane, TPO membrane, or white EPDM rubber roof.

Expect to pay from $6.50 to $12.50 per foot for EPDM rubber membrane installed. A PVC or TPO membrane will cost about $7.50 to $14.50 per square foot installed.

2. Metal

A standing seam metal roof on the house

Today’s metal roofs have come a long way from the tin shacks of yore. Modern metal roofs are as likely to look like cedar shakes or clay tiles or asphalt shingles as sheet metal. A metal roof won’t blow off in hurricane-force winds and is fireproof.

Did you know? A Cool Roof rated metal roof can help you save 20% to 30% on your home cooling costs during summer months. Look for CoolRoof (CRRC) rated colors with Kynar 500 paint finish to take advantage of potential energy savings: https://www.roofingcalc.com/metal-roof-colors/

Metal roofs will cost more to purchase and install than traditional asphalt roofs but will still be on the job half a century from now, while two or three asphalt roofs are clogging landfills. πŸ˜‰

Steel Shingles Roof

Expect a metal roof comprised of interlocking metal shingles to run around $3.50 to $5.50 per square foot for materials including trim. With the installation, a metal shingles roof will cost about $9.50 to $14.50 per square foot.

concave-shaped standing seam roof

Materials for Galvalume standing seam will cost about $4.50 to $6.50 per square foot. With the installation, a standing seam metal roof will cost between $10.50 and $16.50 per square foot to install.

During winter, an energy efficient metal roof, such as standing seam or metal shingles will help shed accumulating snow off the roof before the snow has a chance to accumulate. It can thus be an energy-smart and elegant alternative to heat cables and/or snow rakes commonly employed to deal with the ice dams on the roof.

Speaking of home energy efficiency, another major advantage of a standing seam metal roof is that it is solar roof ready. Meaning that it can be simply and elegantly combined and integrated with PV solar panels by means of simple metal clamps via an S-5 bracketing system attached to the raised seams. This method does not require drilling any holes (potential future sources of leaks) in the roof.

3. Energy Efficient Window

Windows are among the biggest culprits in creating high energy bills. But no one wants to live in a house without windows. Double-pane windows are one solution; they will retain room heat in the winter and prevent heat gain in the summer. At the same time, the double-panes will keep your house bright and sunny. And a little quieter as well — the extra layer of glass helps prevent outside noises from penetrating the windows.

Most average-sized double-pane, Low-glass vinyl windows will cost anywhere from $600 to $1,000 per window replaced.

There is more to double-pane windows than two pieces of glass. Low-E glass, filled with argon gas provides the ultimate in insulation over a single-pane window. Expect to pay about $40-$50 extra per window. But more is not always better when it comes to windowpanes. Triple-panes can be a help in the harshest climates, but they can sometimes come at a cost of reduced clarity in looking to the world outside.

4. Green Frames

The frames your windows live in are opportunities for a green-minded remodeler. Wood frame windows like Pella Lifestyle offer the best insulation, but may deteriorate prematurely in a rainy climate. Some wood-frame windows are going to need a new coat of paint every 5 years or so.

If that means latex paint, that will douse your interior air with a bucket of noxious petrochemicals (there is a reason paint requires special disposal techniques). Eco-safe paints are getting better every year with more durability and a wider variety of people-pleasing colors. And they are less costly at the cash register as well.

It is hard to beat the look of wood on windows and that preference can trump green tendencies when it comes to alternatives such as vinyl or aluminum. Vinyl is budget-friendly (from $600-$900 as opposed to between $1,000 and $2,000 for the installation of wood-frame windows) and no trees are destroyed, and aluminum can be a good choice in rainy climates.

5. Insulation

attic insulation

Seal and insulate, seal, and insulate, seal and insulate. That is the manta of energy-efficiency, but green-minded homeowners can take this basic Eco-friendly chore one step beyond. Spray insulation or traditional batting insulation is loaded with chemicals. Soy foam works the same insulating magic without the environmental downsides.

Home insulation is where the true green converts are separated from the wanna-bes. Closed-cell spray foam is a pricey insulation option, costing between $2.50 and $4.50 a square foot in walls and another $1.50-$2.00 per square foot for attics.

Soy foam will work as well as cheaper and more readily available fiberglass-based batting insulation, but not so much better that it will be a boon to your pocketbook in the long run. You won’t recoup the costs of hidden soy insulation at resale. This is one financial bullet you will be taking for the good of the planet. πŸ˜‰

PV Solar Panels

PV Solar Panels on Metal Roof

There has never been a better time to go solar, thanks to the historically low cost per installed watt, net metering rules adopted in 41 states, and generous federal solar tax credit rebates and local incentives.

We’ve already mentioned that it’s possible to integrate a standing seam metal roof with PV solar panels, which combines an energy efficient and long-lasting metal roof with a rooftop PV solar power system designed to generate solar electricity for your home.

The cost of residential solar energy has come down greatly in the last decade plus, from $8.82 per installed watt in 2008 to approximately $3.00 per watt today.

Did you know? The cost of solar panels has flat-lined over the last few years, so there is no reason to expect that it will go much lower than the current level. That said, in 2021 through 2022, you can take advantage of the 26% federal solar tax credits rebate that applies to the full price paid for a qualified PV solar system.

For a typical 6kW PV solar system (approximately 24 panels @ 250 watt per panel), you can expect to pay about $18,000 before the federal solar investment tax credits. After the federal tax credits rebate, your upfront cost is reduced to $13,320.


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