Top 15 Green Home Improvements: Costs in 2021 – Home Energy Efficiency

All major home remodeling efforts demand careful consideration and planning. When tackling an energy efficient home upgrade, that task can truly expand exponentially. It is imperative that you utilize a whole-house system approach to the project to wring the most value from your efforts.

Did you know? Home Energy savings realized in one segment of your property can easily be gobbled up by neglecting to pay attention to other energy-sapping culprits — With that in mind, let’s look at some of the popular energy-saving home improvement projects and take a stab at evaluating their value…

1. Smart Home Energy Audit

energy-audit-thermal-image via Henges Insulation

Your first step is to engage a professional energy audit of your house ($300-$500 by a trained energy expert although you may be able to wrangle one for less – or even free – from your local utility eager to reduce its power burden). This will factor into your home remodel plans such vital actors as site conditions, your local climate, your home’s micro-climate, the state of your current heating and cooling environment versus your required needs and so on.

Hey, this is already the middle of 2021, so much of this work can be accomplished by a computer simulation! 😉 Once the energy audit is complete, you will not only have specific goals for the reduced utility and home maintenance costs, but also ideas for a healthier and safer interior living environment that will increase the physical comfort, energy efficiency, and dampen noise levels.

A professional home energy audit should also include any local state incentives and tax breaks you are in line to receive for embarking on energy-saving projects.

A typical home energy audit will uncover opportunities to improve energy efficiency and comfort of your home by sealing the air leaks and drafts and upgrading the level of insulation in critical areas such as crawl spaces, wall cavities, and attic where there might be thermal energy loss due to inadequate insulation.

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Are Solar Panels Worth It in 2021? The Answer Might Surprise You

When evaluating whether residential PV solar panels are worth the cost, there are 10 main factors you should consider as part of your cost-benefit analysis. Let’s dive right into it.

  1. Rapidly rising electricity costs
  2. Federal tax credits and local incentives
  3. Solar resource – global solar irradiance
  4. Ample solar exposure
  5. Net Metering rules
  6. You will need a new roof soon or you have a metal roof
  7. Home value appreciation
  8. High-efficiency solar panels vs. polycrystalline
  9. Energy storage for power access during blackouts
  10. Solar payback period

When Solar Panels May Not Be Worth the Cost:

  1. Limited sun exposure
  2. Middle-aged roof
  3. You might be moving soon
  4. Cannot afford a battery pack and no backup power generator in an area with frequent blackouts
  5. Stagnating or declining local real estate values

1. Rapidly rising electricity costs

Let’s face it, domestic electricity costs are rising rapidly across the nation, especially in Los Angeles, California where residential electricity rates have increased by over 10% from June 2020 to June 2021. Across California, prices have risen by 7% in the same time period.

There is no reason to expect that the rapid increase in electricity and home energy costs will be curtailed any time soon. In fact, with the rapid adoption of sustainability and ESG policies such as moving away from coal and fossil fuels, domestic energy costs are likely to continue to rise over the next decade, especially in states with limited natural resources.

A growing adoption of electric (BEV) and plug-in hybrid electric (PHEV) vehicles also puts an increasing demand on the electric grid and existing infrastructure. Expanding and upgrading the existing infrastructure to support rapidly rising number of BEVs and PHEVs on the road will likely continue driving up electricity rates over the next 5-10 years. – These dynamics are projected to accelerate as states like Washington, Oregon, California, and others incentivize or mandate policies that foster adoption of electric vehicles by 2030 and/or beyond.

If you are concerned about the rising electricity rates in your home state, then investing in a PV solar power system will help offset the effects of rising energy rates while also reducing or even eliminating your current electric utility bills.

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Top 5 Roof and Attic Space Insulation Options in 2021: Costs, Pros & Cons

Why Bother Insulating Your Home’s Roof or Attic Space?

Insulating your roof and attic space will help retain energy in your home, often leading to cooling cost savings and overall home comfort improvement.

Properly insulating in and around your roof attic space can make your home healthier and more durable. It can also help prevent costly long-term damage from moisture build up or ice damming, which often results from poorly insulated/ventilated attics that allow warm air escape through the attic and reach the apex of the roof, thus heating up and melting the snow in winter).

Additionally, roof and attic insulation serve as a way to enhance sound proofing on the uppermost envelop of your house.

Attic space insulation and ventilation illustrated
New Shingle Roof

$7,500
Average price
New Metal Roof

$14,500
Average price
New Flat Roof

$8,225
Average price

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There are five primary types of insulation for roofs, with their own advantages and disadvantages. The key value is always the capacity of insulation to resist heat flow. — This is also known as thermal resistance and is often measured in terms of R-value. The higher that value, the better the insulating power.

Blown-in or Loose-Fill Insulation

This is one of the two most common types of insulation. Often installed into wall cavities as a way to retrofit walls lacking insulation, it can also be blown into unfinished attic spaces. Typically, fiberglass or cellulose are the most common material choices.

R-value for loose-fill insulation can range between R2 and R4, with higher R-value for fiberglass loose-fill.

Pros: relatively low expense, fairly easy to install (blown-in or poured in).

Cons: as the material settles over time, the R-value is (slightly) lessened, needs vapor barrier as the material is prone to moisture absorption.

Cost: Generally, homeowners seek R value between R30 and R50, and to achieve that for an area of 1,000 sq. ft., the total cost would be between $800 to $1,400, depending on the project specifics, ease of access, and property location.

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