Most homebuyers are interested in technologies that will save energy and reduce the monthly utility bills. Reducing energy consumption is also a primary goal of “green” technologies, and there are many ways to reduce the amount of energy you use without having a major impact on your lifestyle.
Owners of existing homes, however, are sometimes reluctant to research this subject because the flashy, high profile technologies, like solar panels, are expensive to implement and inconvenient to try to retrofit into older homes.
Reducing energy consumption is essential, however, both for the long term good of the planet, for assisting stretched household budgets, and — and this may be a surprise — for making your home competitive when you are trying to sell it. Replacing appliances and windows will raise the value of your property considerably, and on top of your monthly savings on energy, will reduce the cost of the improvement by resulting in a higher sales price. How? Most buyers in this market will research the monthly energy costs the current owner is paying, and this information is readily available with a simple phone call to your utility.
So, here are a few suggestions for ways that you can reduce your energy bills, and in the process, update and make your homes more attractive to new owners when that time comes.
1. The first way is the easiest and the cheapest. In fact, you’ll save money from the very first day: Take advantage of utility deregulation in Maryland. Finally, more than a decade after it was enacted, utility deregulation has resulted in real competition for most Maryland utility ratepayers. Check your current bill, and you’ll see a “rate to compare,” which is the amount your electrical supplier is charging for electricity.
Be aware of the fact that your electrical supplier is now separated from the company that delivers the power to your home. The delivery company will remain your local utility. You will receive your bill from them, as always, and call them if there is a power outage.
Make sure that your new supplier beats that “rate to compare”, doesn’t make you sign a long-term contract, doesn’t charge you to switch (or to leave), and doesn’t lock you into a particular rate. Rates go up dramatically in the summer, and come back down in winter. Its in the consumer’s interest to let that rate float, not be locked in at an inflated price. The supplier that I’ve recommended, who meets all of those criteria, and who offers the additional bonus of buying green wind-generated power, is Viridian. You can research this company, and switch your supplier if you wish, all online at www.viridian.com/charmcity. A list of all the companies that are currently licensed by the Public Service Commission is available at http://webapp.psc.state.md.us/Intranet/SupplierInfo/searchSupplier_E.cfm.
2. Pay attention to those Energy Star labels when you are replacing appliances, especially refrigerators, washers and dryers, and water heaters. According to the US Department of Energy, these appliances are accountable for about 20% of your home’s energy consumption. Older appliances, pre-1990 vintage, can consume double the energy of their new replacements. And until the end of 2010, there’s a Federal tax credit of up to $1,500 for the purchase of energy efficient products, like the new line of tankless water heaters, which are on average 24-34% more energy efficient than conventional storage tank water heaters.
3. Are your windows old and falling apart? Replacing them with more efficient models can save up to 25% of your winter heating bills and 15% of your summer cooling expense. Properly installed, modern windows are also a huge selling point for a new owner, and they can make your life a lot more comfortable.
The US Department of Energy maintains a website which outlines these type of improvements, their relative benefits, and — if you’re not ready to do any of these types of replacements — can offer ideas for inexpensive alternatives, all of which will reduce your energy bottom line and reduce our usage of fossil fuels. You can access that website at http://www1.eere.energy.gov/consumer/tips/index.html.