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Sustainable Retrofits: Upgrading Existing Homes for Energy Efficiency

Sustainability in Housing
Sustainable Retrofits: Upgrading Existing Homes for Energy Efficiency

A Whole-House Approach to Saving the Planet (and Your Wallet)

Do you know that feeling when you open your utility bill and let out an exasperated sigh? “How could this be so high?” you wonder, as visions of dollar bills fluttering out the drafty windows come to mind. Well, my friend, the solution to your energy woes may lie in a sustainable retrofit.

Understanding the Retrofit Landscape

The residential sector accounts for a whopping 20% of all U.S. greenhouse gas emissions. But here’s the good news – current energy retrofits have been proven to reduce individual home energy use by a staggering 30 to 70 percent. According to the American Council for an Energy-Efficient Economy (ACEEE), a light energy efficiency retrofit for a typical existing home can deliver an impressive 185% return annually – nearly double the long-term stock market average.

But the benefits extend far beyond your wallet. The U.S. Department of Energy reports that energy-efficient retrofits can also help attract tenants and gain a market edge for your home. And let’s not forget the environmental impact – upgrading existing homes is crucial, as the Department of Energy estimates that by 2040, two-thirds of the global building stock will still be emitting harmful greenhouse gases without proper energy improvements.

Starting Small with Big Savings

Don’t worry, you don’t have to embark on a full-scale home renovation to reap the rewards of a sustainable retrofit. Even simple changes like swapping out those old incandescent bulbs for LED lighting can make a significant dent in your energy consumption and improve your home’s comfort level.

Looking to up the ante? Consider investing in insulated window shades or double-pane windows. The U.S. Department of Energy estimates that the typical home loses 25% of its heat through its windows, so this is a key area to address.

Whole-Home Efficiency: The Powerhouse Approach

For a more comprehensive, whole-home approach to energy efficiency, it’s time to get serious about your HVAC system and insulation. Heat recovery ventilators (HRVs) and energy recovery ventilators (ERVs) can salvage up to 70% of the energy from the stale air you’re expelling, transferring that precious heat or cool air to the fresh air entering your home. According to the National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL), these systems are becoming increasingly popular in new builds and remodels for existing homes.

And when it comes to insulation, more is definitely more. An energy-efficient home has much higher insulation R-values than traditional dwellings, with the optimal levels varying depending on your home’s location. But the payoff is worth it – a well-insulated home can significantly cut energy use and emissions, especially in colder climates.

Upgrade to Cutting-Edge Appliances

Let’s talk about the heart of the home – the kitchen. Outdated appliances can be energy hogs, driving up your utility bills and your carbon footprint. But by upgrading to ENERGY STAR-rated models, you can enjoy significant savings without sacrificing performance.

For example, did you know that replacing an old refrigerator with a new ENERGY STAR-certified one can save you up to $270 per year on your energy bills? The U.S. Department of Energy has a wealth of resources to help you make informed, energy-efficient appliance choices during your retrofit project.

Harnessing the Power of the Sun

Now, let’s talk about the ultimate energy-efficient upgrade: solar panels. When paired with other sustainable retrofits, a solar power system can take your home’s efficiency to new heights. A recent study by the NREL revealed that for every dollar saved on energy, a home’s value increases by $20. That means a solar system that saves you $200 per year would add $4,000 to the value of your home.

But the benefits don’t stop there. BlocPower reports that in cold climates, switching to air source heat pumps can save homeowners an average of $948 per year compared to electric resistance heaters. That’s a win-win for your wallet and the environment.

Overcoming the Affordability Hurdle

I know what you’re thinking – “This all sounds great, but how can I afford it?” It’s a valid concern, but there’s good news on the horizon. The bipartisan 2021 Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act has allocated $65 billion in new weatherization and energy efficiency funding to assist low-income households with structural and energy-efficient home improvements.

And the U.S. Department of Energy has recently released the Weatherization Assistance Program’s IIJA funding availability notice, providing hundreds of communities across the country with opportunities to deliver whole-home retrofits for low-income housing. So, if you qualify, you may be able to upgrade your home without breaking the bank.

A Bright Future for Sustainable Retrofits

As the world continues to grapple with the pressing issue of climate change, the need for sustainable home upgrades has never been more urgent. But the good news is that the tools and resources are readily available to help you transform your existing home into an energy-efficient powerhouse.

Whether you start small with LED bulbs or go all-in with a whole-home retrofit, every step you take towards sustainability will not only save you money but also contribute to a healthier planet. And who knows, you might even become the envy of your energy-conscious neighbors.

So, what are you waiting for? Visit HACC Housing today to learn more about how you can upgrade your home for a sustainable, energy-efficient future. Your wallet and the environment will thank you.

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