An Overview: High-ROI Energy-Efficient Upgrades


Weigh Immediate Benefits of Green Improvement Against Added Home ValueSome people buy a house in order to provide the stability of a long-term family home. Others buy with the intention of reselling at a profit somewhere down the line, and are interested in maximizing potential return. Still others purchase homes in need of updating and renovation, focusing on what is currently "hot" on the market to assure a quick resale.

Immediate Benefit vs. Long-Term Value

Numerous energy-efficient home upgrades exist to help homeowners lower their bills—who doesn't know about LED bulbs and the wisdom of unplugging appliances that aren't currently being used? In the same vein, solar landscape lighting and motion-controlled exterior fixtures make good sense in terms of both current savings and future value.

Nationwide, while the best green and energy-efficient homes typically sell faster bring between two and six percent higher prices than homes without comparable features, there haven't been a lot of studies on the value of individual energy-saving improvements.

But, when planning any home renovation, it pays to be aware of the options for energy and water-saving improvements and other green and sustainable upgrades that add overall value.

When the cost of adding energy-saving features requires substantial cash outlay or long-term financing, owners must weigh the cost against payback. Some upgrades that produce impressive immediate savings will also add to higher appraisal value, which translates to a higher price when the home is sold. Whether the actual dollar return on investment is worthwhile will vary.

Here are some upgrades to consider:

Smart Thermostats

Near the top of the want list for many home buyer is a programmable thermostat. They generally cost less than $300, but they are often worth more to a buyer if they can be integrated with home security or an interactive smart hub. A smart thermostat will commonly result in savings of up to about $180 on monthly utility bills. If the home doesn't have one, it probably will not be a deal-killer, but it will be a distinct plus when added to a comprehensive amenity list.

Attic Insulation

Adding another layer of insulation under the roof will help keep a house warmer in winter and cooler in summer, making it a cost-effective way to save money. It will also translate to extra dollars when selling. Remodeling magazine, in a 2016 cost vs. value comparison, noted an average return on investment of approximately 116 percent when the home was sold with a year. Professionals also suggest tightening up the home with new weatherstripping and air sealing at doors, windows and all wall and roof penetration points.

Faucets and Bathroom Fixtures

Water-saving faucets, shower heads and bathroom fixtures are a given, especially when updating kitchens and bathrooms for aesthetic appeal. The good news is that these energy-saving features are available at multiple price points, so never skimp on features in an effort to save money. Prospective buyers will appreciate the documented energy-efficiency of a newly updated kitchen or bath. ROI depends substantially on the specific locale and the overall cost of the renovation.

Ceiling Fans

Circulating fans can make living in a home more comfortable, both summer and winter. In addition, a ceiling fan is much more economical than adjusting whole house HVAC systems to find a comfortable temperature. If the home doesn't currently boast ceiling fans in bedrooms and main living areas, consider adding them. They are reasonably inexpensive, will enhance the decor, and invariably return 100 percent or more of their cost.

Updated Windows

Although replacing a whole houseful of windows almost always represents a substantial investment, it can be cost-effective in terms of ROI. It all depends on the extent of the planned home renovation. New thermo-pane, low-E windows should always be considered when updating an older home for resale. There is no question about the value they add.

Energy-Star Appliances

Always look for the Energy Star label when installing new appliances. Choosing a new appliance that is not energy-efficient is not in any way beneficial. In general, a seller should be able to recoup nearly 100 percent of the cost—whether for a water heater or a dishwasher—assuming the appliance package is appropriate to the home's overall price.

Solar Panels

A recent estimate by the National Renewable Energy Laboratory states that "each additional $1 in energy bill savings (from your solar installation) adds $20 to your home's total value." That's an impressive statement, although the value of solar is confirmed by national statistics compiled by appraisers and real estate agents.

When it comes time to sell, don't keep energy-saving updates and features a secret. In addition to listing the specific improvements, prepare a spreadsheet of utility payments over time. If the home's improvements are recent, local companies often have comparison charts detailing average expenditures, and it can be of value to obtain information from utility suppliers about potential savings for your Park Meadows home.

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