More homeowners are intrigued by the idea of renewable energy, how it can be used in a residential setting and the allure of substantial savings on the power bills. Green energy is being touted as both a great option for saving money and a solution to the problem of rising costs of fossil fuels, but is it feasible for the typical household?
Current Renewable Energy Options for Homeowners
Several eco-friendly options are currently available for home installation. Solar panels have been in use for years, and windmills are becoming more available as well. Appliances that run on geothermal energy are nearly commonplace, and many energy providers are looking at hydroelectricity. Nuclear power remains a controversial choice, but more money and research is being put into cold fusion. Despite the controversy, nuclear power is still considered a clean, renewable energy source since it creates reliable energy without pollution.
While green energy sources have the potential to save you plenty of green, at this point the costs to install these systems is still high. Many homeowners see the initial costs as an investment in the future. For example, one homeowner who paid — after government subsidies — $32,000 to install a windmill for his home has no power bill whatsoever and is actually able to sell excess energy back to the power company. While the windmill has not yet paid for itself, it will in the next few years.
Can anyone achieve these results? It depends on a number of factors including your location, how much power your family typically consumes and what type of energy you tend to use the most. To find out whether renewable energy will drive your costs down, you will need to begin with an energy audit.
Conducting an Energy Audit
An energy audit is performed by a professional auditor who is licensed by the Building Performance Institute. Prices vary by region, but you can expect to pay approximately $400 for this audit.
The auditor will look throughout your home and determine where your family uses power as well as how much it is using. Any waste is noted, and you will be provided with a final report that includes an estimate for fixes that can significantly improve your energy use.
Some of these fixes may be quick and easy such as installing insulation or fixing a leaky window. The auditor may recommend upgrading your current appliances and even simple changes like switching your light bulbs from incandescents to compact fluorescents.
Taking Advantage of Subsidies
Once you’ve plugged up all of your energy leaks and drains, you can consider whether alternative energy sources are right for your family. Depending on your budget for this project, you can begin small and switch to a solar-powered water heater, or you can take the full plunge and convert your entire home.
When you are considering the cost, find out what savings are available from both the federal and your local government. For instance, the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009 created an incentive program that gives property owners a 30 percent tax credit for a variety of green energy systems as long as they are installed before the end of 2016.
Contact your state’s department of energy and your local power company to find out what other savings and credits are available for switching to renewable energy. Once you have this information, look at the actual costs of installing different types of systems and the improvements they would make to your energy use according to your energy audit. The best way to determine whether the investment is worth it is to calculate how long it will take for the investment to pay for itself and whether you anticipate staying in the home for that length of time.
About the Author
Alex Wayne is a full-time blogger who enjoys writing about home improvement, HVAC and plumbing topics, with a special emphasis on saving money through a do-it-yourself approach. His current focus is on working with websites like McKeeHomesNC.com to translate tips and tricks from home improvement experts into insightful blog posts and articles for homeowners who want to work smarter, not harder. He lives in Chicago, IL.