Most home builders offer a slew of energy-efficient features and upgrades you can choose from. And while reducing your environmental footprint (and that of your home) is certainly a perk, it’s not the only benefit these green features can have on your life.
An even better one? The serious money they save you over time.
Saving Energy, Saving Money
The data is there: Energy-efficient upgrades don’t just help save the environment. They also save you cash month after month, year after year.
But just how much? Let’s break it down:
Low-E Storm Windows
These are tight-fitting windows with a thin layer of radiant-reflective material. This reduces the heat coming into your home and decreases overall energy needs. According to the U.S. Department of Energy, low-E windows can reduce your annual HVAC bills by 12-33 percent. For the average household, that can equate to almost $300 saved annually.
Traditional toilets use up six gallons of water with every flush. With WaterSense toilets, you reduce water usage significantly (just 1.2 gallons per flush), cutting your water bills by about $100 every year.
Many builders are now offering built-in, smart thermostats like the Nest and Ecobee in their homes. While the energy savings these offer vary by model, you can typically reduce your heating and cooling costs by 10-23 percent with a smart thermostat.
If your builder offers solar panels, it can mean thousands in savings across your time in the home. Just check out Google’s Project Sunroof to calculate how much. (Example: Putting panels on my house would save me $7,000 over the next 20 years!)
Spray Foam Insulation
With spray foam insulation, you can easily (and more comprehensively) fill small gaps and pockets in your home’s framing. That means a more comfortable environment indoors and less heating and cooling usage overall (about 40 percent less, in fact).
Showerheads have gotten advanced in recent years. Low-flow showerheads can reduce your water usage by up to 50 percent, while others even come with motion detection sensors, shutting off when you back away from the head, and powering back up once you come close. Energy Star shows some low-flow showerheads can save you up to $145 per year.
Programmable Sprinkler Systems
Watering at the right time, for the right length, can significantly impact your water bills. Sprinkler systems allow you to customize your watering schedule to maximize your lawn’s health, as well as your savings. Your total savings vary by climate and the size of your yard, but if the system has an automatic shut-off valve (in case a sprinkler head breaks or there’s a leak), it can save you even more over time.
Minor Energy Efficient Changes You Can Make Yourself
In addition to the major green features you can request from your builder, there are also smaller changes you can make to up your energy efficiency and save even more cash.
- Replace your five most-used light fixtures with Energy Star models. These can be chandeliers, sconces, or any other fixture you have in the house. Savings: up to $75 per year.
- Install a leak detection tool. The average home loses 17 gallons of water per day due to unknown leaks. Tools such as Flo can prevent these, as well as the damage that comes with them down the line. Savings: Varies.
- Plant shady trees around your home. Doing so can reduce your air conditioning needs by 15-50 percent annually. Savings: $35 to $119 per year.
- Use power strips for electronics. Commit to turning these off when you leave the home and when devices aren’t in use. Savings: $100 per year.
- Weatherstrip your windows and doors. Air leaks cost homeowners hundreds of dollars every year. Savings: $200 to $400 per year.
- Lower the temperature on your hot water heater. Drop it just slightly (to 120 degrees or lower) and reduce energy use by up to 22 percent. Savings: Up to $60 per year.
- Select Energy Star appliances. Energy Star appliances are proven to reduce energy use and associated costs. An Energy Star washer drops your energy usage by 25 percent and water use by 33 percent. Refrigerators save you about $125 per year. Savings: Varies.
- Use LED or CFL lightbulbs throughout the house. They might come with a higher price tag than traditional bulbs, but they only use 25-75 percent of the energy. They last longer, too. Savings: $50 per year.
- Insulate your hot water pipes. It won’t make a major dent, but insulating your pipes saves you about 4 percent on your annual heating bills. Savings: $12 per year.
- Shorten your showers and avoid baths. Limiting your showers to just 10 minutes can save you around five gallons every day. Savings: $100 per year.
- Raise your thermostat. If you don’t want to install a smart thermostat, you can take a simpler approach: Adjust your thermostat by about 10 degrees while you’re away at work. Take your normal comfortable temperature and add 10 degrees in the summer, or subtract 10 degrees in winter, and save 10 percent on your annual HVAC bills. Savings:$90 or more per year
Another great way to save on energy (and cash) is to get a professional energy audit done of your property. These are essentially full-scale evaluations of your home’s energy use — as well as where it may be falling short in terms of efficiency. They can help you identify areas you may be able to upgrade, reduce your energy use, and save cash.
You can usually get energy audits done through your electricity provider or through your local government. There are also private companies that provide these services.
New House, New Energy Bills
Want a new home that’s outfitted with all the energy-efficient bells and whistles you can think of? Check out the new homes on NewHomeSource.com!
I’m a freelance writer and journalist from Houston, covering real estate, mortgage and finance topics. See my current work in Forbes, The Motley Fool, The Balance, Bankrate, New Home Source and The Simple Dollar. Past gigs: The Dallas Morning News, NBC, Radio Disney and PBS.