Energy Efficient Upgrades


Upgrading to more energy-efficient appliances is not a new trend or a unique idea. Most people know they can buy a dishwasher that uses half as much water or a microwave that uses less electricity.

These purchases do save energy and therefore money, but they also require start-up costs. Installation, warranties and delivery fees all add to the initial payment. Sometimes, it takes a lot of green to go green.

Why We’re Asking:

In an effort to alleviate some of the financial burden of switching to appliances and gadgets that will save energy, many city, county, state and even federal programs offer discounted or free products to homeowners. From tax breaks on solar panel systems to free LED light bulb giveaways, we’re looking to find out how to get energy-efficient on the cheap.

So electrical experts, it’s time to weigh in:

How Can Homeowners Save On Energy Efficient Upgrades?

What are some freebies I can take advantage of for making my home more energy efficient?
Tax breaks?
Free inspections?
Surplus power credits?
Free energy efficient light bulbs?

Next week, we’ll post a summary article on all the best energy freebies.

Experts, post your answers in the comment field below!


  1. The easiest way to find out what affordable methods to upgrade one’s home is to check your local municipalities and utilities in the area for what they are currently offering with regards to energy upgrades.

    By also going simply to this Department of Energy site: you can see a whole review of what is currently available with regards to rebates and savings by State.

    There are also non profit organizations available to those who income qualify for free to low cost or low interest rate loans to weatherize your home. Your local City office should be able to provide you with a list of those organizations.

    For the aggressive resourceful home owner you can find many options and ways to improve your home and make it more energy efficient. It just takes a little green elbow grease.

  2. By now your readers know that I am an internationally recognized artist and award winning green designer. I was even featured in National Geographic for my part in the first Earth Day. You also know that my wife Beverly and I practice what we preach on our 1856 historic ranch in the beautiful Texas Hill Country near Austin. Over the years we have been in numerous books and magazines for our conservation efforts. Our ranch was nominated in 1997-98 for the highest award in Texas for land stewardship.

    The one energy saving device that will give you the most bang for your buck is a clothesline. Use it when the weather permits and you have the time. Nothing is better for your clothes than drying in the fresh air and sunshine and you will save a lot of energy. You also reduce the warming effects on the atmosphere because instead of creating new heat in your dryer which is expelled through the exhaust, you are creating a small cooling effect due to the evaporation of water from your clothes.
    You can put up a permanent line or a retractable one.
    Best wishes to all my fellow green designers.

  3. Here in NC, the power companies will provide a free box of CFL lightbulbs upon request and most electric utilities across the nation offer some kind of basic home energy assessment. Adding weatherstripping around doors and windows and increasing the thermostat temperature in summer by a couple of degrees can have a noticeable impact on your bill. Replacing appliances when they wear out with those that are ENERGY STAR certified will also reduce energy use. Many people do not realize that heating/cooling and keeping a refrigerator running are the biggest energy hogs.

    Also, unplug all charging cables when not in use as they constantly draw power.

  4. As a home security expert, I know a lot about home automation systems and how they are quickly becoming a very significant way to reduce your energy output.

    Smart home security systems are becoming a great and affordable way for homeowners to

    1. Cut your energy bills in half:
    – By using your Internet phone and computer to control your lighting, thermostat, and small appliances, you can drastically reduce the amount of energy you consume every day

    2. Receive discounts on your Homeowners Insurance
    – Most Insurance companies give their customers discounts if you invest in a home security system, not just smart home security.

    3. Get free repairs and maintenance on your smart system
    – A lot of home security companies will offer you a free lifetime warranty (or at least charge a small amount extra for it) if you purchase their smart home packages. This helps you maintain a longer life for your system as well as protect you from expensive repairs.

    4. Improve your home’s security
    – Smart home security systems not only help save you money and energy, they also help keep you and your family safe. With video surveillance viewable in real-time from any Internet device, you can always know what’s going on in your home, even when you’re not there.

    5. Have an overall better system of managing your home, your family, and your money.
    – Families today are constantly on-the-go. Whether you’re juggling work and home and trying to keep an eye on your kids and wallet, smart home automation systems help you manage everything under one easy-to-use system.

  5. There are many affordable ways to save money through the government, and the easiest way to figure out which ways you can cut back is to read through them on the U.S. Department of Energy’s website, If you’re just looking for free ways to conserve energy in your own home, there are lots of simple tricks that cost little to no money. Here are a few of our favorites:

    • Use safety plugs in unused outlets, which can let outside air in when left open.
    • Replace old glaze on your window panes with putty to keep air inside your home.
    • Plug your chimney with fiberglass insulation when not in use and make sure the dampers are sealed tight.
    • Use rags or hand towels instead of paper towels.
    • Check the seal on your refrigerator by placing a dollar bill in the door, if it can be easily pulled out, it’s time to replace the gaskets.
    • Clean out the lint screen each time you use your dryer.
    • Drive the speed limit!
    • Dust your light fixtures.
    • Save wire coat hangers by returning them to your dry cleaner.
    • Remember to turn off the lights when you leave a room!

    Aside from all of these options, Grand View Builders save energy every day by using the products that are already placed in their homes. ENERGY STAR qualified homes like ours use reliable building technologies that are proven to save homeowners money.

  6. GreenHomes America performs energy efficiency retrofit work across the country. We find in many areas there are a variety of incentives available for this work a central database for this information can be found at Incentives include, but are not limited to, tax incentives, grants, loans, rebates, industry recruitment/support, green building incentives, and performance-based incentives. The funding can come from government (state, federal, or local) or regional utility companies. But more importantly is the fact that there is no doubt that properly installed energy efficiency upgrades will save money, regardless of a subsidy or rebate. In fact, investing in energy efficiency can pay back in spades.

    I would caution homeowners who would try and only capitalize on “free.” Free audits, often offered by utilities are fine, but they don’t always tell you the whole picture. Free light bulbs are great and by all means take them. And if it’s time for new appliances look for the most efficient models for sure.

    But the real savings are gained in taking action on recommendations from a comprehensive home assessment. These are recommendations by a certified energy auditor who suggests measures such as insulation, air sealing, improved heating and cooling systems, and windows—often in that order. The benefits go way beyond savings. It means increased comfort in winter and summer. It means better indoor air quality by reducing dust, mold and other irritants. And the savings from these kinds of efficiency upgrades, means it might cost a little but will save you lots.

  7. The quickest and most cost-efficient way to decrease your energy costs is to get a home energy audit. During the audit an energy professional will examine your home to determine where you can get the most energy savings for your dollar. This simple process can take 30% or more off your monthly electricity bill. In order to have your house evaluated you should first contact your utility and ask if they offer discounts or even free audits. Otherwise you can always hire a certified expert. Unfortunately, there is no longer a federal tax credit for energy efficient home products. The policy was not extended at the end of 2011.

    Once you have saved energy, you may try a more fundamental way to make your home sustainable with solar energy. You can use current government programs to install solar panels. The most powerful incentive you have to do this is the federal investment tax credit. This provides homeowners with up to 30% tax credit on the installed cost of their solar products. However, there are some small limitations. To be eligible for the credit, a solar thermal project must supply half the energy used to heat water in the household. The tax credit also does not apply to pool and hot tub products.

    Depending on where you live, there are many other incentives, from state grants to property tax credits from counties and solar renewable energy credits that you can sell on the open market. Each jurisdiction is different, but the bottom line is that it has never been easier to go solar.

    Another policy that creates incentives for solar is called net metering. 43 states currently have net metering policies, which let you sell excess electricity generation back to the grid. Though the price you get for your electricity varies from state to state, the policy allows you to actually make money off solar generation. Before going solar, understand your state’s net metering policy so that you can financially profit from your solar electricity system.

    The time is ripe to go green, and to go solar. Current government tax credits and incentives have made it easy to take steps in an environmentally friendly direction. Reducing your energy usage and switching to solar power are the best ways to start leading a sustainable and less expensive lifestyle.

  8. We’ve talked to people who would like to switch to renewable energy to help reduce air pollution and lower greenhouse gases, and we tell them that going green doesn’t have to break the bank. If you’re located in a deregulated energy market, you can choose to purchase energy from smaller providers who often work closely with customers to provide them the most cost-effective green energy plan.

    For example, our team wants customers to make the transition to renewable energy easier, so we offer options to purchase 25% or 50% of their consumption in renewable energy. Once they see the benefits of going green, customers tend to gravitate toward switching to 100% renewable energy.

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