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Energy Efficiency

Invest in Efficiency

Don’t neglect efficiency upgrades when improving your home

If you’re remodeling your kitchen or undergoing another home-improvement project, take the opportunity to make your home more energy efficient.

Energy improvements aren’t inexpensive, but they pay off in a big way. First, they can lower your cooling bill during the summer and your heating bill when it’s cold outside. Second, energy-efficient products make your home feel more comfortable. And third, they add value to your home when you’re ready to sell it.

Here are five worthwhile energy-saving home improvements:

1. Outdoor window shades. Shade screens and awnings keep the sun from beaming directly through your home’s windows and into its air-conditioned rooms. Place them on south-facing windows to reduce solar heat gain by up to 65 percent and on west-facing panes to save 77 percent, estimates the U.S. Department of Energy.

2. Whole-house fan. Installed in your attic, this enormous fan pulls cool air in through open windows around the house and then forces hot air out through attic vents. Open windows on opposite sides of the house when you run the fan, and you’ll enjoy a cool cross breeze as your home airs out. The DOE says a house fan can cut your air-conditioning bill by up to 5 percent.

3. Attic insulation. Even if your attic has plenty of insulation, it’s likely it has shifted over the years. Insulation is effective only when it touches the surface it’s supposed to cover. If it droops or falls, it’s not doing you any good. Reattach the insulation and add more in places where the original application has thinned out.

4. Energy-efficient air conditioner. The older yours is, the harder it’s working to keep your home cool. Newer models are designed to cool your home more efficiently. In fact, you can save up to 10 percent on cooling bills if you replace an inefficient air-conditioning system with a model approved by Energy Star.

5. Sealed ductwork. The ductwork attached to the air-conditioning system in most homes leaks. Next time you have a technician in to do routine maintenance, have those ducts inspected and sealed. You can knock up to 25 percent from your cooling costs if you do. Note that sealing ductwork is different from cleaning it. Sealing—with the right materials—is the key to energy savings.