Exterior Renovations for Energy Efficiency

Wednesday, June 6th, 2018 by Josh Hudson

Energy Efficient window overlooking city

Exterior Renovations for Energy Efficiency

Many variables will influence which projects you decide are best for your home, and improving energy efficiency is a primary concern for many homeowners. One of the first steps you may take is figuring out how your home is inefficient and which projects will help reduce your utility bills the most.

Additionally, you'll also want to define the size and scope of your renovation project and whether your budget will accommodate all the energy efficient improvements you want to accomplish.

Tip: Examine more than the initial cost of the renovation. Compare the cost of the project against the likely energy savings you'll experience once the project is complete.

Figuring Out Your Home's Inefficiencies

You'll want to visit the EPA's ENERGY STAR website and take their Home Energy Yardstick quiz. The tool will provide a breakdown about your home's energy usage which includes:

  • A measure of your home's efficiency
  • A breakdown of your home's energy use
  • Links with advice on how to increase efficiency
  • Estimates on your home's carbon emissions

In addition to getting information from the EPA about your home's energy use, you may also want to check out energy incentives from the IRS. Depending upon what type of renovation projects you choose, you may save money on next year's taxes by choosing certain approved materials, appliances, and devices.

The Residential Energy Property Credit says:

"The credit applies to improvements such as adding insulation, energy-efficient exterior windows and energy-efficient heating and air conditioning systems."

The only thing better than seeing your utility bills drop after your exterior renovation is getting a smaller tax bill on April 15th.

How to Choose Energy Efficient Windows

One of the first decisions you'll make when replacing your windows is the material. Common materials for popular windows today include vinyl, wood, aluminum, and wood-clad.

Interestingly, sometimes wood makes more sense than new aluminum windows because wood is a less efficient conductor than aluminum. However, the conductivity of the window material isn't the only feature you need to consider when boosting the efficiency of your home.

According to HGTV:

"While the material each window is constructed from is important, the reality is most recent window-related buzzwords are all about what's inside the frame."

Some of the best new windows for boosting energy efficiency are those that are double-paned, feature something called "low-e" glass, and come with vacuum-sealed argon fill. These features do tend to boost the cost of your windows, but the energy savings over the decades that you'll have the windows should make that small increase in price very worth the initial investment.

Another consideration for energy efficient windows is how they're hung. You'll commonly see the following types of windows:

  • Double-hung: A classic design, the bottom half of the window slides up.
  • Casement windows: Crank windows that swing the window outward.
  • Picture windows: Don't usually open.

If you're aiming for a less expensive option for your window replacement, you may think about getting your windows resealed. Resealing is one of the best ways to extend the lifespan of your windows while also improving the energy efficiency of your home.

Other Tips for Efficient Homes

One surprisingly simple option is using landscaping to increase the benefits you receive from the sun during the winter, as well as during the summer. According to Better Homes & Gardens:

"Landscaping can help save energy. Plant deciduous trees on the south and west sides of your house. In summer, the leaves will shade your house; in winter, the bare branches will let the sun through for added warmth."

Another area you can improve your home's efficiency is with the light bulbs around your home. Although today's advice usually suggests changing all your lights to CFLs and LED lights, you can actually go further with your replacements by considering the wattage of your lights.

Some great ways to create great efficiency with your lighting include:

  • Install occupancy sensors
  • Use low-wattage bulbs in areas like closets
  • Install dimmer switches
  • Make sure your outdoor porch light is a high-efficiency LED
  • Consider installing skylights
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