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Why Your Green Home Improvements Aren't Paying Off

Forget big savings on your energy bills if you make green home improvements. Instead, choose green retrofits and home improvements that offset rising energy prices.

Why have my green home improvements fallen flat?

Energy prices as a whole have gone up over the last decade, especially in certain regions of the country. 

Although natural gas prices have dipped a bit since 2008 and electricity prices have stayed level, the trend line goes up for both from 2011 forward. 

The U.S. Energy Information Administration estimates an average annual increase in residential energy costs of 2.3% through 2035. 

So...if energy cost projections hold, and assuming an average annual American energy bill of $2,200, you'll pay 2.3% more each year (that's $50 the first year) if you do nothing toreduce your consumption. Your bill will inch closer to $4,000 by the year 2035. Ouch.

3 energy saving retrofits that pay off

If the only reason you're making retrofits is to manage energy costs, look for projects with maximum bang for the buck. 

Rule of thumb: Try to beat the 2.3% annual average with green home improvements that reduce your energy consumption by 5% or more but have a modest initial investment. And don't forget to ask whether your utility or state government offers rebates or tax credits for these improvements.

1. Seal and insulate ductwork that runs through unheated spaces—the attic, a crawl space, a garage. It's not glamorous, but it can improve the efficiency of your heating system by 20%—a 5% bill reduction overall. If you hire an HVAC pro for this job, you'll invest a few hundred dollars for labor and materials.

2. Buy a programmable thermostat. Is it possible you haven't done this yet? For just $25 to $250, the you can save, on average, around 8% on energy bills simply by programming it properly. 

3. Add attic insulation and seal air leaks. One of the best energy-saving improvements out there, because insulating and sealing your home can reduce your energy bills by 10%. Upgrading your attic insulation to the R-value recommended for your region costs anywhere from $.25 to $1 per square foot, including materials and labor; it's less if you do it yourself.

But you won't get the maximum savings if you don't seal air leaks, so plan this as a combo job. Caulking and weather-stripping typically costs from $50 to $350, depending on the size of your house.

      Karin Beuerlein in more than a decade of freelancing, has covered home improvement and green living topics extensively for,, and She and her husband started married life by remodeling the house they were living in. They still have both the marriage and the house, no small feat.

      By: Karin Beuerlein


      Visit for more articles like this. Reprinted from with permission of the NATIONAL ASSOCIATION OF REALTORS®.

      John Lynch with Dwell360 is a REALTOR® who services the cities and suburbs of metro Boston. He is focused on his customers and his experience in the residential real estate market is extensive. Search for homes in Massachusetts and then give John a call.