Having an eco-friendly household these days requires more than separating paper from plastic in your recycling bin and purchasing reusable grocery bags. Soaring energy costs and other environmental concerns necessitate the need to conserve natural resources whenever and however possible.
“Going green” doesn’t necessarily mean installing solar panels and sustainable wood flooring. Simple changes to your home and your everyday life can make your home more efficient and environmentally friendly.
According to the Environmental Protection Agency, appliance usage comprises nearly 20 percent of a typical home’s total energy bill, with the refrigerator requiring the most. If any of your appliances are more than 10 years old, the EPA suggests replacing them with “Energy Star” branded models. At Compass Mortgage, we can even offer you programs such as 203k or Fannie Mae HomeStyle® Renovation that include additional finances to purchase new appliances combined into your home loan.
Almost half of a home’s energy is consumed by heating and cooling, so turn down the thermostat a few degrees during the winter and up a few in the summer. Each degree below 68°F during the colder months saves 3%-5% more heating energy. These tips will also cut down on costs:
- Clean your furnace’s air filter monthly.
- Shade your east and west windows during the warmer months.
- Consider a new furnace. Today’s furnaces are about 35% more efficient than those made in the 1990’s.
- Use ceiling fans. Moving air feels cooler than stagnant.
- Lower your water heater’s temperature to 120°F. Turn the heater off or down when you go on vacation.
Saving on H2O can be as easy as making daily behavioral changes to purchasing an Energy Star washer and upgrading to low-flow toilets. A few minor changes include:
- Replacing showerheads that fill up a one-gallon bucket in less than 20 seconds with water-conserving showerheads like WaterSense®.
- Reuse towels.
- Install aerators on all household faucets.
- Fix drips on faucets. One drip every second adds up to five gallons per day.
- Use the garbage disposal sparingly and compost leftovers instead.
- Wait for a full load when washing clothes and running the dishwasher.
Lighting & Electronic Energy
Living in a “plugged-in” age has increased the need for electricity usage. Do a nightly sweep of your outlets, lamps and ceiling fans to make sure they are in the off position or unplugged. Approximately 75 percent of the electricity used by home electronics is consumed when they’re turned off. The biggest culprits include televisions, VCRs, stereos, computers, phone and computer charges and kitchen appliances. Plug all of these items into power strips and get into the habit of turning them off after uses.
Financial Incentives for “Going Green”
Reducing your energy costs is not the only bonus to being energy efficient. Certain loan programs aim to make energy efficiency and conservation a way of life and reward home buyers and homeowners who strive for it.
With the Energy Efficient Mortgage Program, homeowners and homebuyers may finance energy improvements to make an older, less inefficient home more affordable, stretch debt-to-income qualifying ratios and qualify for a larger amount. Funds can be used to purchase new appliances, windows, better water heaters and air conditioning units, to name a few.
Homeowners can also qualify for federal tax credits by making improvements or installing energy-efficient appliances. The Nonbusiness Energy Property Credit qualified homeowners in 2013 for 10 percent of the purchase price of energy-efficient products such as insulation, exterior windows/doors, water heaters, central air conditioners, etc.
If you want to take the steps to reducing your carbon imprint and improve your home’s efficiency, consider an energy audit. A professional Home Energy Auditor can point out where your home is lacking and direct you towards a solution. Some utility companies even offer free or discounted energy audits to customers. Visit http://www.energystar.gov/index.cfm?fuseaction=new_homes_partners.locator to find incentives and auditors in your area or talk to one of our Mortgage Experts to see if they recommend any professionals.
Interested in purchasing a home in need of "green" improvements? Looking to refinance your current home to pay for energy efficient rehabilitation? Check out our Rehab Guide, which includes information on rehabilitation loans available to you!
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