Deep energy retrofits – are they worth the up-front cost?

Posted May 24, 2016 by Gabriel Posternak

A deep energy retrofit can mean quite an investment, so you need all the information available before take the step to do it to your home. It’s clear that this kind of home improvement will reflect in a reduction on utility bills, but does it mean that you can really get back your money in the long run?


Short-term benefits of a deep energy retrofit

As we found out in the previous article, most homeowners appoint an energy update with savings in mind, but there are more things that are improved at home with this upgrade, right from the beginning.

Functionality: Windows and openings are now bigger than some decades ago, so you are very likely to update them. Changing the size, adding extra windows or replacing a damaged frame are great opportunities to replace them all for a more energy efficient version, both casings and glass. The low-e glass panes will impact in your heating and cooling performance, but there is an intangible benefit on functionality that you can profit since day one.

Comfort: Sealing leaks, insulate and upgrade your thermostat will make your indoor climate more stable with a direct impact in the overall comfort at home.

Durability: Modern construction materials and treatments are way more durable now than some years ago. Insulation and seals are stronger and more tight so your house will be less likely a subject of moisture damage or pest infestation than before the retrofit. Besides the energy savings, you will save loads on yearly maintenance.

Health: Most people overlook the health benefits associated with an energy upgrade, specially around green insulation and energy efficient HVAC systems. Improved air quality, prevention of mold and eliminate indoor humidity or dangerous gasses are instant benefits of this home improvement.

Aesthetics: Let’s not fool ourselves, nobody want a home upgrade that look awful even if it’s environmentally clever. You can start a deep energy retrofit while fixing some problems with the foundations or the frames of the walls, while upgrading the sidings, or while making an addition that tear some wasted structure. In fact, aesthetics is a great starting point in most cases.

A house as a whole

As today, you can find reports that points in every direction: the ones that tells that you can recoup your investment in less than 8 years and the ones that states that this period is close to never. But in most cases, they evaluate just an aspect of the retrofit, focusing on HVAC upgrade, weatherization or energy efficiency appliances and lighting independently. The key is calculating the ROI on a deep energy retrofit design and executed by a qualified energy contractor that uses a “home-as-a-system” approach. In this schema, the return of the investment is always positive.


A modern home vs. a fixer upper

The last thing to consider, is the initial state of the house. As we said before, a couple of decades can do a huge difference in energy performance and efficiency of materials. A fixer upper will achieve a bigger percentage of improvement in its energy efficiency, but an investment close to $50,000 for a full insulation, windows and a modern HVAC is very hard to return on utility bills. On the other hand, a modern home -with an energy conscious household habits- might feel deceit with its low efficiency improvement, but the investment will be smaller and easier to recoup. The good news for both cases is that an energy efficiency improvement will rocket the home resale value, because it is a perk that’s gaining more requests from buyers season after season.

In short, there is no right answer to the question from the title, because you must take in consideration a lot of things to make an accurate calculation. The best way to find our own answer is consult with a professional and find together a plan that suits your energy needs and your available budget. If you need some information on energy upgrades, please leave us a comment below and we will be very happy to help you with your project!

Posted May 24, 2016
by Gabriel Posternak.


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