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HomeHomes
Published: Monday, 12/19/2011

Boosting Home Energy Efficiency: Improvements That Feel Good And Save Money

Low profile solar collectors, which look like skylights, blend well with rooflines. Low profile solar collectors, which look like skylights, blend well with rooflines.
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(ARA) - When it comes to making your home more energy efficient, you may have to spend a little to save a lot. And, like most good investments, energy-efficient home improvements may require you to be in it for the long haul in order to see the maximum return on your investment.
   
Still, if you're planning to be in your current home for several years (and numerous studies report that more Americans are staying put), a long-term investment in improved energy efficiency can make sound dollar sense for your family. Energy-efficient improvements can help reduce energy use, lower utility bills and cut your home's environmental impact. You may also reap a tax benefit from making certain eco-friendly improvements. And some improvements, like installing skylights or solar water heating systems, can boost the healthfulness -- and your enjoyment -- of your home.

Skylight savings
Heating, cooling and electricity make up the largest chunk of nearly every American home's annual utility bill. Installing a skylight can actually help you lower heating/cooling costs and electric bills. In fact, installing Energy Star-qualified skylights, along with qualified windows and doors, can lower energy bills 7 percent to 15 percent compared to non-qualified products, according to EnergyStar.gov.
   
Because skylights admit abundant natural light, they can help lower your home's dependence on artificial light sources, meaning you'll use less electricity to light your home. They are also an outstanding method of passively venting moisture, fumes and volatile organic compounds (VOCs) from your home, so they can help improve indoor air quality as well. Venting skylights also admit cool breezes, to help lower cooling costs in spring and fall, when indoor temperatures may be too warm to be comfortable but not hot enough to warrant turning on the air conditioning.
   
You will find tax credits and product rebates in place for certain skylights and accessories, according to Joe Patrick of Velux America, manufacturers of the No Leak Skylight. He says that reliability, with long-term, durable performance is backed by both product and installation warranties. "When properly installed, Velux skylights are no more prone to leaks than any other properly installed, quality window in your home," he adds. You can learn more at www.veluxusa.com.

Solar water heating saves
Solar power is gaining broad acceptance across the country as a cost-effective way to reduce utility costs. Solar water heaters, in particular, have attained a level of reliability that makes them competitive with traditional water heating products. But when it comes to cost savings, comparisons pale between traditional and solar water heating systems.
   
The federal tax credit program makes it possible to recoup up to 30 percent of the installed cost of a solar water heating system, and many states and utilities offer additional incentives. The cost of a system from a manufacturer like Velux will vary based on a home's requirements. The installed cost for a residential solar water heating system will typically run between $6,500 to $12,000 says Jim Cika, a solar water heating expert with Velux. Installation costs will vary depending on a number of homesite variables, so a solar specialist should be contacted for detailed costs. Savings can be dramatic, he adds: an average of a 50 to 80 percent reduction in the cost of heating water for your home. "That's a significant sum when you consider that the Department of Energy says water heating can account for 14 to 25 percent of the energy consumed in our homes," he says.
   
Energy-efficient home improvements can be right on so many levels -- from doing something good for the environment to making a change that can save you money in the long run.




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