By MIRIAM ACZEL
For most homeowners, it’s in their best interest to take the time to reassess their energy usage at home. If you’re finding your energy bill to be pricier than usual, or you’re simply worried about your home’s impact on the environment, it could be time to consider an investment in sustainable energy. Though this concept can feel overwhelming at first, there are many different forms of sustainable energy options that range from big to small. As you consider these options many logisitcal queries will arise, which is why it’s important to be sure you’re asking the right questions.
What are my options?
Knowing your options when it comes to sustainable energy is perhaps the best place to start. Whether you’re interested in a full-scale renovation, or you’re hoping to make a smaller change, there are several ways to achieve your goal.
Probably the most widely accepted form of renewable energy, solar power, is incredibly sustainable and is becoming more affordable every year. Whether you install solar panels on your roof, or opt for solar shingles, there are plenty of companies that specialize in this type of installation that you can get a quote from. The benefits of solar energy are plentiful, making for a low-risk and long-term investment that isn’t a hard project to undertake. Most installations periods average around 2 months in total, which is a manageable amount of time for many homeowners.
Renewable Energy Appliances
If you are hoping to be more sustainable on a smaller-scale, you can always invest in renewable energy appliances for your home. From solar ovens to energy efficient dryers, these appliances will save you money and will lessen your impact on our planet. It might be in your best interest to assess the estimated life of your regularly used appliances at home. If you’re noticing that any of your appliances are in need of replacement, now could be the perfect time to consider a renewable energy alternative.
Though not as widely used, geothermal energy offers another opportunity for heating your home the sustainable way. Geothermal heat pumps utilize heat from deep within the earth’s surface to warm and cool your home. Planning period included, making the switch to go geothermal is actually a much faster process than you might think. With an estimated planning period of two weeks, the actual installation only takes around 5 to 6 days.
Though your energy upgrades are by no means limited to solar, geothermal, and renewable energy appliances, many homeowners have found these choices to be the most actionable.
How much will it save me?
While the options outlined above can seem perfect in theory, it’s always a good idea to consult the numbers. Remember that sustainable energy is, for the most part, an investment at the end of the day. Though the installation of geothermal heat pumps, solar panels, or the purchase of energy efficient appliances have a higher price to begin with, the monthly return you’ll receive for using these options can end up being worth it.
Geothermal heat pumps can cut home heating and cooling costs by up to 30 to 70 percent, while solar panels can save homeowners between $10,000 to $30,000 during the lifespan of the system itself. While renewable energy appliance savings range, certified dryers can result in savings of up to $210 in energy bills, while energy-efficient washers can save you up to $50 each year.
Can I afford it?
If after doing the proper research and asking the right questions you’ve decided to run the numbers on affordability, there are several routes you can take when it comes to financing renewable home upgrades. While you might even be able to finance such additions with a credit card, there are other ways to afford larger-scale additions as well. A common method of financing for solar panels along with geothermal heating is through a home equity loan. Many homeowners find the lower interest rates affordable and the application process easy. Apart from this there are several installation companies that offer their own financing options, so be sure to inquire about what they would recommend for your personal needs. Additionally, there are federal tax credits you can claim for making energy efficient upgrades to your home like the ones listed above, so don’t forget to capitalize on them.
Miriam Aczel is a President’s Scholar PhD Candidate at Imperial College London’s Centre for Environmental Policy. Her research focus is on international energy science and policy, with a focus on mitigation of environmental and health impacts of shale gas. She is also co-founder and co-director of the Amir D. Aczel Foundation for Research and Education in Science and Mathematics, a nonprofit based in Cambodia.