Saving Energy—and Money—in Your Home
The wonderful thing about saving energy is that, in addition to helping the environment, you save money. It’s like contributing to a good cause and ending up with more money in your pocket. Many of the energy-efficient appliances and heating or cooling systems covered on this website cost no more than their inefficient counterparts. With most others, the extra cost is easily repaid in energy savings over just a few years. To top it off, many energy-saving upgrades increase the comfort, convenience, and aesthetics of your home.
When you buy an appliance, you pay more than just the sales price —you commit yourself to paying the cost of running the appliance for as long as you own it. These energy costs can add up quickly. For example, running a refrigerator 15–20 years can cost as much as the initial purchase price of the unit. That 75-watt light bulb you just put in will cost about $7 in electricity over its (short) life.
The sum of the purchase price and the energy cost of running an appliance or light bulb over its lifetime is called its life-cycle cost. The life-cycle costs of energy-efficient appliances are lower than those of average models even though the latter may cost less to buy. To determine a basic life-cycle cost, use the following equation:
LCC = Initial Cost + (Annual Operating Cost x Years of Operation), where the operating cost can include energy costs, maintenance, and repair. For “years,” you would use the expected life of the equipment in question.
To increase the economic benefits of buying more energy-efficient appliances and boosting your overall home efficiency, check for rebates offered by your local energy and water utilities or tax incentives available from your state or the federal government. Rebates are most common for high-efficiency refrigerators, clothes washers, lighting products, cooling equipment, and home energy improvements like air sealing and insulation. Rebate programs are much more common among electric companies than gas companies, although some gas utilities offer rebates for high-efficiency furnaces and boilers. If you plan to buy a major appliance soon, ask your utility if it offers rebates for efficient models.
You can also visit the Database of State Incentives for Renewables and Efficiency (DSIRE), a comprehensive source of information on government and utility incentives for both energy efficiency and renewable energy. DSIRE is operated by the N.C. Clean Energy Technology Center at N.C. State University and is funded by the U.S. Department of Energy.