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Ask Angi: What are sustainable upgrades I can make in 2023?

by Tribune News Service | January 22, 2023 at 4:00 a.m.
Updating older wiring in your home can save energy. (Dreamstime/TNS)

In the coldest part of the year, you may be lamenting your heating bills and the occasional inefficient use of energy in your home. But recent federal code changes mean 2023 is the year to start making energy-efficient upgrades to both keep your home warm in winter and cool in summer.

Studies show that U.S. homes produce about 20 percent of the greenhouse gases in the country. To help reduce greenhouse gas emissions in homes, Congress passed the Inflation Reduction Act in August 2022. The bill includes the High Efficiency Electric Home Rebate Act, which provides low- and moderate-income homes with point-of-sale rebates to help them reduce their greenhouse gas emissions by improving energy usage. Here are six ways to make sustainable improvements in your home this spring to prepare you for the colder days.

Weatherize your walls and windows

Losing heat in the winter and cool air in the summer frustrates homeowners, who see the difference in their utility bills. But lost energy also increases the greenhouse gas emissions we want to avoid. To help prevent this, look into weatherizing your home by caulking and sealing your windows and installing insulation in your walls.

Caulking/sealing windows and doors: $50-70 per window/door.

Insulation installation: $1,600-$2,700.

Rewire your home

Outdated wiring in your home causes inefficient energy usage and can be dangerous, depending on the situation. Always make sure to replace any knob and tube wiring to ensure safety. A professional knows the most up-to-date codes and can help you determine what energy needs fit your lifestyle. If you're considering purchasing an electric car, definitely upgrade your electrical box.

Updating/replacing an electrical box: $520-$2,000 for 200 amps.

Rewiring a home: $2-$4 per square foot of home size.

Install efficient appliances

If you need to replace appliances like refrigerators, washers/dryers, dishwashers, water heaters and HVAC, look for ones that are Energy Star certified. These appliances' motors, compressors and pumps are designed to save energy. If your appliances are already Energy Star certified, install a smart thermostat to save more on your utility bill.

Installing a smart thermometer: $110-$250.

Switch to heat pumps

Along with choosing energy-efficient water heaters, furnaces and air conditioners, installing heat pumps for water heaters and HVAC can protect both the equipment and your utility bill. Heat pump water heaters can be the most expensive on the market, but they can be up to three times more efficient than electric or gas water heaters, even Energy Star-certified units.

HVAC heat pump technology has improved enough in recent years to be functional in colder climates that often dip below freezing. They are pricey to install but can save up to half your heating costs.

Heat pump water heaters: $3,900-$20,000.

HVAC heat pumps: $3,900-$6,200.

Install efficient toilets

Toilets made before 1980 use up to seven gallons of water per flush. Today's low-water toilets use about 1.5 gallons per flush. Dual-flow toilets use half- and full-flush options to help you use water more efficiently when flushing liquid or solid waste. Installing one of these toilets could save around $100 on your yearly water bill, but they require more frequent cleanings.

Toilet installation: $400-$800.

Switch away from gas

A significant way to reduce greenhouse gas emissions is to replace your gas appliances and HVAC with electricity. Gas stoves can leak methane (even when turned off), not to mention carbon monoxide and nitrogen dioxide, which impacts children and adults with COPD and asthma. Electric and induction stoves use fewer fossil fuels and are safer than gas. They also don't require a gas line, which means lower installation costs.

Gas-powered furnaces can also risk introducing carbon monoxide into the home. They also emit flue gasses, which reduce their efficiency. While electricity is higher in price than gas right now, electric furnaces still save money through their 100 percent efficiency.

Installing an electric stove: $360-$1,800.

Installing electric furnace: $1,600-$7,000.

Tweet your home care questions with #AskingAngi and we'll try to answer them in a future column.

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