The Cost of Going Green

You know that going green is good for the environment. But how much will it cost—and how long will it take to recover the dollars you invest?

2010 Green Issue IconThis Preservation guide lists average costs for energy-saving features easily integrated into old or new homes of about 2,500 square feet. (Prices will vary depending upon location of home.) Some solutions shown qualify for tax credits, particularly if installed before December 31. (Check for eligibility information.) To determine what you need to do now—and exactly how much you’re likely to save—start with an energy audit. It’s a green investment you can afford to make.

Energy Audit IconEnergy Audit
Cost: $0-$500
Annual Savings: $440-$1,100
Payback: 1 year or less
Projected savings generated by audit-recommended improvements to average single-family home up to 3,000 square feet, with annual energy bills of approximately $2,200. Many localities offer free audits to identify energy-saving repairs.


Duct Sealing IconDuct Sealing
Cost: $1,350
Annual Savings: $250
Payback: 5.4 years
Based on professionally inspected, repaired, and insulated ductwork. Most heating and ­cooling equipment contractors repair ductwork. The National Trust for Historic Preservation recommends insulating ducts wherever possible.


Insulation IconInsulation
Cost: $2,000-$5,000
Annual Savings: $350
Payback: 5.7-14.2 years
Based on installation by professional contractor. Estimates vary widely depending upon locality and type of insulation. Avoid materials that can damage historic fabric, such as plaster walls.


Storm Window IconStorm Windows
Cost: $2,500-$4,750
Annual Savings: Up to $690
Payback: 4-7 years
Calculated for average home with 25 windows at cost of $100-$200 per window. Make sure windows are as tight as possible and evaluate whether exterior or interior storms make sense. The National Trust for Historic Preservation strongly recommends restoring old windows instead of replacing them.


Water Heater IconTankless Water Heater
Cost: $1,489
Annual Savings: $175
Payback: 8.5 years
Calculated for a family of four using a Bosch AquaStar 7.2-gpm tankless heater, which can supply two or three major applications (shower, dishwasher, kitchen sink) at the same time. To improve standard water heaters and reduce heat loss, add insulation.


Light Bulb IconCompact ­Fluorescent Light Bulbs
Cost: $136
Annual Savings: $200
Payback: 8 months
Based on 40 bulbs illuminated for three hours each day, the average U.S. residential number and usage. CFL lifetime calculated at 6,000 hours.


Toilet IconWater-Saving Toilet
Cost: $299
Annual Savings: $90
Payback: 3.3 years
Based on a Kohler WaterSense toilet and water usage for a family of four. Some local utilities offer cash incentives to customers who replace older toilets.


Ceiling Fan IconCeiling Fan
Cost: $80
Annual Savings: $10
Payback: 8 years
Based on estimated savings if 52-inch Harbor Breeze Calera fan with one light is used only when room is occupied. Ceiling fans lower perceived temperature in summer, lessening reliance on air conditioning and saving energy. In winter, fans draw warm air down from the ceiling, saving on heating costs.


Refrigerator IconEnergy-Saving Refrigerator
Cost: $729
Annual Savings: $90
Payback: 8.1 years
Based on a GE Energy Star 18.2-cubic-foot refrigerator-freezer, replacing a 1990 refrigerator-freezer.


Caulk IconCaulk
Cost: $5-$250
Annual savings: Up to $250
Payback: 1 year or less
Based on projected savings generated by caulking cracks, gaps, and joints.


Illustration by Matt Thomas

SOURCES: National Trust for Historic Preservation; TerraLogos Energy Group, a Baltimore-based company recognized by Energy Star (a program jointly administered by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and the U.S. Department of Energy) as a 2008 energy home performance contractor of the year; WaterSense, a program of the Environmental Protection Agency; Energy Star

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