Do Energy-Efficient Home Improvements Really Pay for Themselves?

Do Energy-Efficient Home Improvements Really Pay for Themselves?

Using a tape measure

For years, one of the best reasons for homeowners to splurge on energy-efficient remodeling projects has been the knowledge that these improvements will pay for themselves in the long run, thanks to the amount of money they will save on energy bills.

However, a recent University of Chicago study has found this might not be as true as we think.

According to a July 5 Construction Dive article, the study found that expensive, energy-saving home remodels such as new windows or an energy-efficient heating and cooling systems might noticeably reduce one’s energy bills — but these savings won’t allow these remodels to pay themselves off in the long run.

The study examined 30,000 low-income households throughout Michigan, all of which had participated in a U.S. Department of Energy weatherization program to boost their energy efficiency. Like many other state governments, Michigan offers to repay the full cost of weatherization and other energy-efficient measures to low-income households. But while high-efficiency home products were able to save households about 20% on their energy bills, these savings weren’t nearly enough to repay the cost of these products over time.

That’s bad news, both for the low-income families and for the state government itself. According to the Pacific Standard, Michigan’s program costs the state about $4,143 per family. At the same time, participating families only save about $2,400 with their new, upgraded appliances. Basically, the state government is spending more than its beneficiaries are ultimately saving.

In addition to undermining state government’s’ efforts to fund energy-efficient home improvements, the study’s findings could make it more difficult for builders to sell “green” homes, as these homes don’t save quite as much energy as originally believed.

The study’s results go against prior Department of Energy findings. The DOE had previously stated that energy-efficient home improvements could allow a family to save as much as 30% on energy bills per year.

Still, there’s no denying the fact that even a small amount of energy savings is better than none at all.

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