Do thorough Green-Energy Efficiency Upgrades Make Economic Sense?

First of all, not every green or energy efficiency item will provide a substantial rate-of-return or ROI. Replacing carpet with bamboo flooring makes perfect environmental sense but might not be justified by an economic payback calculation. Replacing a gravel driveway with permeable pavement is an admirable retrofit project but, since gravel is also permeable, the environmental impact is probably negligible. Certain energy and green retrofit items just do not provide a high ROI but are nevertheless well worth doing for other reasons, such as building durability, safety, healthier indoor ecosystem, etc.

In terms of economic justification for a thorough energy-green retrofit project are there ways to determine if the complete project should be able to pay for itself by savings of energy, water and other resources? The answer is yes if you understand the art and science behind modeling. The question of “how much energy or water will a project save” can only be answered by examining the hypothesizedv energy and water efficiency measures individually and also in groupings to determine the overall amount of energy and/or water savings possible. You must also factor in the present and expected future cost of energy and water to compare the ‘net present value’ of the overall project investment against the cost of doing nothing & just paying the current energy and water bills. (Point of fact: Most people do not understand that they pay dearly every day for wasted energy, water and other resources and that this wasted money can and should be used to pay for intelligent reductions.)

While it is nearly impossible to predict how much our natural resources will escalate in cost in the future, it is safe to assume that our vital finite resources, such as natural gas, coal, oil, electricity and, yes, already clean water, will rise in cost in relation to shortagen over time. So, it is wise to include some form of price escalation factor into your overall energy and water conservation form. Historically, the cost of traditional energy and water has risen over time in a fairly predictable manner and will likely continue to do so in the future. The actual degree or extent of these increases falls into the vicinity of speculation but this unknown variable itself has made some people cautious and uncomfortable. In other words, large spikes in energy cost can and do happen and availability of clean water is becoming a world-wide concern.

however, with the complex test equipment and software obtainable today it is possible to determine the amount of energy and water savings attributable to an improvement ‘package‘ to a very accurate degree. It is not uncommon to find that a thorough energy-green retrofit will produce a ROI of 30% or more, which is better that nearly every other kind of investment obtainable today. Plus, if you factor in an energy supply system, such as a solar energy or wind system, then the current cost for traditional energy drops already more… perhaps to the point that the replaceable energy system produces enough site-based energy to offset the remaining monthly cost for traditional energy. This is now known as a ‘net zero energy home’ or super energy efficient home. observe: Some energy utilities charge a minimum monthly fee or customer charge that can not be offset by on-site energy production. The only way to avoid the monthly customer charge is to disconnect completely from your energy utility provider(s), aka disconnecting from the grid or going ‘off-grid’.

There are many factors to consider when evaluating a substantial number of green and/or energy savings retrofit options and opinions abound on what is best to do or to avoid. What is the best way to start? Since this article is about residential improvements then it is wise to take the time required to find an experienced certified home energy rater or HERS* rater. A knowledgeable and experienced home energy rater understands how to use the complex energy testing equipment needed to estimate the energy situation of your existing residence, whether it is an apartment, single family home, multi-family dwelling… , and he/she has access to the energy evaluation software needed to perform the energy modeling necessary to determine the most effective set or ‘package’ of energy improvements needed to provide the targeted ROI.

Certified home energy raters also understand ways to conserve water and how to access private financing for your improvement package, such as Energy Efficient Mortgages (EEMs) and Energy Improvement Mortgages (EIMs). (Plus HUD’s 203k loans with energy part) However, what if you are also interested in incorporating green products and technologies or want to get your residence certified by a national green program, such as the US Green Building Council’s LEED for Homes program or the NAHB National Green Building Standard? In this case you will want to locate a “Green Rater” or “Green Verifier” who is properly certified and able to help you with the additional decisions involved in related green aspects, such as:

  • Natural landscaping/Edible landscaping
  • replaceable energy systems, such as photovoltaic (PV) electrical systems or solar thermal (hot water or air) systems
  • Rainwater catchment systems and/or cisterns
  • Hybrid heating/cooling systems
  • progressive technologies, such as home automation, daylighting, hydroponics and the list can go on and on

Please don’t despair or be overwhelmed at this point because there is an answer to already the most comprehensive and complicated projects ever devised. If you want to have the most energy efficient dwelling possible with the latest, greatest green features built into it, then you will need to enlist your own ‘hand-picked’ team to help you design and build it.

basically, by having other people focus on your project with you then you’ll acquire the collective assistance of your group’s experience and knowledge to incorporate into your project. Assembling your own group is known in architectural and engineering circles as building an “Integrated Design Team”. This without exception recognized team approach to creating inventive, cutting-edge projects can reward you with the best results possible. But, how do you find, assemble and schedule meetings with the geographically different and specifically talented members of your team? The answer is to find someone who is versed in easing design charrettes, which basically are targeted meetings focused on your particular project or set of projects.

I hope that this article gave you some new insights into how you can help defend your self and your loved ones from escalating energy prices and water shortagen concerns. clearly one article will not answer your questions that I know you have, such as:

  • How to acquire or grow organic healthy food
  • How to position financing for inventive homes in today’s market
  • How to charge your electric means (EV) for free using solar strength, etc.

That’s what future articles are for. Thank you for taking the time to read this and may you live a long, healthy and productive life.

*HERS – Home Energy Rating Systems (More information obtainable about HERS at RESNET.us )

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