4 Questions 4… Smart Home Improvements

Homeowners have a never-ending wish list of upgrades—from a new roof to refinished floors. Some of these even save money and preserve the value of your home. We asked our own Jim Bellamy, PenLight’s energy services coordinator, four questions that may help you prioritize your next home improvement projects.

  1. What are the first things you can do to improve home comfort and reduce heating costs? Research what types of improvements are right for your home, given its age and construction. Energy-saving technology has evolved rapidly, so don’t skip this step even if you have a newer home. Focus on the basics first. Experts recommend insulating your home and sealing windows and doors in preparation for winter, but no matter when you take on these tasks, they will always pay off. Then look at your heating system and major appliances. After your research, make a list of your priorities.
  2. What are other energy-saving priorities? The most bang for your home improvement buck is to upgrade inefficient appliances. Top energy drains in the home include older heating systems, water heaters, refrigerators and washing machines. There are easy ways to adjust the energy use on some appliances, like switching to cold-water settings on your washer and installing programmable “smart” controls for your heating system. However, if your unit is more than 15 years old, you should consider replacing it. For example, today’s heat pumps and heat pump water heaters have innovations that can greatly reduce your energy consumption, especially if your existing equipment is in poor condition. In addition, we help make it even more affordable with PenLight rebates. www.penlight.org/energy-services/rebateprograms
  3. How do you find a reliable contractor? First thing, do your homework:
    • Ask for referrals. Hands down, word-of-mouth is the best way to find a qualified professional for your job.
    • Check Angie’s List or local contractor associations. Be wary of free dinner invitations for expensive home improvements.
    • Interview candidates. Look at credentials. Check references.
    • Get at least 2 bids on your project.
  4. What types of questions should you ask during your contractor interview?
    • What is your experience with similar projects?
    • How long have you been in business in this area?
    • What are the warranties for labor and equipment?
    • Will you prepare a written contract?
    • How much do you require up front, and what is the schedule for payments, including final payment?

When complete, the benefits go beyond your utility bill. For example, studies show changing the entry door has an 86% return on investment and installing vinyl windows has a 71% return on investment. Not bad for both cosmetic and energy-efficiency upgrades.