Performing cost-effective green upgrades at home will always give the benefit of increased comfort. Unfortunately, comfort and quick payback are not always a two-way street. Window replacements, garage insulation and increasing insulation levels above R-38 are all gray areas where the most cost effective solution may not align with lifestyle conditions. For example, replacing single pane windows in good condition is not cost-effective but the price paid for one south or west-facing window may well be worth the cost if it cools down a hot office or reduces traffic noise at night. So yes, in certain situations replacing the windows is worth the cost.
Another popular green upgrade is insulation. It makes sense that adding more insulation will slow the transfer of heat into your home but unfortunately insulation is not a one-size-fits-all upgrade. If a home already has 6-inches of insulation the cost benefits of adding more diminish. Additional insulation will still save money on utility bills, but how much is the question. An ideal candidate would be a home as little or aging insulation where an upgrade would give the benefit of both increased comfort and energy savings. Often the more important issue is finding out how the insulation installed. A 5% defect in the installation will cut the R-value (its effectiveness) by 50%.
Upgrades such as radiant barriers, solar attic fans and additional insulation should be considered based on the conditions of each home. These are decisions that should be discussed with an energy auditor and it is always best to get a couple of opinions before a large investment is made.
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