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The Economics of Energy Efficiency and Renewables.

There's understandably a lot of excitement about photovoltaics, solar water heaters, wind turbines, and other sources of renewable energy for the home. We all want to be self-sufficient. It's part of our national psyche. And, particularly for the environmentally motivated among us, the desire to reduce our dependence on traditional energy sources is strong.

But when looking at potential energy upgrades for your home, you should keep in mind a few important considerations:

1) Efficiency upgrades usually come with improvements to indoor air quality, comfort, and durability.  These aren't things you notice just once a month when the utility bills is due, but every time you step into the house from outside, relax in your warm, comfortable living room on a cold winter night, enjoy the cool comfortable bonus room over the garage on a hot summer day, or wake up feeling clear and refreshed in the morning during allergy season. You dont get these benefits with renewable energy installations.

2) Return on investment. Air sealing might be a $1,000 dollar investment upfront, and could save you $200 or more per year, which would give you a 20% return on investment. A solar PV install, on the other hand, might cost somewhere in the ballpark of $15,000-$20,000. That ROI is typically somewhat longer.

3) Should you decide to invest in renewables, the scale of your investment will depend on the amount of energy your home consumes. If you can cut your home's energy consumption in half through simple, low-cost measures, and thus reduce the investment necessary to take your home to net zero in half (think: 1 solar panel vs. 2), you've made a good investment.

We're not against renewable energy.  We install RE systems!  It's just sometimes dishaeartening to see people jump on the RE bandwagon without realizing that they could be getting more value out of their money by starting with cost-effective home performance improvements.

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