Home modifications can help you save

This was originally published on Monday, November 11, 2013, in the Pacific Daily News.  Click here to subscribe to the PDN.

With the rising cost of utilities, you may be looking for ways to make your home more energy-efficient. There are some home improvements that are inexpensive and can be done in a few hours. Others may cost more and require a few days to complete.

With big renovations, there may be a large upfront cost, but in the end, you will be saving yourself some big savings. Here are some home improvements you want to consider:

• LP Gas — Many water heaters, stovetops, clothes dryers and generators can operate on LP gas. This will reduce your electricity bill and theoretically replace the cost with a lower LP gas bill.

• My father recently replaced his windows with energy-efficient windows and saw cost savings. Energy-efficient windows will eventually pay for themselves by lowering cooling costs. Most energy-efficient windows have two panes of glass that are glazed to help reduce the heat transferred from the sun through the windows and eventually warming the house. Some windows may be tinted and filter out 40 to 70 percent of the heat that is transferred through the window but still let light through. When selecting your energy-efficient windows, look for the Energy Star and talk to your sales representative as to which energy performance rating is best for your needs.

• According to the energy.gov website, about two-thirds of all homes in the United States have air conditioners, which use about 5% of all electricity produced in the United States. That is a whopping $11 billion dollars that homeowners pay to cool their home. Air conditioners use a lot of energy to cool. There are three types of air conditioners — central, split and window.

Central units: are more efficient, but can run up your power bill by cooling off the whole house and not just one room.

Split units: are efficient and you can control which rooms you choose to cool.

Window units: are the least efficient and are traditionally louder. Although they are less efficient of the three, they are the inexpensive choice. You can control which rooms you may want to cool.

Split central: I know I said three types, but the split central units are a fourth that I recently experienced. These units provide air handlers in specific areas like split units. Several handlers are connected to one condensing unit. The condensing unit only uses what it needs as determined by which handlers are on.

Do some research and decide which one falls into your renovation budget. The important thing is to know what size unit is needed to efficiently cool your room. An air conditioner that is too small will not effectively cool a room and will use more power trying.

• Renewable energy is another great way to cut back on utility bills. Granted, it is probably the most costly of these renovation options, but renewable-energy units start paying you back as soon as they’re installed. Prices, especially for solar units, have dropped drastically over the last five years or so.

Solar panels are the most popular on Guam because of the amount of sunlight we receive.

Solar water heaters have been around on Guam for years. Unlike solar panels, which provide electricity, solar water heaters heat up the water that enters your home.

Wind power is starting to become more prevalent on the island as people take advantage of the tropical trade winds.

Keep all receipts of any home improvements that make your home more energy efficient. Come tax time, you may be able to qualify for some tax rebates. No matter which renovation project you take on, large or small, the bottom line is that you will save some money.

Michael Camacho is president and chief executive officer of Personal Finance Center. He has more than 20 years of experience in retail banking and at financial institutions in Guam and Hawaii. If there is a topic you’d like Michael to cover, please email him at moneymattersguam@yahoo.com and read past columns at the Money Matters blog at www.moneymattersguam.wordpress.com.

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