Sustainable home improvements not only help reduce utility costs and boost owner satisfaction with their homes, they also make a house more appealing to potential buyers. In fact, buyers are willing to pay up to 10% more for new homes certified green. Return on investment for certain types of green improvements—such as replacing older, less efficient doors and windows—tends to be high, meaning sellers recoup much of the initial cost of the improvement when they sell the home. If you’re looking for energy efficient home improvements, these five are among the greenest you can make:

A Solar Water Heater

Switching to solar power for heating water can be a huge energy and money-saver. Solar hot water systems rely on free energy from the sun to heat a home’s hot water. A typical system can use 50 to 80% less energy than traditional heating systems. That reduction can help a typical household trim its annual energy costs by 10 to 15%.

“While the initial cost of installing a solar-powered system is often higher than installing a traditional water heater, most homeowners find the energy savings allows them to recoup that cost in just a few years,” said Jim Cika an expert on solar systems. “What’s more, homeowners may qualify for a federal tax credit of up to 30% of the cost of buying and installing a residential solar water heating system.”

Eliminate Incandescent Light Bulbs

Start the process now and phase incandescent light bulbs out of your home. Federal law banning incandescent light bulbs means that by the end of 2014, you probably won’t be able to find one of the old-fashioned power-guzzlers on store shelves anymore. Instead, more energy-efficient bulbs such as LEDs and compact fluorescent bulbs (CFLs) will dominate the marketplace.

Install a Skylight

Installing or replacing an older model skylight with a new Energy Star-qualified one, can help reduce utility costs. The natural light from a skylight can help reduce the need for artificial light sources, thereby cutting down electricity costs. When you pair no leak solar-powered fresh air skylights equipped with automatic rain sensors and efficiency-enhancing, energy saving accessories like designer solar powered blinds, you gain a new source of fresh air while improving energy efficiency by up to 37%

In addition to long-term savings, the cost of solar powered skylights and blinds, as well as installation costs, are also eligible for a 30% federal tax credit as a green home improvement.

If you would like to see exactly how skylights would look in your home, there’s an app at that allows you to take pictures inside your home and superimpose skylights and blinds on the image of your ceiling.
Sunlight entering the home through a skylight can help reduce winter heating bills. Installing an Energy Star-qualified skylight, windows and doors can trim a home energy bill by 7 to 15%.

Replace An Old HVAC System

In the typical American home, up to half of total energy consumption goes to heat and cool the house. Replacing old, inefficient heating, ventilation and cooling systems with newer, more efficient models can dramatically reduce a home’s heating and cooling costs.

Upgrade Old Windows

A home can lose a tremendous amount of air through poorly sealed windows. Older units tend to be less energy efficient than newer ones. Upgrading from drafty windows to more air-tight models can result in significant savings on your heating and cooling costs.

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