Payback on Energy Saving Efforts

Setting a programmable setback thermostat.

Every year around this time we hear about ways to save money on heating bills, but how long does it take to actually recoup the money spent on these investments? While all efforts to drive down the cost of keeping your home comfortable this winter have value, some pay off a lot quicker than others.

The following examples are based on a home in average condition that is approximately 20 years old with 2,000 square feet of living space.

  1. Caulk and weather striping: It’s always a good idea to seal any cracks or gaps around your home’s exterior walls to keep warm air from escaping or cold air from entering. Cracks around exterior windows, doors, fireplaces, electrical outlets, water faucets, and dryer vents can add 10%-30% to your home heating bills. Seal cracks with caulking and use aerosol cans of expanding foam to fill larger holes. Examine weather stripping on windows and doors for damaged or worn areas and check thresholds for a tight seal.

    Cost: $30.00
    Payback: 5 months

  2. Install a setback thermostat: Replacing your existing thermostat is simple to do and the savings can really add up. Programmable thermostats can be set to automatically turn down a few degrees when you’re sleeping or away from home, saving up to 20% on your heating bills this winter.

    Cost: $60.00
    Payback: 8 months

  3. Service heating system: Having a professional heating contractor clean, service, and adjust your heating system will make it last longer and perform more efficiently. Regular maintenance—along with changing the filters regularly—can save 5% on heating bills.

    Cost: $80.00
    Payback: 4 months

  4. Add attic insulation: At least half the homes in the U.S. do not have sufficient insulation in their attics. Southern homes should have at least 12” while homes in colder climates need a minimum of 15”. Rolls of additional insulation can be installed by the homeowner, or a company can be hired to blow in loose insulation.

    Cost: $900.00
    Payback: 4 years

  5. Replace Windows: If you have single pane, low quality windows, you can improve the energy efficiency of your home greatly by replacing them with Energy Star rated double pane units. Though the initial cost is high, it is estimated you’ll save between $125 and $450 a year in energy bills. Not only will you save money and be more comfortable, but replacing the windows will increase the value of your home as well.

    Cost: $4,200.00
    Payback: 9 years

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Backed by his 40-year remodeling career, Danny served as the home improvement expert for CBS’s The Early Show and The Weather Channel for more than a decade. His extensive hands-on experience and understanding of the industry make him the go-to source for all things having to do with the home – from advice on simple repairs, to complete remodels, to helping homeowners prepare their homes for extreme weather and seasons.


  1. One of the most important areas to give attention to and that would pay back the quickest is the attic door or doors.Seal them- tent them -box them -any way you can.You wouldn’t install a 1/4 inch piece of plywood for a front door.I have thermal pictures to prove it.But you don’t need pictures,spread plastic or garbage bag over the attic door with the door closed and watch. In the winter when your heat is on it will draw in around the door seams.
    Go green with infrared.
    John Cannamela


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