Renovating with Efficiency in Mind

If you’re planning or undergoing a home renovation or upgrade, include energy performance enhancements to improve your project’s return on investment and save you time and money in the future. Energy-efficient homes lower your total cost of ownership and are more comfortable year-round.

Benefits for Homeowners

Making a home renovation or upgrade with efficiency in mind offers many benefits:

  • Save money on future energy bills
  • Reduce maintenance time and costs
  • Enjoy year-round comfort with consistent temperatures and better air quality
  • Improve the health and safety of your home with a reduced risk of allergens

Follow the renovator’s efficiency steps below before and during your project.

Get a professional home energy audit or rating

In coordination with your renovation or upgrade, get a professional home energy audit or rating. Audits and ratings help homeowners better understand a home’s energy performance. This includes where the home is efficient and where it is wasting energy, which systems are working properly and which are not, and which upgrades may be needed.

Make sure the auditor knows about your renovation plans. The auditor can help you understand and prioritize what energy efficiency upgrades to make in coordination with your planned renovation. Ask the auditor what upgrades will help you get the greatest return on investment out of your renovation—helping lower the total cost of ownership of your home.

Determine whether your heating, cooling, or hot water system needs to be replaced or upgraded to support your renovation

Depending on the type of renovation you are planning, it could be a good time to consider upgrading your home’s heating, cooling, or hot water system. For example, a new addition will increase the demand on your heating and cooling systems. Similarly, new plumbing fixtures and appliances may increase your home’s hot water demand. Ask your contractor or an energy auditor if you should consider upgrading any of your systems.

You can also view NYSERDA’s Heating and Cooling Guide[PDF] to determine whether any of your systems need to be replaced. If one does, replace it with a new energy-efficient model. Talk to your lender and contractor about including these upgrades in your renovation design and financing package.

Learn more about energy-efficient heating, cooling, and water heating systems.

Take advantage of clean heating and cooling technologies and smart thermostats

If your heating or cooling technology needs to be replaced during a renovation or upgrade, consider pairing clean heating and cooling technologies, such as heat pumps, with smart thermostats. Heat pumps are a safer, more efficient choice for your home with no burning of fossil fuels, no need for fuel storage tanks, and no potential for carbon monoxide emissions. Heat pump water heaters are also available to provide a clean energy option to meet your home’s hot water needs. Work with a professional contractor to determine whether a heat pump is right for your home.

Smart thermostats help you make the most of your systems. They allow you to create automatic and programmable temperature settings based on daily schedules, weather conditions, and heating and cooling needs. Some even learn from your behaviors and automatically adjust their settings to optimize both comfort and efficiency.

Learn more about clean heating and cooling technologies.

Ask your home renovation contractor about incorporating weatherization upgrades

If you are adding, removing, or altering floors, ceilings, or exterior walls during the renovation, ask your contractor about making weatherization upgrades. This could include upgrading insulation and air sealing. Air sealing and insulation are two of the most cost-effective ways to save energy in a home.

Also consider improving the energy efficiency of your existing windows, skylights, and doors by upgrading to ENERGY STAR® certified windows. You can also add insulated shades to retain heat in winter or exterior shading devices to keep cool in the summer. Heat gain and loss through windows is responsible for 25–30 percent of residential heating and cooling energy use. If you are replacing or adding windows and doors, look for ENERGY STAR certified products. These products can reduce energy bills by an average of 10 percent in New York compared to non-certified products.

Learn more about air sealing and insulation.

Upgrade to energy-efficient appliances and lighting

If your appliances are old and inefficient, consider upgrading to ENERGY STAR certified appliances. ENERGY STAR certifies efficient appliances for every room that you may be remodeling or upgrading. During your renovation, it’s also a great time to make lighting system upgrades, such as installing LEDs, timers, or smart switches. Energy-efficient light bulbs use less energy, cost less to operate, and can last up to 25 years longer than conventional lighting options.

Learn more about energy-efficient appliances and lighting.

Take the first step—use NYSERDA’s Renovation Guide[PDF] for a full list of energy efficiency considerations during a project.