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Smart Home DIY Retrofitting Is Doable: Here’s How

Retrofitting your old house with new technology could not only save you energy and money, but also give you a net profit. While it may sound daunting to take an old house and upgrade it with smart technology, it’s actually quite easy, and the benefits are tangible, letting you hop on the green housing trend. The Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy, part of the Department of Energy, offers grants in most states. Since 2010, it has funneled $17.6 million to Texas from the State Energy Program. If you don’t qualify for grants, but already have equity, something like a cash-out refinance can help you pay for the upgrades. Depending on your choice of upgrades, you might also raise the value of your home. Here’s how your old house can stop using as much energy, saving the environment and your wallet.

Smart Bulbs

One of the easiest ways to cut back on energy usage is to replace your light bulbs with LEDs. Unlike traditional incandescent bulbs, they can last up to 10 years. While LED bulbs generally have a larger upfront cost, they only cost about $1 per bulb per year to run, while a 60-watt incandescent costs about $4.80. LEDs also use between 25 and 80 percent less energy.

While traditional LEDs will help, smart LED bulbs will improve your efficiency even more. These can be controlled from your smartphone and can be set on timers. Know you will be upstairs by a certain time each night? The lights can be set to turn off after your favorite show as you are walking upstairs at 9 p.m. They can also be dimmed for even lower energy consumption.

For outside lights, switching to motion sensor lights can not only curtail having lights on all night but also deter thieves.

Smart Thermostat

Smart thermostats are often fairly easy to install, replacing an older thermostat with little hassle. A Nest thermostat, for example, takes about 15 minutes to install.

Like the LED bulbs, smart thermostats can be expensive. They provide a high amount of convenience, however, such as programming times you are at work vs. when you are normally home, and adjusting usage accordingly. It will also learn your temperature preferences. Overall, findings have shown that smart thermostats by themselves confer a 10-12 percent savings on heating and 15 percent savings on cooling, resulting in savings between $131 and $145 per year.

Solar Panels

Finally, you can break free of traditional energy and supply your old home with renewable energy in the form of solar panels. Adding solar panels is the most expensive and labor-intensive option on this list, but it can also be the most effective. You can use a solar power calculator to determine your potential, and how much energy you can produce. Obviously, producing more than you use will give you a surplus, and your energy bill will be negated.

With an older home, you might have higher consumption, which you can counter by using the other items on this list. If you are careful about energy consumption, solar panels will give you a net positive, which in some cases can be sold back to energy companies in a process called “net metering.” Not only are you reducing your house’s energy footprint, but you are profiting from it. Energy efficiency is even better if you are using you have a home office, as you are potentially earning even more money sitting at home by just using the solar panels. Make sure that your computer is off when not in use for extra efficiency.  

 

Retrofitting an old home with smart technology to reduce your energy consumption does not have to be hard. While upfront costs may be high, the benefits will quickly present themselves. Plus, smart technology often adds quality of life improvements to your home, adding convenience, for example, in the form of controlling lights from your phone. Retrofitting will help save energy — and could turn you a profit if done right.

Devin Morrissey