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Steps to energy efficiency upgrades

I recently moved into an older home that’s not as energy efficient as my old house. Where do I begin in making upgrades?—Katie

Making your home more energy efficient can be done one step at a time or all at once as a larger project. Either way, here’s a checklist to help you get organized:

1. Set goals and constraints. Start by setting your primary goal. Are you mainly looking to save money on your home’s energy bills, make it more comfortable, increase the resale value or help the environment?

Set a deadline for when you need the project completed and then set your budget. How much is it worth to you to live in an energy efficient home? Review your annual energy bills: How much would you be willing to spend if, say, you could cut that expense in half? If your home is drafty, how much are you willing to spend to make it more comfortable?

2. Schedule an energy audit. An energy audit will help you prioritize so you can get the biggest bang for your buck. An energy auditor also can help by ensuring the work of your contractor produces the promised efficiency level. Contact your local cooperative’s energy advisor to see if your co-op offers free home energy audits. Search “home energy audits” on for more information.

3. Plan your projects. With your budget and priorities set, make a list of the items you want to include in your energy efficiency upgrades. Figure out whether there are tasks you can do yourself, like caulking windows or adding weather stripping to doors. Other work, like insulating an attic, can be dangerous and may require special equipment or know-how.

4. Select contractors. You want a contractor who really knows how to do energy efficiency work. In some rural areas, contractors may not specialize in the efficiency measures you are interested in. Are they willing to learn what they don’t know?

Be sure to get several quotes if possible, as well as references from past clients. The contract should outline guaranteed work and completion dates, with payments due only as work is completed and inspected. Then keep an eye on the project and don’t be afraid to ask questions.

For the 10 important steps you should not skip, go to and search “hire a contractor.”

PAT KEEGAN and BRAD THIESSEN write on energy efficiency for the National Rural Electric Cooperative Association.

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