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By Steve Luxton

RISMEDIA, Oct. 16, 2008-Despite the mercurial nature of energy costs, there never has been a better time to invest in energy saving measures in the home than now. Historically, anything that is applied or installed in a home in an effort to save energy or conversely, eliminate energy waste, has always had a return on the investment.

Most new home owners, as studies have shown, are far more likely in the first two or three years of their occupancy to undergo the hassle, inconvenience and cost to fix up their home than at any other time during the years of their residence. However, as any experienced real estate agent will tell you, those improvements are usually new kitchens, bathrooms, or to a lesser extent, additions.

These enhancements generally follow the rationale that they will increase the value of the home in addition to allowing the new owners to put their personal taste in the home. Quite often these upgrades and improvements would increase the value of the home, at least in terms of making it more attractive to prospective buyers, particularly in a buyers’ market.

Whether the volatility of energy costs stabilizes or not, most consumers are finally beginning to realize that the honeymoon, so to speak, is over. With prices at the gas pump reaching all time record highs, there is a strong market shift toward fuel efficient vehicles. And this change can happen quickly. In most cases, trading in the gas guzzling car or truck for a better mile per gallon can happen practically in a day or two. But what happens when the now more efficient vehicle pulls in the driveway of the home that may remind the owner that there most likely is room for improvement, if you’ll excuse the pun.

As an energy auditor, I strongly advise my clients to invest in the infra-structure of the home first and foremost. That includes areas and systems that generally fall into the structural and mechanical areas, including maintenance items. The sound home is then ready for the more appealing upgrades. Part of the essential infra-structure areas is energy efficiency. Is the insulation adequate? The heating system was deemed mechanically okay but is it like a V-8 engine compared to a more efficient smart system?

Considering these items will not only make the home more comfortable but will also lower the second largest cost of being a home owner – energy costs. A huge incentive in putting money and time into energy efficiency is the return – there is no risk when the house is being sold; will the new deck make the home sell faster and recoup the costs?

The remodeled kitchen might return its investment, depending on market conditions. Energy upgrades begin the return on investment the moment the energy bill arrives. If the energy costs are twenty five percent lower, the investment is paying dividends already. Given the rather gloomy outlook for energy costs, that home that can claim it is more energy efficient will probably start looking more attractive that the home with granite countertops (if only granite could save energy!).

We live in the most dynamic, resourceful nation in the world. With some re-focusing on now more important issues, we can deal with skyrocketing energy costs by prioritizing where we invest and spend our hard-earned dollars. Saving energy is of paramount concern. We have plenty of solutions and opportunity practically at our fingertips. We simply need to understand that most homes can be made more energy efficient for a fraction of the cost than it costs to add amenities or an expensive remodeling job.

Energy costs are beyond our control but how we use this increasingly precious commodity is well within our grasp.

Steve Luxton is operations manager for Home Tune-uP in Fort Washington, PA.

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