Make your Portland Home Energy Efficient and Get Cash Back

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Beginning on January 1st, 2018, all homes listed on the Portland real estate market (if their home falls within the City of Portland boundaries) will be required to report a home energy score. Compiled by a licensed assessor, this score will reveal things like how much total energy is used by the home in a typical year, what the cost of that energy is, and where the energy is coming from. The home energy score is intended to give home buyers an idea of what their environmental impact will be from energy use in the home, as well as how much they can expect to pay in utility bills. Read our full post on the new mandatory fee to sell your home in 2018.

In the real estate market, we always assume that more information is a good thing, but if you’re a home seller, the home energy audit may pose some challenges. It’s another way for buyers to compare your home with other, similar homes, and a tool in price negotiations. The better your home energy audit score, the more likely your home is to fetch your asking price.

The best way to get ahead of the home energy audit is to make some energy-efficient upgrades to your home before you even list your home. Get started now if you’re thinking about selling in 2018! Luckily, there are some great incentives from local non-profits and government agencies to make these improvements more affordable.

Smart Thermostat – $50 rebate

Most energy consumption in a typical Portland home happens through heating and cooling. So, it makes sense that regulating heating and cooling can go a long way toward reducing the amount of energy a home uses. In turn, this will improve our home energy audit score.

Smart thermostats are great at this because they adapt to your schedule and lifestyle to give you heating and cooling when you need it. According to one manufacturer, potential energy savings are around 23% annually.

Concerned about the upfront cost? Our Portland real estate team can get you a discount on one of these devices. Through a partnership with Energy Trust of Oregon, our clients are eligible for a $50 rebate on a Nest or Ecobee 3 smart thermostat, which normally run just under $200.

Wood Stove Replacement – varies

Is your Washington County home heated by a wood stove? At this time it is unclear how wood stoves will be treated by home energy audits. On one hand, they reduce the home’s reliance on electricity and natural gas. On the other hand, greenhouse gas emissions from the wood stove itself could hurt your home energy audit score.

Audits aside, the science is now pretty clear that most older wood stoves are not very environmentally friendly. According to the Sierra Club, burning wood to heat a home emits 250 times as much methane as burning coal in a power plant. In addition, wood smoke can contain carcinogens and other toxic substances.

Washington County is currently offering wood stove replacement incentives to all residents, and for some low-income applicants, will pay for the entire cost of replacing your wood stove.

What you replace the wood stove with is up to you. The program can help with the cost of a new electric heat pump or ductless heat pump, gas stove or insert, EPA-certified pellet stove or insert, or gas furnace.

Applicants who qualify to have the entire cost of replacement covered can also opt for a new EPA-certified wood stove or insert. The technology on these wood stoves is pretty incredible. According to the EPA, their certified wood stove, you can use one-third less firewood than older stoves.

Window Replacement – $1.75—$4.00/sq. ft.

If homes could be sealed boxes, they would be perfectly efficient, but of course we like to look out and get fresh air, so windows are a necessity. They also are a source of leaks and heat/cooling loss. Luckily, double-paned, ENERGY STAR® qualified windows can prevent the problems of condensation, drafts and air leaks. New windows not only add to your Portland home’s curb appeal, they can improve energy audit scores dramatically.

Energy Trust of Oregon is currently offering a $1.75—$4.00/sq. ft. cash incentive for replacing your old, leaky windows. The amount of the incentive depends on the efficiency of the windows you choose (the more efficient the window, generally, the more expensive it is). Federal and Oregon tax credits may also be available for window replacement.

New Insulation – $0.25—$0.50/sq. ft.

Frequently, insulation in older Portland homes is lacking — either non-existent or at a low R-value (insulative power, the higher the better). When these homes were built, insulation was expensive compared to heating costs. Now, if you factor in the potential home value hit from a poor home energy score, the opposite is true. Luckily, there’s a bit of an incentive from Energy Trust of Oregon to help with the cost of professionally insulating or reinsulating your home.

The amount of the rebate depends on the area being insulated. Usually, the home’s attic will be a good place to start, as heat rises and can easily escape through attics. The incentive also applies to floor and wall insulation. The incentive is pretty much the same whether you do the work yourself or hire a professional, but you can save some money by sealing air leaks yourself before you call the contractors, as the incentive only applies per square foot of insulation.

Ductless Heat Pumps – $800 rebate

For small homes relying on zonal heaters (baseboard, wall heaters, ceiling heat) or leaky forced air systems (where the heat travels from the heat pump or furnace through ducts in the home), a ductless heat pump can be a nice solution. Ductless systems are highly efficient, using 25% to 50% less energy, and although they can run up to $5,000, the improvement to your home value may be worth the investment.

They are quieter than other systems, and they can actually improve air quality by filtering air as it goes through, versus adding dust as happens frequently with duct systems.

In addition to the cash incentive from Energy Trust of Oregon, ductless heat pumps may also be eligible for an Oregon tax credit.

Click here to read the full list of Energy Trust of Oregon home efficiency incentives. 

Not sure which home energy improvement to go for first? Curious about your home value? Contact your Portland real estate team.

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