What are the top home improvements for energy efficiency?

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Whether you’ve conducted your own home walk-through or taken the smart step to hire a home audit rater (for more, see the FAQ, "What is a home energy audit?"), making key energy efficient home improvements can boost the operating efficiency of your home, cut your energy bills, conserve natural resources and add to resale value.

Six Great Energy Efficient Home Improvements

1. Adding insulation.

Check your attic in particular because it’s easily accessible, but don’t overlook exterior walls.

2. Sealing air leaks and duct work.

Seal cracks in your basement and attic and around your foundation, windows and doors and around all pipes.

3. Modernizing your heating and cooling systems.

At the very least, schedule annual tune-ups and learn what filters you can replace on your own between pro visits.

4. Replacing windows and doors.

Look for foggy spots in double paned glass, a sign that the seal has been broken; you may be able to replace just the glass in windows and sliding doors, which is a far less expensive proposition than replacing an entire window or door.

5. Upgrading appliances.

Tired of your clunky, noisy fridge? A new buy will mean energy savings as well as look aesthetically pleasing.

6. Installing solar or other renewable energy systems.

Incentives are still around to go solar. Too costly? Start by upgrading all your light bulbs with CFLs or LEDs.

Maximize the value of a home energy audit by creating a calendar of all your pro’s suggestions. Tackle the easier, inexpensive ones you can have done immediately, such as applying weather-stripping to cut drafts, caulking to seal cracks and laying down additional insulation. Next, scale in larger projects over time, based on what will give you the most bang for your bucks, whether it’s a tankless water heater or a new air conditioning system.