Energy Efficient Upgrades for Your Rural Home
A spacious, old farmhouse in the country, a lovely barn sitting steps away, and plenty of space and breathing room. It's beautiful, peaceful, inviting. It's why you're moving (or have moved) to a rural area. But it doesn't exactly scream "energy-efficient."
According to The High Cost of Energy in Rural America[i], a recent report by the American Council for an Energy-Efficient Economy, people who live in rural areas see more of their income — 4.4% — eaten up by energy costs than do city dwellers. Why is that? It's a combination of a few factors.
Rural homes tend to be older and less energy-efficient. Unless you're building a new home, you're likely going to find one that has been around awhile. That's a big part of the charm of rural living, those well-loved, beautiful farmhouses. But along with the charm can come drafty windows and doors, less-than-robust insulation, and older appliances that were built before Energy Star ratings were a thing.
Energy can cost more in rural areas. That's because rural communities tend to get their "juice" from local co-ops or smaller utilities companies, rather than the large conglomerates that serve the city population. The big guns can charge less because of the sheer volume of people they serve.
While all that may be true, that doesn't mean you need to settle for paying more for your energy in your country dream home. There are ways to shave some dollars off of that energy bill.
Energy-efficient upgrades for your rural home
Get new, energy-efficient appliances. Sure, older fridges, dishwashers and washing machines work just fine and will last a long time. But they use significantly more energy than newer, energy-efficient models. Energy Star appliances can save you from 10% to 50% compared to older models[ii]. It's a significant savings when you think that appliances can amount to up to 20% of your monthly energy bill. This also goes for window air conditioners, if you don't have central air ... which many old homes don't. You'll be surprised at how much you'll save with a newer model.
Consider your insulation. If your walls are cold and your rooms are drafty, an insulation upgrade may be in your future. But you don't have to reinsulate your entire house right away. First, investigate around your home to find any air leaks in the basement and attic, under doors and around windows. A simple re-caulking job, weather stripping or plastic window insulation might do the trick without a costly renovation.
Get smart. A smart thermostat, that is. You can set it and forget it and it will lower the temperature in the house while you're sleeping and bump it up before you wake in the morning. You can get the same controls for your water heater, so you don't have continually heated water sitting in the tank while you're sleeping or out working on the farm.
Invest in solar panels. Solar panels are the perfect source of renewable energy for your home. At first blush, you might think they have a hefty price tag. While prices of solar panels for your home have dropped significantly in the past decade, it's still not cheap. However, there are things that offset the cost.[iii] You can claim a federal solar energy tax credit on your taxes that will account for up to 26% of the cost of that system.[iv] But make sure you claim it in the year you install the system. It's not retroactive. Use it or lose it! Also, depending on where you live, your utility company likely has rebates for people who install solar systems. With the federal tax credit, rebates and energy savings, you might recoup your investment within 8 to 10 years[v]. After that, you're looking at free power.
Thinking about investing in energy-efficient improvements? Apply for a home equity loan today!
[i] The High Cost of Energy in Rural America, American Council for an Energy-Efficient Economy, https://assets.ctfassets.net/ntcn17ss1ow9/NYfb0e4UpPPpmWa3At1VC/60f46af9f8b43ab99542e4f458f6d5c3/EEFA_AEEE_Rural_Energy_burden_report_.pdf
[ii] U.S. Department of Energy, Energy Star, https://www.energystar.gov/campaign/home?s=mega
[iii] U.S. Department of Energy, Office of Energy Efficiency & Renewable Energy, https://www.energy.gov/eere/solar/homeowners-guide-federal-tax-credit-solar-photovoltaics
[iv] Compeer Financial only provides tax advice to customers of its Tax and Accounting division. Consult your tax advisor to determine whether you qualify for tax credits.
 The High Cost of Energy in Rural America, American Council for an Energy-Efficient Economy, https://assets.ctfassets.net/ntcn17ss1ow9/NYfb0e4UpPPpmWa3At1VC/60f46af9f8b43ab99542e4f458f6d5c3/EEFA_AEEE_Rural_Energy_burden_report_.pdf
 U.S. Department of Energy, Energy Star, https://www.energystar.gov/campaign/home?s=mega
 U.S. Department of Energy, Office of Energy Efficiency & Renewable Energy, https://www.energy.gov/eere/solar/homeowners-guide-federal-tax-credit-solar-photovoltaics
 Compeer Financial only provides tax advice to customers of its Tax and Accounting division. Consult your tax advisor to determine whether you qualify for tax credits.
 Solar-Estimate https://www.solar-estimate.org/residential-solar/solar-panels/minnesota