When Charlie Daniels decided to build a full second floor on his Hoffman Estates home, doubling its square footage, he also decided to save energy.
Now completed, the top floor has high-efficiency windows that block ultraviolet light from fading furniture or carpeting. A furnace and air conditioning system runs separately from the system on the first floor, allowing for precise temperature adjustments. He also installed a tankless water heater, plus skylights that cut use of artificial lights. And he's happy he did, he said.
"We had to build the second floor because the first floor is now used for our daughter, who is handicapped, and she needed wheelchair-accessible doors and facilities," he said.
Daniels is among a growing legion of homeowners opting for energy-efficient appliances or other measures to keep their home comfortable and, they hope, to save money down the road.
With electric rates expected to increase further and the residential housing market still depressed, some studies indicate that increasing your home's energy efficiency helps save the homeowner money, makes the home more comfortable and could make it more attractive for resale. A National Association of Realtors study showed 88 percent of buyers want efficiency, especially in the heating/cooling systems.
To grab some of that interest, homeowners can do simple things to increase efficiency, said Laura Reedy Stukel, an eco-broker and Green Realtor, certified through the National Association of Realtors. She is the third generation to run L.W. Reedy Realtors in Elmhurst.
Many people seeking to sell their homes are making simple changes that buyers are "looking at more and more," she said.
That includes changing out all the light bulbs, including those in ceiling fixtures with CFL bulbs, preferably with a 3,000-Kelvin rating to provide a more warm, cozy feel.
"If you get anything more, it will look like a runway at the airport, and that's not what people are looking for," she said.
Also, consider buying Energy Star-rated appliances to replace old ones. Many potential buyers are looking at the ratings for the refrigerator, dishwasher and other appliances to see how much it will cost to run them in the long haul, she said.
Also, a programmable thermostat offers annual savings of roughly $150. It provides a timer to adjust the heat or air conditioning when you're not home, she said.
In addition, WaterSense-rated devices, which are encouraged by the Environmental Protection Agency, for shower heads, toilets and faucets help reduce hot water use by about 8 percent, thereby saving the natural gas or electricity that would heat that water, she added.
Another method to save energy is to caulk windows and doors and improve insulation in the attic, helping to retain heat during the winter and air conditioning during the summer, she said.
To help you further, go online to energyimpactillinois.org/residential. The site offers tools to determine the energy efficiency of your home. In November, the site will include a tool that tells you how efficient your home is and will then link you to top remodeling projects, rebates and local contractors.