Steps to Saving Money on Energy

Would you like an $8,000 savings account to improve your home and lower your energy bills? Federal subsidies for high-efficient technologies are essentially just that, saving you thousands on up-front costs and thousands more in future utility bills. Millions of Americans are taking advantage of this opportunity to upgrade how they heat, cool, and power their homes. How can you participate?

Assess Your Energy Use

First, learn where your house is losing energy and make some quick, inexpensive repairs. Do-it-yourself or professional home energy assessments can tell you how “tight” your house is, where you’re wasting energy, and the efficiency and life-expectancy of your major appliances.

Below are energy assessment tools to help. Options A1 and A2 on the drop-down menu show a simple DIY checklist and a more detailed DIY checklist of things to look for in your home. Grab a flashlight, camera, a checklist, and maybe a friend or family member to help. What you learn should guide your next steps.

If you’d like more help, consider Option B, JCED’s professional home energy assessment and coaching team. Following a walk-through by professional energy auditors, you’ll receive a full report on your home’s energy use and assistance in planning where and how to upgrade.

Plan Your Next Steps

After you’ve collected information, prioritize which improvements are needed over the next ten years. In many homes, addressing inadequate insulation is a good place to start, as it will lower utility bills immediately at relatively low cost. If your HVAC system or water heater are 10-15 years old, plan to replace them before federal rebates and tax write-offs expire (2031).

To plan your energy investments, check out two online government resources with easily-accessible, state-of-the-art information on energy use, optional appliances, and financial incentives.

Energy Saver:
Energy Star:

Two Important Considerations

As you develop your plans, keep two important considerations in mind: the costs of new equipment and the importance of electrifying.

1. Cost of Equipment

There are actually two costs to consider when purchasing HVAC and other appliances: the purchase price and the long-term operating cost. A low-priced, less-efficient model can result in higher utility bills for the next 20 years. High-efficiency models frequently cost more, but lower operating costs plus you can write off 30% of the purchase price on your taxes if you purchase by 2031. When the state-run rebate program is up and running later in 2024, households with less than 80% of Johnson County’s Average Median Income (AMI) can receive a 100% cash rebate; households with 80% to 150% of AMI receive 50% rebate. See the JCED website to learn more:

2. Electrify Everything You Can

As you upgrade, seriously consider phasing out natural gas appliances, such as furnaces, water heaters, dryers, and stoves. By electrifying your household, you will be using cleaner, renewable energy from either solar panels on your roof or  an increasingly-green grid. Each energy-related purchase speeds up or delays the growth of a clean energy economy here in Johnson County, along with society’s chances of avoiding catastrophic climate changes. Fortunately, federal incentives will make this easier and more affordable.

A simple, do-it-yourself home energy assessment can teach you a lot about your home. Get a flashlight, camera, the assessment checklist, and maybe a friend or family member to help. What you learn will guide your next steps.

Insulation and Air Leaks

  • Attic insulation: loose-fill at least 12”; batting 11”; or spray foam 6-10”
  • Attic access door is insulated
  • Check attic ventilation
  • Basement joists on perimeter of building are insulated
  • Exterior walls are insulated
  • Insulation around interior vents (heat registers in floor, etc.)
  • Exterior penetrations through sidewalls caulked

Heating and Cooling

  • Furnace: Energy Star or efficiency rating (AFUE or % heat produced/$) above 80% (search serial number online)
  • Furnace: Estimate 15-25 years furnace lifespan, lower AFUE over time. Tips:
  • Air conditioner: High efficiency (SEER rating 14 or higher)
  • Air conditioner: Estimate 10-15 year lifespan Tips:

Windows and Doors

  • Check for air leaks around doors and windows
  • Glass and framing intact
  • Framing is caulked
  • Trim and siding is caulked
  • Double or triple-paned windows or storm windows
  • Storm doors
  • Be aware of historic district guidelines on window replacements

Major Appliances

  • Water Heater: Energy Star or EnergyGuide label for ratings above .65
  • Water Heater: 10 years old or less
  • Water heater: Pipes insulated
  • Refrigerator: Energy Star or EnergyGuide label; E and F ratings and above are efficient models
  • Washer/Dryer: Energy Star or efficiency ratings A-D

This tool lists 31 characteristics of an energy efficient home. You can use it to assess your own residence, determine what improvements your home needs, establish a priority for each improvement you identify and document which improvements you make over time.

For further information: the last page of this tool has links to US Department of Energy videos on home energy assessments and guidance on many energy efficiency upgrades and incentives, For questions about this tool and information on JCED’s professional energy audits, contact us at

1=most important
Siding is intact, without holes or gaps; seams are sealed*
Siding is sealed around windows and doors
Entry points for pipes and wires are sealed
The sidewalls have an air sealing insulation wrap under the siding (e.g., Tyvek)
Sidewall insulation exists between the sidewall studs and/or foam sheets under the siding**

*Holes, gaps, and seams can be filled with caulk and/or spray foam
**Pre-1945 seldom has wall insulation unless new siding or exterior plugs for blown-in insulation (1” holes every 16” on exterior

1=most important
Attic has at least 10 inches of insulation
Access door to the attic has weatherstripping on the edges and is insulated on the attic side
Holes in the attic floor for wires, pipes and ducts are sealed
Check attic ventilation***

***Look on roof for (1) four to six 1-sq ft “hotboxes”, (2) ridge vents running full length of roof ridge, and/or (3) screened soffit vents under the eaves. If present, you can generally assume adequate ventilation but speak to contractor if you are increasing insulation

1=most important
The space where the wall and the foundation meet is sealed
Insulation is present at the top of the basement wall +
Holes in the basement ceiling for pipes, drains and electrical wiring are sealed
Metal ducts are sealed where they meet the ceiling, floor, or walls
Healing and cooling duct seams and joints are taped
Cracks and service entry holes in the foundation are sealed on both the inside and the outside ++
Cracks around basement windows are filled with masonry caulk or spray foam
If the basement or basement garage is not heated, the ceiling is insulated

+Expandable foam and/or foam board are good choices for top of the basement wall
++Look for all entry holes, such as gas lines, electricity, AC, water supply, internet, cable, etc

1=most important
Windows have double or triple paned glass
Single paned windows are covered by storm windows in cold months
Seams between window glass and wood parts are sealed
1=most important
Exterior doors are insulated and weather-stripped
Storm doors are installed over uninsulated exterior doors
Door thresholds are intact and do not leak air
1=most important
Heating system is ENERGY STAR certified & less than 10 yrs old
Heating system has 95% or greater annual fuel utilization efficiency (AFUE) – see the label
The furnace is electric
The home uses a heat pump (geothermal, ducted or mini-split) for heating & cooling
A smart or programmable thermostat adjusts settings automatically
Photovoltaic solar panels generate electricity
The air conditioner is ENERGY STAR certified and less than 10 years old
The water heater is ENERGY STAR certified and less than 10 years old
1=most important
Oven is electric and ENERGY STAR certified
Cooktop is induction electric
Refrigerator and dishwasher are ENERGY STAR certified
Dishwasher is ENERGY STAR certified
Clothes washer and dryer are electric and ENERGY STAR certified
1=most important
Interior and exterior light fixtures have LED bulbs
Lights in unused rooms are routinely turned off

JCED’s professional home energy assessments and coaching services are designed to help homeowners make sound energy investments. Our coaches start with an in-depth survey of the exterior and interior of a home, collecting information about insulation, air leaks, windows and doors, HVAC, and other major appliances. They follow up with a report to the homeowner that documents existing conditions and areas where energy savings could be made. The report lists options for building and appliance improvements, along with information on costs, pay-back periods, and financial incentives available in Johnson County. JCED energy coaches are also available to consult with homeowners about DIY projects and contracting with professionals to make upgrades.

In Fall, 2023, JCED contracted with Craig and Eric Streed, owner/operators of All Pro Home Inspections, to conduct home energy assessments and coaching services. The Streeds are certified by the American Society of Home Inspectors and have 40+ years of experience in Johnson County. This experience has made the Streeds expert in technical aspects of home energy use, and exceptionally skilled in communicating their findings and recommendations to homeowners.

Thanks to a grant from Johnson County, a limited number of free professional assessments are available to homeowners during Winter 2023-24. To learn more, contact JCED at

Quick fixes and money-saving tips!

  • Spray foam or caulk air leaks
  • Weatherstrip doors
  • Install LED bulbs, saving approximately 80% of cost of lighting house
  • Use a smart thermometer to adjust temperatures
  • Lower furnace thermostat 5 degrees at night or when away from home to save 15% on energy bill
  • Raise AC thermostats or use fans to reduce energy costs
  • Set water heater temperature to 120°
  • Close blinds/curtains at night
  • Cover doorway with draft excluder
  • Check out Energy Saver tips at
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