Payback times for energy-efficient home upgrades


Thinking of going green? Today’s technology offers a whole host of ways to boost your home’s efficiency, reduce your carbon footprint and lower your energy bills. Some upgrades can pay for themselves in a relatively short amount of time, while others with large price tags might take decades to start paying back. The good news is that several studies have shown buyers are willing to pay a premium for green features—as much as 30% more for retrofitted green homes that become Energy Star or LEED-certified. This means that even if those fancy new features don’t pay you back right away in energy savings, you might still be able to recoup part of the cost when you sell your home. Below are the average payback times for some common items…just keep in mind that the actual payback time will depend on your initial costs and the amount of energy you typically use each month.


Solar Panels: 10 Years


According to, the average cost for adding solar panels to your home in King County is about $13,850 for a typical 5kW system (a net cost of $10,249 after the 26% Federal Investment Tax Credit for 2020). Based on the amount of energy they generate in our area, they usually pay for themselves in about 10.16 years. Furthermore, a study commissioned by the Department of Energy found that home buyers across multiple states and home types were willing to pay more for homes with solar panels (about $15,000 for homes with a 3.6kW system). This may help offset your costs should you need to sell your home before the payback period.


Tankless Hot Water: 12-20 Years


In addition to giving you endless hot water, tankless water heaters are also about 20% more energy efficient than traditional storage tanks and last about 10 years longer. However, their additional equipment and installation cost means it can take quite a while for your energy savings to cover that difference—12-20 years for electric models and 22.5-27.5 years for gas models. Their longer lifespan may ultimately help them pay off in the long run.


LED Bulbs: 5 Months


Looking for an easy investment with quick bang for your buck? LED bulbs may cost more, but the amount of electricity they save more than covers the cost. A 100W equivalent LED bulb costs about $6 to buy but uses only 13% the amount of energy of its incandescent counterpart. Used 4 hours a day, it also reduces CO2 emissions by a whopping 262.93 pounds per year. Depending on the number of bulbs you have and the frequency of their use, the dollar and carbon savings could really add up over time.



Our Seattle area’s temperate climate makes it a prime candidate for heat pump heating/cooling systems. Your actual savings and payback time will depend on the type of system you choose and the amount of energy you use. According to the US Department of Energy, an air source heat pump can reduce your electricity use for heating by about 50%, while the reduction range for a geothermal heat pump is anywhere from 30%-60%. If you’re also replacing an A/C unit, the savings will add up even faster. The average installed cost in 2020 is about $5,613 nationally but can vary quite a bit; it pays to do your research and make sure you’re choosing the right unit for your needs. Boosting your home’s overall efficiency first can also increase your savings by allowing you to choose a smaller, more affordable unit.


Smart Thermostat: 2 Years


A feature of most modern green homes, smart thermostats save energy by automatically turning off the heating and A/C when you leave and learning your schedule to comfortably boost efficiency. Nest estimates an average yearly energy savings of 10-15% or $131-$145 with its Learning Thermostat, which means it would pay back its $200-$250 price tag in under 2 years. The ecobee4 is pricier at $300-$400 but claims to save 23% on heating and cooling (or more if you use their free eco+ upgrade). With heating and cooling making up a large chunk of your household energy use, smart thermostats could potentially take a nice chunk out of your carbon footprint as well.



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Posted on June 9, 2020 at 7:37 pm
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Remodeling Cost vs. Value

Will Remodeling Pay Off?


Every year, Remodeling Magazine evaluates which projects bring the most return at resale in different markets around the country in their “Cost vs. Value” report. While returns have dipped nationwide due to growing costs and consumer anxiety, Seattle still saw better pay-off on remodeling than the national average. The chart below shows cost vs. value on the most common remodeling projects…


Cost vs. Value for Common Remodeling Projects


When looking at the full list of projects, curb appeal projects seem to bring the most bang for your buck.

According to Remodeling Magazine, these are the six top projects in our region that currently have the best return on your investment when it comes time to sell. To see the full report, click here.


Manufactured Stone Veneer

As long as the new stone veneer is consistent with your neighborhood’s overall look, this siding accent was rated the most profitable project in the Seattle area.

Stone veneer can replace your home’s existing siding, adding a fresh, modern look that conjures a cozy vibe all the way from the street, before buyers ever step foot inside. In Seattle it can recoup 118.5 percent of the cost when you sell.


Garage Door Replacement

In the Seattle area, replacing your garage door will cost an average $3,882, but will increase your resale value by $4,136, recouping 106.6 percent of what you paid for it.

Due to its size, a garage door can have a big impact on a home’s curb appeal. But adding to your home’s aesthetic is only one advantage; the warranty that comes with the new garage door is also a selling point for potential buyers who can trust that they likely won’t have to deal with any maintenance issues in the near term.


Wood Deck Addition

While building a deck might seem like a big undertaking, it’s actually a pretty cost-effective way to add to your enjoyment and positively impact your home’s resale value. Seattle-area homeowners can expect to pay about $19,000, but they’ll recoup 95.1 percent of that when they sell.

Adding a deck extends the living space of your home and provides even more area for entertaining, relaxing, and enjoying the outdoors. Whether you choose a natural wood deck or a low-maintenance composite deck, you can pick from a variety of styles based on the lay of your land and the areas of your backyard you wish to highlight.

Siding Replacement

Depending on the size of your home, replacing the siding can be an expensive undertaking. However, it’s a project that comes with high returns. For the Seattle area, sellers can expect 94.9 percent of the costs recouped.

Not only is siding one of the first things a buyer sees, but it also serves as an indicator of the overall health of the home. Broken or damaged siding could mean that there are other problems with the home, such as pests and rot. Replacing old siding is a cost-effective way to boost your home’s curb appeal and ensure buyers are going to walk through your front door.


New Vinyl Windows

Vinyl windows can add an instant update in both appearance and energy efficiency. The average cost to replace 10 windows is about $19,501 but you’ll recoup 89.5 percent of that cost when it’s time to sell. If any of your windows are fogged from broken seals then replacement will probably be a must before it’s time to sell.


Minor Kitchen Remodel

No need to move walls or appliances around, a minor kitchen remodel will do the trick to recoup 89.1 percent of the cost in our area.

An outdated kitchen can go from drab to fab and become a focal point with a fresh palette. Replace the cabinet doors with new shaker-style wood panels and metal or metal-looking hardware. Switch out the old counter tops with a cost-efficient option that matches the new look. Think about adding a resilient flooring option, then finish the project with a fresh coat of paint to the walls, trim, and ceiling.



We earn the trust and loyalty of our brokers and clients by doing real estate exceptionally well. The leader in our market, we deliver client-focused service in an authentic, collaborative and transparent manner and with the unmatched knowledge and expertise that comes from decades of experience.



© Copyright 2020, Windermere Real Estate/Mercer Island. Adapted from an article originally posted on Remodeling data © 2020 Hanley Wood Media Inc. Complete data from the Remodeling 2020 Cost vs. Value Report can be downloaded free at

Posted on February 4, 2020 at 8:27 pm
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