Let’s say that you own a 1980’s home in the greater Atlanta area, and you’re interested in getting it more comfortable and efficient.
Before you invest in a new $8000 HVAC system (or two or three) – you’re (rightly so) thinking about improving the insulation and weatherization of the shell of your home. After all, you don’t want to pay to heat and cool the yard or the attic, right?
Let me say right here, that I’m approaching this as a business owner who installs loose-fill, stabilized (moistened) cellulose attic insulation. I am heavily biased towards stabilized cellulose insulation. We do not install fiberglass insulation, nor spray foam insulation. So when I write about upgrading your attic insulation, you know what I’m talking about. We perform air-sealing tactics as part of our attic prep.
Where do you start? New replacement windows or upgrade the attic insulation?
As energy costs continue to rise, homeowners are looking for ways to reduce their energy bills while improving the comfort of their living spaces. Upgrading attic insulation or replacing windows are two popular home improvement projects that can provide energy savings. But for a home located in Atlanta, GA, built in the 80’s, which is the better investment? In this article, we’ll compare the benefits and ROI of upgrading attic insulation to R-50 and replacing windows, and I’ll share my experiences.
I am choosing a 1980’s home as my example, because during the 80’s in my market double-pane windows were becoming more and more standard features in homes.
However, if your home has single pane windows, and your budget can afford it, you should strongly consider investing in replacement windows.
This article is discussing old, aged double-pane windows, and where to make your initial investment for the greatest energy savings: replace those windows, or upgrade your attic insulation.
Attic Insulation: A Cost-Effective Solution for Energy Savings
According to the U.S. Department of Energy, proper attic insulation is essential to reducing heat loss during the winter and heat gain during the summer. In our Atlanta market, homes should have attic insulation with an R-value between R-38 and R-60. If your home’s current attic insulation is less than R-38, upgrading it to R-50 can help improve energy efficiency and save you money on your energy bills.
In 2022, in my company, upgrading attic insulation to R-50 averaged $4456, depending on the size of the attic and accessories chosen. The return on investment for this upgrade can range from 20% to 30% or more, meaning the energy savings over time will outweigh the initial cost. With improved insulation, homeowners can enjoy a more comfortable living environment and lower energy bills.
Window Replacement: An Effective Solution but at a Higher Cost
Replacing old double-pane windows is another effective way to improve energy efficiency in your home. Windows can reduce air leakage and slightly improve wall insulation, making your home more comfortable and energy-efficient. However, this is usually a considerably more expensive option compared to upgrading attic insulation.
The cost of replacing windows can vary depending on the number and size of the windows. In Atlanta, GA, replacing your home’s windows may start at $16,000 (26 windows x $600) or more. The return on investment for window replacement really shines in the improved resale value to the home.
Which investment attracts rebates from the utility companies?
The utility companies are in the business of selling electricity. So most of them in my market have rebates for homeowners who change from gas heating to electric heating. (This is called fuel conversion). There are rebates for EV charging stations, smart thermostats, load management switches, duct sealing, and more.
However, I’ve not found an electric utility company in our region who gives a rebate incentive for a homeowner to replace or upgrade their windows. Why don’t the utility companies put an implied priority on replacing your home’s windows with a rebate? Instead, for over 15 years now I’ve participated in numerous rebate programs that incentivizes homeowners to upgrade their attic insulation by rewarding them with rebates. In fact, we are very active in these programs. At this writing, Georgia Power is rewarding homeowners with a maximum $250 rebate for improving attic insulation. Cobb EMC has a maximum rebate of $500, while Snapping Shoals EMC has a maximum rebate of $400, and Sawnee EMC has a maximum rebate of $200 when homeowners upgrade their attic insulation. Jackson EMC has similar rebate incentives. These are utility companies in the Atlanta area.
Which Investment Offers Better ROI?
When it comes to ROI, upgrading attic insulation to R-50 is likely the better investment for a home in Atlanta, GA, built in the 1980’s. It has a lower cost and high ROI compared to window replacement. While window replacement can offer a higher ROI at resale, it requires a much higher initial investment, which may not be practical for many homeowners.
In conclusion, both upgrading attic insulation and replacing windows can provide energy savings for homeowners in Atlanta, GA. However, upgrading attic insulation to R-50 is a more cost-effective solution for many 1980’s homes, with a very nice return on investment. Not only will homeowners enjoy lower energy bills and a more comfortable living environment, but they can also increase the value of their home using a smaller budget. So, if you’re looking for an energy-saving investment, upgrading your attic insulation to R-50 is an excellent place to start.