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Green house easy on environment, your bank account

Okay, so how much would you save if you did some of the "green" things people talk about?

What's your upfront cost? How long is the payback period? No matter how good something is for the environment, it's hard to get excited about it if you won't see a return on your investment for 30 years.

Architect Charlie Szoradi and his wife, Cynthia, a real estate agent, recently remodeled a 1950s home in the Philadelphia suburbs. After two years of research and two years of construction, "I had binders and binders of research," he said recently by phone. "We sat there and thought, 'We should share this.' "

The result is a Web site, Among its offerings: the master "return on investment" list, where Szoradi, who practices "green" architecture, shows the added cost, payback in years, annual savings, 20-year savings and return on investment by percentage.

The "added cost" figure, Szoradi said, is an average derived from the Department of Energy, the federal Energy Star program, "public and private research as well as direct homeowner feedback — 50 different sources." It represents how much more you'd pay for an energy-efficient or Energy Star product or building component.

Sometimes there's not much difference in price between an Energy Star appliance and one without that designation, Szoradi acknowledged. Because of tougher federal regulations, virtually all appliances have become more efficient in recent years, whether they seek Energy Star ratings or not.

For others, such as clothes washers, there can be a big price difference between high-efficiency appliances and those that are less so. That's because a clothes washer "has to have a mechanism to reduce the volume of water as well as electrical demand, and those are at a premium."

"We're not recommending people replace what's working, but if you're about to spend the money to replace something, if you're about to remodel, pick half a dozen things and do those," Szoradi said. "The country's coming around slowly. Saving hundreds of dollars, that always feels good. But there's a psychological asset. I was delighted and surprised to feel how real it is. You get a kind of pride when you do something that feels like you're going in the right direction."


How much more will it cost you to choose "green" building components and materials
when you build or remodel? How long till you make your money back? What will you save? Architect Charlie Szoradi spent two years researching those questions when he remodeled his own home.
Here are his calculations. Find more at his Web site,

Update Added cost Payback in years Annual savings
Insulated walls $750 2.5 $300
$115 0.6 $180
Low-E windows $700 2.3 $300
Insulated ducts $450 2.5 $180
Replace water heater $150 3.1 $48
Instant hot water heater $450 3.8 $120
Dual flush toilet $150 6.7 $23
Solar water heater $2,500 8.9 $280
Ceiling fans $300 60 $5
Refrigerator $30 5 $6
Clothes washer $300 4.12 $72
Dishwasher $20 1.5 $13
Trees $1,200 4 $300
Rainwater collection $120 6 $20

Fast facts

The house that green built

View before and after photos or a video of the Szoradis' remodeled, newly energy-efficient home near Philadelphia at

That's also where you'll find the Return on Investment table and details on the products and appliances the Szoradis used. There are also links, calculators and ideas for other green actions.

Green house easy on environment, your bank account 05/09/08 [Last modified: Friday, May 9, 2008 12:53pm]
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