There's understandably a lot of excitement about photovoltaics, solar water heaters, geothermal heat pumps and other sources of renewable energy for the home. We all want to be self-sufficient. It's part of our national psyche. And, particularly for the environmentally motivated among us, the desire to reduce our dependence on traditional energy sources is strong.

But when looking at potential energy upgrades for your home, you should keep in mind a few important considerations:

1) Energy Efficiency is about more than electricity. For cold climate North American homes, the biggest source of energy consumption is space heating; space heating, in turn, is largely fueled by oil and natural gas. Barring a wholesale conversion to a electric heat (which may be expensive), photovoltaics will do nothing to reduce the amount of oil and gas that your home consumes.

2) Should you decide to invest in renewables, the scale of your investment will depend on the amount of energy your home consumes. If you can cut your home's energy consumption in half through simple, low-cost measures, and thus reduce the investment necessary to take your home to net zero in half (think: 1 solar panel vs. 2), you've made a good investment.

3) Return on investment. Air sealing might be a $1,000 dollar investment upfront, and could save you $500 or more per year, which would give you a 2-year ROI. A wind turbine in your back yard, on the other hand, might cost somewhere in the ballpark of $15,000-$20,000. That would take a while to pay itself off.

4) Energy Efficiency is about more than energy efficiency. Done right, sealing air leaks and upgrading your insulation are both measures that have a high ROI, will reduce your carbon footprint, and will reduce your energy bills. But they will also reduce drafts, make your home warmer in the winter and cooler in the summer, and potentially increase the health and longevity of your house. That's a lot of bang for your buck. So if installing renewable energy sources at your house doesn't have quite the same impact, we won't hold it against renewables: it's a tall order to fill.

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  • Leslie DiMaggio, Fox River Grove, IL

    I want to tell you that we are COMPLETELY satisfied with the work you guys did at the house... The house definitely feels cooler. We know you guys made an extra effort with us and also gave us a great price. We love you guys!!!!!!!! I have already recommended you to three people. Thanks!

  • Nina Brakel, Park Ridge, IL

    We LOVE the new windows. I can't believe what a difference it has made in the house - it is soooooo peaceful upstairs now. And, the outside of the house looks new! Thank you! And, you were great to work with - thank you. Gregg and I both commented on your professionalism and knowledge.

  • Toby Trabert, Oak Park, IL

    I own a Victorian style home that desperately needed insulation. I hired Energy360 Solutions and they discovered major air leakage through the many nooks and crannies of my attic.

  • Scott Gillis, Woodridge, IL

    My home was uncomfortable. It was so difficult to keep it warm in the winter and there was no sound barrier. We could hear everything that was going on outside. We needed insulation and called Energy360 Solutions. They provided us with a great solution using dense packed Cellulose insulation.

  • The Holzl Family, Mt Prospect, IL

    After 14 years of living in our house, and suffering each winter in our chilly family room built over a crawlspace, we hired Energy360 Solutions to perform an energy audit of our entire house. One of their findings was that we were losing heat out of the wall joists of the crawlspace.

  • Ken & Julie Kittredge, Mt Prospect, IL

    Our first ever energy audit from Energy360 solutions was a very exciting and interactive experience. We learned so much about the energy efficiencies of our home or better said the lack of efficiencies.

  • Mark Hoffmeister, Mt Prospect, IL

    Our home was sealed and insulated in March 2014. The results were immediate. The house air conditioning was improved especially in the upper floors. This cold winter comfort improvement in heating the house was successful.