Winter is right around the corner and in honor of Energy Awareness Month, the National Association of the Remodeling Industry (NARI) recommends making energy-efficient upgrades as a way to prepare for the season, and many remodelers are offering weatherization programs to help them reduce energy costs. Mark of Excellence Remodeling is one such remodeling company that recently introduced a weatherization program.

"The programs are funded by both state and federal governments, and the purpose is to raise consumer awareness of the types of upgrades that are needed to make homes more energy efficient," said Neil Parsons, vice president of sales and marketing for Mark of Excellence Remodeling, West Long Branch (NJ).

Weatherization is a term to describe various improvements made to buildings and homes to optimize energy efficiency. According to the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE), on average, weatherization reduces heating bills by 32 percent and overall energy bills by about $350 per year at current prices. Through an evaluation known as an energy audit, homeowners are given a detailed report identifying problem areas in the home. Typical energy improvements include air sealing, insulation, ventilation systems or installation of green appliances approved by Energy Star. "As consumers become aware that our energy resources are depleting and costs are rising with each year, energy efficiency is becoming a relevant topic in home improvement projects," said William E. Carter, president of NARI.

Even though each state provides slightly different programs with a variation of incentives, all of them provide the same benefits to homeowners. "Homeowners notice their return on investment instantly after making energy upgrades in their utility bills. The other benefits are the rebates, the increase in home value from making the improvements, increased performance and durability and helping out the planet by conserving energy for future generations," added Parsons. It's important to make upgrades now because soon most of the country will be entering the time of year when most of a home's energy consumption occurs. The DOE estimates that 56 percent of the energy use in a typical U.S. home comes from heating and cooling, making it the largest energy expense for most homes.

"Most believe that remodelers are busiest during the summer, but in actuality, the busiest time is during the fall when temperatures drop and homeowners start to feel drafts in their homes and are worried about heating costs," explained Parson. Another time factor is the program deadlines. Many state programs last until the end of the year, and energy-efficient improvements must be made within the specified time period to be eligible for rebates. To learn more about your state weatherization programs, visit dsireusa.org/. However, Parsons doesn't think any of the weatherization programs will be going away for good. "Most likely, programs will be extended or modified after deadlines as the government continues to put a high premium on increasing energy efficiency," he said, adding that if homeowners are considering an energy upgrade, there is no better time than now. "Homeowners who are considering this should seek out a certified contractor that you can trust to give you sound advice about making your home more efficient." If you are planning a home remodel, NARI Remodelers can help homeowners find contractors who will take care of the entire remodeling process. Log on to www.nariremodelers.com to find a remodeler in your area. For green remodeling information, please visit www.greenremodeling.org.

[Note: The National Association of the Remodeling Industry (NARI) is the only trade association dedicated solely to the remodeling industry. To locate a local NARI chapter or a remodeling professional, visit NARI's Web site at www.nariremodelers.com, or contact the national headquarters office at 800-611-NARI.]

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