Tom Kerr writing on your home energy rating…

Summer’s here and your utility bills are probably soaring along with the temperatures. But don’t sweat it, because I’ve got some information that may help alleviate that perennial problem and give your life an energetic boost.

First I’m going to tell you to pay attention to and learn from HER insights. Then I’m going to point out ways that taking advantage of HER can be a terrible mistake.

In this case I’m not talking about the all-important, influential women in your life. I’m referring to something called a Home Energy Rating (HER)…which is a standardized measurement of a home’s energy efficiency.

HER evaluations can be done for both new construction and existing homes by a certified energy auditor who belongs to the nationwide Residential Energy Services Network.

When the certified inspector completes the process, you’ll receive a written report outlining potential energy-saving opportunities. These generally include repairs or upgrades that can cut your energy usage, enhance your quality of life, and significantly lower your utility bills. They might recommend increased insulation, more efficient thermostats and appliances, or identify costly leaks in ductwork. They have tools and technology to pinpoint energy lost through basements, attached garages, crawlspaces, and attics.

The national average cost for an energy audit is $450 and includes a cost/benefit analysis for suggested energy efficiency improvements. Follow the recommendations and the savings you gain through lower utility bills could be dramatic…allowing you to quickly recoup the cost of the inspection.

I used to live in a Victorian-era house that was gorgeous, but leaked expensive energy like a sieve. Just by eliminating leaks around the windows and adding insulation to the plumbing pipes – a Saturday DIY project that cost $150 in materials – I started saving $400 a month.

A good HER score attracts energy-conscious buyers too. One study done in the Portland, Oregon market revealed that existing homes with energy certification sold for a whopping 30% more. Ratings are also useful – and may be required – if you apply for federal Energy Star tax incentives.

Meanwhile, if you’re shopping for a home, the rating may make you eligible for a much cheaper Energy Efficient Mortgage (EEM).

But here’s where I’m going to tell you that taking on a large new debt…even if it’s a special mortgage you qualify for thanks to HER…can be a trap.

I was a real estate insider, selling to repeat clients who kept buying up to larger homes, when I realized that bigger wasn’t necessarily better. I did the opposite and downsized, and it was one of the best financial decisions I ever made.

Get rid of all the house you aren’t utilizing, and rightsize your lifestyle. Shrinking your residential footprint, even by just 500 square feet, can lower your energy costs faster than almost any other strategy…and permanently eliminate extra housework.

If your cup runneth over with consumer clutter, as mine once did, you’re also paying to heat and cool rooms only used as places to stuff all the things you don’t need or use. I once had so much junk overflowing the closets that I had to lease additional off-site, temperature-controlled storage space…for about $200 a month.

Talk about a waste of money and precious energy.

Move into a space that is more custom-fitted to your dream lifestyle. Pocket the savings…which will begin to snowball and compound thanks to less home maintenance and lower bills. Pay down your mortgage and take that vacation you’ve been postponing. Feel the sweet satisfaction of mailing your banker a postcard from paradise…with no return address.

P.S. Discover how you can enjoy a more laidback, authentic, independent way of life in Truth & Plenty. Sign up below to have it delivered – free of charge – to your email inbox.

Image: ©iStock.com/StockFinland

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