You may not love winter, but the season does have its perks. After all, there’s less traffic on the roads, seasonal drinks are a refreshing treat and cozy indoor moments with friends and family are made so much more pleasant by the arctic temperatures outside.

However, this time of year also means your home will be at its peak of energy use in order to keep your house comfortable for you and your family, and that means higher utility bills. The good news is that you don’t have to just accept this as the way things are. Instead, consider these five affordable home upgrades that could save you money this winter – and beyond.

Concerned you don’t have the money to pay for them? You might have more than you think in your home’s equity, and you can access that money through a cash-out refinance or HELOC. We’ll tell you how.

1. New attic insulation

Insulation is the most essential thing in your home when it comes to saving money on energy. If your attic isn’t well-insulated, your home can leak warm or cold air through the roof and be less energy efficient, which means you pay more for the energy and electricity that’s being wasted. To prevent this loss, insulation is a great place to start. New insulation can set you back around $2,000 installed, but it could save you thousands in the long run.

Note that there are two common kinds of insulation: fiberglass and cellulose. Fiberglass insulation comes in batts that are easy to install and relatively inexpensive, while cellulose is made out of recycled paper that is costlier but more efficient.

2. Upgrade to an energy-efficient furnace

Furnaces that are at least 15 years old are among the biggest energy wasters in any home. Additionally, an older furnace may be more susceptible to breakdowns and costly repairs.

If you have an old furnace, replacing it with an energy-efficient model could save you up to $100 per month. An energy-efficient furnace will also likely come with a 10-year warranty, which is much longer than the average 2-year warranty on a regular new furnace.

Before you decide to upgrade, remember that not all furnaces are created equal. The most efficient furnaces are high-efficiency condensing units with an AFUE rating of 98 percent or higher. Be sure to include the cost of installation in your budget and the cost of higher energy bills in the short term while your old furnace is being replaced.

3. Replace old appliances with Energy Star appliances

Appliances are responsible for about 15 percent of your home’s energy use. If the appliances in your home are more than a decade old, it’s likely that they are inefficient and costing you more than they should. So replacing old and inefficient appliances with energy-efficient models could significantly cut your energy costs each month. 

For instance, the average cost of a new Energy Star refrigerator is $1,164, but it could save you $506 in energy costs over 10 years. Similarly, a new Energy Star washer and dryer set could save you as much as $927 annually.

4. Install a new roof

A new roof is one of the most effective ways to improve your home’s energy efficiency.

If your roof is old and leaky, replacing it with a new, high-quality roofing material can help reduce your utility bills by up to 40 percent. The average cost of a new roof is $8,000, but the roofing industry estimates that you can save about $300 each year in energy costs. Over the course of 20 years, that accumulates to a savings of about $6,000. You may also be eligible for a federal tax credit, depending on your roof type.

A standard asphalt shingle roof costs around $7,500, while an architectural shingle roof costs around $12,000.

5. Get a smart thermostat 

Changing out your thermostat is one of the easiest ways to reduce energy costs and make your home more efficient. A smart thermostat can save you up to 20% on your energy bill compared to an old-fashioned thermostat.

How does a smart thermostat help keep energy bills so low? A thermostat with a built-in motion sensor can turn off automatically when no one is home or when rooms aren’t in use. Similarly, a thermostat with a built-in humidity sensor can turn down the heat or air conditioning when it detects that the air is too humid. A smart thermostat can help you be sure your HVAC system isn’t running unnecessarily.

Financing your home upgrades

If you’re wondering how you’ll pay for these upgrades, we have some answers. Homeowners with equity in their homes can use that equity as a source of cash to invest in their homes and finance the upgrades.

Either a cash-out refinance or HELOC (home equity line of credit) can provide access to your property’s equity.

Here are some considerations when deciding between these two home equity solutions from Solarity Credit Union. You can also speak with one of our Home Loan Guides to discuss your options.

What is a cash-out refinance?

A cash-out refinance lets you refinance your home loan while borrowing against your home’s equity, leaving you with a balance of cash to be used as you like. Using that money to make home improvements can be a great investment in your home and future.

What is a home equity line of credit (HELOC)?

A home equity line of credit, or HELOC, differs from a cash-out refinance in the way the money is accessed. Instead of borrowing from your equity in a lump sum, you access it on an as-needed basis, much like a credit card. One of the benefits of a HELOC over other types of equity loans is that you only pay interest on the amount you borrow. Plus, once you pay back a portion of the loan, you can borrow the money again.

How to decide between a cash-out refinance and HELOC?

The best way to decide between a cash-out refinance or HELOC is to consider your financial situation, the length of time you’ll need the money and the interest rates.

If your needs are short-term, then a HELOC may be the better choice. A HELOC has a shorter term than a cash-out refinance, which means you pay it back sooner. If your needs are long-term, then a cash-out refinance may be the better option since you can make smaller monthly payments for longer. A cash-out refinance is also the better choice if you need to access a large amount of cash from your home’s equity all at once.


Solarity Credit Union offers both cash-out refinance and HELOC options that you can consider for your energy-efficient home upgrades. One of our Home Loan Guides can help you decide which is the better choice for your financial situation and planned renovations. We know how important it is for your home to meet your needs, and we’re here to help make it happen.

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