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Green Investments with Fast ROI

February 19, 2013 | 1 comment

Making the case for a green investment is easier if you know money will come back to your building in terms of energy or water savings. Green upgrades offering a quick return on investment can be a better sell to management, too.

Here are four green investments that have the potential to offer a full ROI in three years or less:

Irrigation Sensors

Installing rain/moisture sensors or controllers prevent irrigation systems from watering when moisture isn’t needed (or during a rainstorm). You can find sensors that turn on or off based on whether it’s raining, or controllers that operate based on soil moisture levels. These sensors/controllers have been shown to save anywhere from 30 to 70 percent on water bills during the irrigation season, according to Water-Use It Wisely; rebates and incentives may be available for these sensors and controllers as well, depending on your region.

Lighting Controls

The U.S. Department of Energy says that less than 30 percent of commercial buildings have installed dimmers or sensors. According to Lutron, every dimmer saves 4 to 9 percent in electricity, even at the highest lighting levels. When lights are dimmed, even more electricity is saved. In fact, owners and facilities managers can expect to see a full ROI in two to three years with certain lighting upgrades, according to Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory. Many utilities across the country also offer rebates for lighting controls.

Cogeneration Systems

Although they require a big upfront investment, cogeneration systems efficiently use engines to generate electricity and usable heat. A hospital in Framingham, MA, installed a cogeneration system in 2009 and saved $125,000 in energy expenses annually. As a result, this cogeneration system paid for itself in two years. For this facility, the cogeneration system also provided the chance to sell $35,000 in renewable energy credits back to the federal government, providing additional savings. Rebates and incentives may be available in your area for cogeneration systems.

Window Film

With new low-e window film that insulates window glass to offer year-round savings (keeping heat in during winter months and keeping heat out during summer months), building owners may see an ROI in under three years. And not only does window film save energy by reducing solar heat gain, but it also decreases HVAC load and can even reduce artificial lighting requirements by allowing blinds and shades to be opened during the day (they aren’t needed to reduce glare once film is installed). There are many utilities that offer rebates or incentives for window film installation; for a complete list, visit  If you don’t see a specific rebate for film for your utility, most offer ”custom rebates” for a product like film that can show calculated savings. In addition, residential installations may qualify for a tax incentive that was recently extended through 2013.

Have you implemented any of these green projects? Have you seen a quick ROI on other energy- or water-saving investments?

1 Comment

  1. Jon Alfini
    February 22, 2013

    Hi All,

    I am commenting on the great Irrigation fast ROI post. I own an Irrigaion Water Management compnay which focuses on water conservation promotions, products and services. I agree that Rain Sensors can save up to 80% of your water usage but those sensors have been availble for 20 years and just the begining of the potential water savings. Landscape Irrigation controllers have come along way since then and can provide up to an additional 30-50% of savings. We use SMART, weather based, and their water times are adjusted daily based on info from area Weather Stations that tell the controller exaclty how much water to apply based on the moisture lost the day before. They save water, reduce labor time and enhance Landscape’s health while saving cusotmers money. The ROI range depending on the size of the site and the water prices but I have seen less than one year for single family homes to a few years on commercial properties. If you would like more information, please contact me at thanks, Jon.

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