This discovery should come as no surprise, as media outlets and activists all over have turned going green into a worldwide movement, making environmentalism a consistent aspect of our global political discourse. At the same time, homeowners are increasingly trying to figure out ways to keep their bills low in this recovering, but still shaky, economy. If you’ve tried all the tricks, and your monthly energy bill is still too high, there may be one big roadblock in your way: your siding is working against you.

The rise of suburban communities in the 20th century saw houses being constructed for more cost-efficiency. Building companies began experimenting with other materials like vinyl and aluminum. Although both offered the same amount of insulation, the vinyl technology was not yet fully developed. The vinyl aged quickly, slumping off of houses and often requiring replacement within years of installation. Aluminum, however, gained massive popularity for being cost efficient and low maintenance, eventually becoming one of the most common materials used in the ever-growing suburban America. Although many other options exist today, there are still millions of Americans and people all over the world who have aluminum siding on their home. It costs them thousands a year on their energy bill.

So what kind of siding offers the best value? Wood shingles and beveled wood will always be the most energy-efficient options, but these can be pricey and require consistent maintenance. Many homeowners are too busy and have been spread too thin financially to make it happen. Instead of wood, experts and critics favor a relatively new entrant: insulated vinyl. This new insulated material is less expensive than wood, requires minimal maintenance, and keeps structures more insulated. This means that homeowners are now not only getting the greatest possible value from their siding, but also from their AC and heating units. Insulated vinyl seems to be improving things for manufacturers as well, as they are now able to produce a much wider variety of colors than ever before. They are offering their customers greater customization and greater satisfaction.

So how do you know if it’s time to make the change from aluminum to a more energy-efficient material? Take two fingers and slide them across the material, and then look at your fingers. Are they covered in a chalky substance? If so, it means that your aluminum may be on its way out. Look into energy-efficiency levels of siding materials and determine which makes the most sense for you and your home. Whatever material you choose, you’ll be glad when you start to see the savings.