Even though the more expensive steps often have daunting up front purchase prices, they should be viewed as investments, since they start generating returns immediately by lowering the operating costs of a home (or other building).
Good news out of D.C. is that the Obama administration is proposing to reimburse homeowners for such steps, which will also help to reduce America's dependence on oil and other fossil fuels:
President Obama proposed a new program Tuesday that would reimburse homeowners for energy-efficient appliances and insulation, part of a broader plan to stimulate the economy. The administration didn't provide immediate details, but said it would work with Congress on crafting legislation. Steve Nadel, director at the American Council for an Energy-Efficient Economy, who's advising on the bill, said a homeowner could receive up to $12,000 in rebates.
As the Washington Post notes, Obama touted the multiple benefits of such steps:
In a White House session dedicated to stimulating jobs in those fields, the president pointed to a twofold benefit of convincing Americans to upgrade their homes to be more energy-efficient. Energy-conserving home improvements would ultimately pay for themselves, and a movement towards energy-efficient housing could create jobs in the country right away, Obama asserted. "The challenge here is giving consumers the right incentives," he said.