Buying a house that's energy efficient is important to most of us these days. We're all so much more aware of the impact that we have on our environment, and how important it is to minimize our environmental footprint as much as we can. Energy-efficiency can also have a significant impact – for the better – on the costs of owning a home, reducing the amount of money that must be budgeted to cover those monthly utility bills. So what do you need to know about buying an energy-efficient home?
Key features to look for when buying a house that's energy efficient
If your goal is to buy an energy-efficient home, features you should look for include:
- Good Insulation – An energy-efficient home will have well-insulated walls, floors, attic spaces and crawlspaces. Sellers should be able to provide an R-value for the home's insulation, and the Department of Energy offers guidelines on appropriate R-values according to the region.
- Good windows – Drafty windows are huge energy wasters, causing heat loss in cold weather and heat gain in the summer. Look for newer, double-pane windows when you're home shopping, preferably windows that have earned the Energy Star seal.
- Efficient appliances – Look for appliances that are Energy Star certified, which means that they are more energy efficient than average appliances. Appliances that can carry that seal include heating and air conditioning systems, washers and dryers, dishwashers, refrigerators, water heaters, among others.
- A solid, energy efficient roof – You will, of course, want to be sure the roof of any home you're considering is in good shape. For maximum energy-efficiency, also look for one that uses Energy Star certified roofing materials, which reflect more of the sun's rays away to reduce heat gain – and therefore the amount of energy needed for summer cooling.
- Low flow plumbing fixtures – Low flow toilets, faucets, and showerheads conserve water, of course, but they can also add to the energy-efficiency of your home. Reduced water flow when you turn on hot water faucets means less energy used by your water heater.
Energy-efficiency claims: Verify for your piece of mind
Energy-efficiency is a big selling point in today's market, so home sellers are generally eager to hit the right "green" talking points when they're listing their homes. While most people are quite honest in their descriptions, any buyer would be remiss if they did not do a little due diligence to verify the sellers energy-efficiency claims. Good ways of double-checking include:
- Review utility bills for the home – Ask to see utility costs from the past year, then contact the local utility company to find out how those costs compare to the average bills of other, similarly-sized homes in the area. An energy-efficient home should have lower than average energy usage and costs.
- Request an energy audit – A home energy audit, done by a licensed professional, evaluates energy usage in the home to give you a very accurate idea of just how efficient it is overall.
- Ask about certifications – If the home you're interested in is a newly constructed one, ask the seller if it is LEED or Energy Star certified. Either of these certifications ensures that the home has been built for energy-efficiency.
Taking these steps to ensure that you're buying a house that's energy efficient may add a little time and expense to the home shopping process. However, if you are planning to live in that new home for a while, shopping carefully will pay off in the long run with a smaller environmental footprint and lower energy bills.