House Hunting for Energy Savings
When you're shopping for a home, it's easy to be dazzled by the beauty of granite countertops or the convenience of walk-in closets. Energy efficiency may be the last thing on your mind. If you're not careful, however, you can end up in an energy money pit. With a little attention to detail, you can find a high-performance home that's right for your family. Here's what to look for:
Heating and cooling
Take a look at the furnace and central air conditioner (if the home has one). What is the age of each unit? If they are more than 10 to 15 years old, they are probably not as efficient as a newer ENERGY STAR rated model. Ask to see the service record of the existing unit. Equipment that has been cleaned and inspected regularly will perform better and last longer.
Proper insulation in walls, attic and the basement saves money and helps keep you cozy in your new home. Do your research. Insulation level is measured in R-value. Use the U.S. Department of Energy's R-Value Recommendations Calculator to find out how much insulation is needed in your area. Ask for documented evidence that the home's insulation meets or exceeds these recommended values.
You use appliances such as the refrigerator and dishwasher every day. For appliances, newer is better. For the best value and performance, look for appliances that are ENERGY STAR® labeled. ENERGY STAR® refrigerators, for example, use 20 percent less energy than standard models. Remember that water heating is a big energy user in homes. High-efficiency dishwashers and clothes washers also use less water.
Windows provide welcome light into a home, but they can also be the source of very unwelcome energy waste. Depending on where you live, windows can make up 25 percent of home heating and cooling losses. Look for double-paned windows that have low-e coatings; they reduce heat loss in winter and block solar heat gain in summer. Also, make sure windows are properly installed and sealed.
Call in the pros
A home inspection will give much of the information you need to make sure it meets your energy efficiency requirements. If you are purchasing a brand new residence, look for an ENERGY STAR® home. These have been tested and certified by an independent inspector for energy-efficient performance. For existing homes, ask your realtor or the current owner if there's been a home energy audit and what steps were taken to address any issues that were found.
If you follow these tips, you'll be rewarded at the energy of your quest with a comfortable and efficient new residence and lower energy bills.