Your home is probably the most expensive thing you'll ever purchase, so it makes sense to look for ways to save money while you're living in the home. There are many expenses that you'll have as a homeowner that you can't do much to change, like property taxes and homeowner's insurance premiums. But you do have some control over how much you pay for energy for the home. Choosing a home that's already energy efficient can go a long way toward helping you keep your expenses under control once you move in. Take a look at some of the things that can help you decide whether the home you're considering is energy efficient.
The Building Envelope
A building's envelope is all of the parts of the building that separate it from the outdoor elements – in other words, the parts of the home that keep the wind, rain, and sun out. Pay special attention to the roof and the windows, as those are areas where a lot of energy can be lost.
What material is the roof made out of? The most energy-efficient roofs reflect the sunlight instead of absorbing it, which lowers the cooling costs inside the house. When was the last time the windows were replaced? Older windows are often drafty. Double or triple-paned windows with argon or krypton gas insulation are much more efficient than single-paned windows.
It takes a lot of appliances to keep a home running, and those appliances use a lot of energy. In fact, appliances account for nearly 20% of a home's utility bills. Look for homes that contain Energy Star appliances. Appliances that are Energy Star qualified are more energy efficient and cause less pollution than ordinary appliances.
Checking the kitchen appliances is a good place to start, but don't forget to check the hot water heater and the appliances in the laundry room. Those can be big energy users, and the more efficient they are, the better. Don't forget to ask for the maintenance records of all the appliances that come with the home – they're only energy efficient if they're in good working order.
Ask the homeowner if the home has had an energy audit recently. An energy audit is when an energy professional inspects the home to look for what is and isn't efficient. They'll look at the insulation, the HVAC system, and other factors that will affect the home's energy usage.
If the home hasn't had an energy audit, ask if you can schedule one along with the home inspection. You may also want to ask if you can see recent energy bills. That will give you an idea of what you might be paying for gas or electricity if you buy the home.
For the best chance at finding an energy efficient home that's right for you, work with a real estate agent who has experience with green homes. They'll know what to look for and be able to help you make a smart decision about your next home.