If you’re in the market and looking for a new house, you’ll want to take stock of the features that affect the home’s energy efficiency. Purchasing wisely can save hundreds of dollars over the course of a lifetime. Here are some things to look for:
- The best indicator of a home’s energy efficiency is lower than expected year-round energy bills – ask the seller to provide 12 months of usage and billing history. Utilities will release this information with a signature from the seller.
Heating & Cooling System:
- Visually inspect the home’s furnace and air conditioner.
- Is the air filter clean? Is there mastic sealant at the joints where the ductwork exits the unit? Is there a service sticker indicating that the equipment has been well-maintained?
- Does the air conditioner look reasonably clean? How old is it? Units more than 15 years old will need replacement within 10 years or less.
Attic and Crawl Space (worth poking your head into):
- Attic – measure the amount of insulation…….is it spread evenly? If there’s ductwork, it should be connected, sealed, insulated and hung without kinks.
- Crawl space – should have a vapor barrier covering the dirt and the insulation should be held tightly up against the floor with the foil side hidden (against the floor). If there’s ductwork, it should be connected, sealed, insulated and unkinked.
- Confirm that dryer and kitchen vents are venting to the outside.
Insulation, Windows and Doors:
- Walls constructed with 2x6s are generally insulated better than 2×4 walls.
- Windows should be double-paned and sealed (no moisture between glass). Discoloration on the sill or wall indicates potential issues. Aluminum windows are a red flag for inefficiency.
- Are the bulk of the windows on the south (good) or on the east, west or north?(not as good)
- Look for awnings, overhangs or trees to provide shade to west windows in the summer
- Southern windows should have clear sun exposure during winter months
- Do doors close tightly and have weather stripping in place? Can you see daylight around the edges?
Appliances and Lighting:
- What’s the approximate age of the appliances? Newer appliances are generally more energy-efficient than older models due to more stringent manufacturing guidelines.
- Does the home have energy efficient lighting fixtures or bulbs? Dimmers and occupancy switches are also good options for reducing incandescent lighting usage.