5 Things to Look for in a New Home for Maximum Energy Efficiency

Some of the most critical parts of your new home are ones you can’t see from the curb.
Some of the most critical parts of your new home are ones you can’t see from the curb.

If you’re in the market for a new home, then you’re probably focusing on the obvious: the home’s layout, the neighborhood, any cosmetic improvements you’d need to make, the school district. But when you’re living in a home, there’s another factor you want to pay attention to: the energy use. If you’re hoping for energy-efficient new digs make sure you ask about these five topics (and consider scheduling an energy audit after you move in to make sure your home is as green as possible).

Appliances

The total energy used by your oven, refrigerator, microwave, washing machine, dryer, dishwasher, and other major appliances could end up being a huge chunk of your electric bill. Check to see if the previous homeowners installed Energy Star-rated appliances or, if you’re planning to buy your own new versions, negotiate a price that allows you to make energy efficient choices. Also pay attention to where your dryer and oven get their power from – gas vs. electric can impact your carbon footprint (as well as your utility bills).

Heating System

Those baseboards, heating vents, or radiators are going to impact a lot more than just your decorating decisions: The way your home is heated can also have a major influence on your energy use. Learn the differences between electric resistance, furnaces and boilers, steam and hot water radiators, and radiant heating (check out the Department of Energy to start) and if saving on utility bills is a priority, make sure you look for a space that can accommodate secondary heating system like a fireplace, pellet stove, or solar panels.

Windows

Of course, once the house is heated you don’t want to see all that pricey hot air escaping around windows and doors. Look for versions that have storm windows and are properly installed to prevent gaps around the edges. But also pay attention to the number and placement of the windows: Having more of them can allow you to save on lighting and cooling by allowing more sunshine and cross-breezes in the summer.

Insulation

You may not be able to tell how well-insulated your walls are during an inspection, but you probably can check on the insulation in one key area: the attic. An improperly insulated attic can cause plenty of headaches: In the winter, hot air will rise, keeping the roof warm and melting the bottom layer of ice or snow which can lead to roof leaks. According to Energy Star, insulation in an attic should be as high as the floor joists with no low spots for maximum efficiency.

Electric Supplier

While there’s often not much you can do about choosing an electric supplier – since few, if any, companies compete in the same area – you can check with your local supplier to see where they source their energy and, in many cases, request that your fuels come from alternative sources (like solar or wind). It’s an easy way to support alternative fuels without making major capital improvements to your home.

More Great Links

Sources

  • “Overview: Home Heating Systems.” Energy.gov. (Mar. 5, 2013) http://energy.gov/energysaver/articles/overview-home-heating-systems
  • “Energy-Efficient Windows.” Energy.gov. (Mar. 5, 2013) http://energy.gov/energysaver/articles/energy-efficient-windows
  • “Adding Attic Insulation.” Energy Star. (Mar. 5, 2013) http://www.energystar.gov/index.cfm?c=diy.diy_attic_insulation