Every morning, I dusted, vacuumed and staged our home -- right down to the vase of fresh-cut flowers on the kitchen counter. Finding just the right buyer for a newly remodeled 1926 bungalow required a daily dose of elbow grease. Before long, however, I realized my routine was just a precursor to the real work. A home inspection revealed a need for new guttering. Just when I thought there couldn't be any more projects to tackle, it was time to make another trip to the hardware store. Although my home sold years ago, in the days before "carbon footprint" was part of our collective lexicon, I still wonder if my rehabbed abode would have passed a green home inspection.
Standard home inspections, like the one I experienced, are a normal part of the home-selling process and are often required by lenders as a condition of the sale. A home inspection report will identify necessary repairs and call attention to items that need maintenance or replacement -- like those shiny new gutters that were installed just a few days before I handed the keys to my home's new owner.
While a standard home inspection, according to the American Society of Home Inspectors is, "an objective visual examination of the physical structure and systems of a house, from the roof to foundation," a green home inspection adds another layer of expertise. There are several specialized training programs for green home inspectors, including the Green Rater certificate program from the U.S. Green Building Council's Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) for Homes, and LEED Training Continuing Education courses are offered to members of the American Society of Home Inspectors [source: U.S. Green Building Council].
A green home inspection includes the identification of features that detract from environmental health, such as carpet that may trap dust and allergens. In addition, this neutral, third-party inspection will note a home's use of sustainable materials, such as water-conserving toilets or use of wood from trees that mature quickly and whose numbers can be easily replenished. If a green material can't be visually confirmed, such as low-VOC paint, a seller can produce documentation for it.
A green home inspector also will examine, but not evaluate, energy efficient features, such as solar energy systems. The measure of a home's energy efficiency falls into the realm of an energy audit. With additional training, such as the Residential Energy Services accredited program, green home inspectors may also become energy auditors [source: Gromicko]. An energy auditor may, for example, conduct thermographic scans to detect gaps around windows or doors that allow air penetration, make a close examination of a homeowner's past utility bills and suggest ways to improve energy efficiency.
You can find a green home inspector in your area through organizations like the American Society of Home Inspectors or the International Association of Certified Home Inspectors. With a green home inspection, you'll be more effective at attracting buyers seeking an eco-friendly home. And, even if you aren't interested in selling your home, a green home inspection can pinpoint lurking energy drains and maintenance issues to help you save money, conserve energy and prevent problems down the road [source: American Society of Home Inspectors].
Author's Note: Are there green home inspections?
Putting the time and effort into constructing (or retrofitting) a home to make it eco-friendly ought to come with a gold star. Redoing our home's original wood floors seemed like a good idea, but after putting in a full day's work and then spending nights ripping up carpeting, pulling out left-behind staples and running a noisy electric sander across dull hardwood floors, our enthusiasm began to wane. Still, after applying the last coat of eco-friendly floor sealer, I couldn't help but feel satisfied. The next time I start in on a project that's not nearly as cut-and-dried as the home improvement shows make it seem, I'm glad I'll know how to get a green home inspection -- and the eye-catching logos that'll give my home an edge when it's time to sell it.
- American Society of Home Inspectors. "Frequently Asked Questions on Home Inspections." (April 9, 2012) http://www.ashi.org/customers/faq.asp
- Gromicko, Nick. "What is a Green Home Inspection?" (April 9, 2012) International Association of Certified Home Inspectors. http://www.nachi.org/green-home-inspection.htm
- U.S. Green Building Council. "LEED for Homes Green Rater Program." (April 9, 2012) http://www.usgbc.org/DisplayPage.aspx?CMSPageID=2093