How to shop for an energy-efficient home

November 4, 2020   By Jackie Whetzel

How to shop for an energy-efficient home

Nothing is more exciting than shopping for a new home.

Whether you’re house hunting in Dallas, Houston or along the Texas coastline, you likely have a checklist of must-haves for your next dwelling.

The number of bedrooms, bathrooms, yard-size, and proximity to amenities are all important factors to consider before you buy or rent. However, you should also have energy-efficiency on your list of must-haves. It may not be as exciting as indulging in a luxury master bedroom or backyard package – but it will save you dollars and cents in the long run.

The average energy bill for a single-family home is $2,060 per year, according to the Department of Energy. Choosing an energy-efficient home can help keep this annual home expense low resulting in more money in your family’s piggy bank.

Here are a few things to look for when shopping for an energy-efficient home.

Appliances

Appliances gobble up a good portion of your energy bill, so one of the first things you should look for is that tiny little Energy-star sticker on the corner of a home’s appliances. Most Energy-star appliances are roughly 9 percent more efficient than non-certified models.

You should also keep in mind that newer appliances are generally more efficient than older models. For example, a refrigerator manufactured after the year 2000 will use about half the amount of electricity as an older model appliance. If the home doesn’t come equipped with the latest and greatest dishwasher or fridge, consider upgrading after your move.

Windows

Double-pane windows are optimal. On average, they can save a homeowner $126 to $465 annually versus their single pane counterparts, according to the Department of Energy. Old or poorly insulated windows can let cool air out in the summer and cold air into the home in winter – forcing your HVAC system to work overtime.

If you want to save even more energy in the window department, look for energy-efficient double pane windows – they exist!

If the home isn’t already equipped with them, you can always upgrade the home’s non-energy efficient double-pane windows for savings of approximately $27 to $111 annually. You’ll pay the price making the investment up front, but you should make your money back in about two years and reap additional energy savings annually.

Another tip to remember when it comes to scrutinizing a home’s windows is to look for “low-e” coatings and weatherstripping in good condition. Weatherstripping can be damaged by kids or pets, and it’s essential for keeping your air sealed inside.

Insulation

Finding a home with good insulation is key when it comes to energy efficiency. Proper floor, wall, window, attic and basement insulation will help keep a home climate-controlled and comfortable year-round – and can also help homeowners save big on their monthly electric bills.

R-Value is the measurement used for telling a home’s ability to resist heat flow. Always remember that the higher the R-Value, the more protection the home has. You can find more important tips about insulation here.

Other Tips

Consider asking for past utility data on the home you’re interested in, so you know what you’re getting into. While the previous occupants may not have the same energy consumption patterns as you, past electricity bills will give you a good idea of the home’s energy efficiency.

If the home you fall in love with isn’t energy-friendly, consider the costs of replacing appliances or making energy home improvements. There are many cost-effective ways to bring a home up to speed (even if you’re renting). For instance, renters can replace weatherstripping pretty cost effectively, and oftentimes a landlord will make small improvements on their dime before you move in if you ask.

If you’re buying a home and energy-efficiency improvements are in your budget, sign the dotted line on the house and make it yours! Just make sure you prioritize these improvements early on so you can reap the benefits quickly.

 

Jackie Whetzel is a freelance writer who has been featured in newspapers and publications across the country. She has written on the topics of energy, education, government, and business. You can find her on Instagram.

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