One of the best parts about moving into a new home is the chance to start fresh. If you’re a pack rat, you can use this opportunity to de-clutter so there’s less to move to the new house. If you want to spend more time outside, now is your chance to find a yard or patio that you love. And if you’re committed to making your life greener, you can make sure your new place has advantages that allow you to save energy. Here are a few details to look for on your house search that can ensure your new home is as energy efficient as possible.
Square footage. Many homes have more space than we need. The average new home built in the U.S. in 2012 was more than 2,500 square feet, according to the U.S. Census Bureau. While a large entry or extra bedroom might be helpful, looking for a home that’s just big enough for your needs is the most efficient. After all, you’re going to have to heat or cool all those square feet. Keep in mind how your family might grow or contract, with elderly grandparents moving in or college-age kids moving out.
Air conditioning. Even if you need a five-bedroom house for your large family, you can still be efficient with your air conditioner. If you have an upstairs and a downstairs, one air conditioning unit for each floor might be better than one that’s big enough for the whole house. Also, make sure the unit is the right for the home’s square footage so the appliance isn’t overtaxed.
Ceiling fans. Make sure there are ceiling fans in bedrooms and other rooms where family members work or gather. While these appliances do use electricity, they use far less than an air conditioner and can make a room feel about 5 degrees cooler, according to the U.S. Green Building Council. This allows you to turn up the thermostat a few degrees to save energy.
Orientation. Homes that face north or south can better take advantage of the sun in the winter and shade in the summer to reduce heating and cooling costs. Make sure large windows that get summer afternoon sun are shaded by overhangs or trees.
Natural lighting. Look for homes with lots of natural light. Numerous windows reduce the amount of artificial lighting you need, therefore reducing your energy costs. While skylights also add light, they can introduce a lot of heat. Sky tubes are a better alternative because they reflect light into a room without the heat gain.
Roof and siding. If the thermal envelope of a home is damaged, it can’t protect the inside of the home. Look for cracks, dings, peeling, blistering, warping or sagging on the roof shingles or tiles as well as on the outer walls of the home. Any of these can lead to air leaking out or water leaking in to the house.
Insulation. Another way to keep air from leaking out of the house is to have a good amount of insulation in the attic. While many people associate sufficient insulation with colder climates, it is just as important in warm, humid climates. Insulation ensures you’re keeping humid air out as well as cooled air in.
Native landscaping. Plants that are native to the region you live in grow better with less water and maintenance required, saving you time and energy. You might also consider a yard with a smaller grass lawn so you have less to water.