When buying a home, it would be great to find out the tell tale signs of an energy guzzling house. Hopefully, a home inspection will raise any red flags, but you should also make your own checklist. This checklist will help alert you to see whether or not the home is energy efficient or deficient.
Some of these items you’ll be able to spot right away, others will have to be examined by your house inspector. At least you’ll know where to begin and what questions to ask.
- The walls may look great from where you’re standing, but what if there is missing or thinned out insulation in the attic, or any open walled areas. Insulating standards require R-30 for attic and R-13 for walls to ensure that your furnace and air conditioner are working at optimum efficiency.2. Can you see or feel air leaks around window and door frames? Examine the condition of the caulking on the outside of the house. These gaps are prime candidates for energy leaks.3. How old is the air conditioner or furnace? Older systems can increase your electric bill 33% higher than a newer model. To find out if a unit is running efficiently, you’ll need its age and the Seasonal Energy Efficiency Ratio (SEER). The SEER rating measures the cooling output divided by the total electric input in watt-hours. You want a minimum rating of 16 for average efficiency.4. In addition to the age of the furnace, take note of the type of heating system and fuel being used. A heat pump with a back-up heating supply can significantly reduce fuel and energy costs. In colder climates, high-efficiency furnaces are a real bonus. They use up to 35% less fuel and can save up to 25% in yearly heating costs.
5. Take note of the age and heat source for the hot water tank. I lived in a home that only cost $1,200/year to heat with a heat pump, but the hot water tank was heated with propane and required three fill-ups per year at $600 each!
6. Leaky ductwork can reduce the effectiveness of an otherwise efficient furnace and cost you extra dollars in heating.
7. Take note of the direction the house is facing. In general, southern-facing houses receive more light which contributes to passive heating. Alternately, in hot climates, a north facing house may cut down on air conditioning costs. A home in the Midwest with hot summers and cold winters will benefit from south-facing windows with overhangs.
8. Dark roofs or exterior paint attracts the sun and heats up your attic substantially. Make sure there are adequate roof vents. A light colored roof tends to reflect the sunlight, rather than soaking it in.
9. Windows with leaks or single paned glass with aluminum frames are a sure sign that warm air will escape from your cozy home. In fact, a typical home can lose over 25% of its heat through poorly sealed windows. New homes use only vinyl or wood-framed double and triple-paned windows. Casements and awning style tend to have a tighter seal than sliders. Sometimes you do see single-paned windows with solar of Low-E film on the outside for extra protection. Ask your home inspector to check the glass, he has a gadget that can detect this.
10. Most sales include appliances, and it is a real bonus if they are Energy Star rated. These are extra efficient and will save you money in annual operating costs.
11. Last, but not least, ask to see a year’s worth of heating and air conditioning bills. It may not tell you where the problem is, but at least you’ll know if you have one.