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What to look for when buying an energy-efficient home

Written by ecannon - 4 Comments

This post by  comes from our partner site at QuickenLoans.com.

What to look for when buying an energy-efficient home

A study released in February of 2013 by the National Association of Home Builders says one of the most important qualities new home buyers want is an energy-efficient home. They add, “Nine out of ten buyers would rather buy a home with energy-efficient features and permanently lower utility bills than one without those features that costs 2 to 3 percent less.”

The problem is that some sellers boast “energy-efficiency” without really having the goods to back it up. And just because the home has energy-efficient appliances doesn’t necessarily mean it’s saving energy in other areas.

Having a holistic approach to energy-efficient homes is a much better way to go for both savings and reduction in energy dependency. So when you start your house hunting adventures, bring this list with you and look for these features:

  • ENERGY STAR appliances
  • Air leaks around windows and doors
  • Energy-efficient windows and doors
  • Low-flow fixtures and toilets
  • Digital thermostat controls
  • Properly insulated attics and walls
  • Low-energy lighting systems
  • Well-maintained heating and cooling system
  • Eco-friendly carpet, paint and building materials
  • Energy- or water-efficient landscaping plan
  • Tankless water heater
  • BONUS: solar panels, geothermal system, wind turbine or any other alternative energy source

After you’ve gone through the list above you’ll want to ask some these questions:

  • When was the last energy audit conducted and can you see the results?
  • Can you see past energy bills?
  • Do you have maintenance records for any of the energy-efficient appliances or alternative energy sources?
  • Are there any local or state tax credits for owning this home?
  • Do local energy companies buy back energy created by my home?
  • Does the current homeowner work with the ENERGY STAR home program?

LEED Home Certification

In some cases, homes will feature LEED certification as a key selling point. A home with LEED certification means that it met specific environmental standards established by U.S. Green Building Council (USGBC). Ask to see the documentation from their LEED inspection and the certification.

Your new energy-efficient home doesn’t have to have all of these qualities, but each of them can help lower your energy dependency and monthly bills. Not only are these types of homes a smart buy, but energy-efficient features can also increase your home’s value if you decide to sell the home later on.

In July of 2012, USA Today reported that homes featuring energy-efficient upgrades sold for 10% more than non-energy-efficient homes in the surrounding area. They added in an earlier story that, “In Seattle, homes certified as eco-friendly sold for 8.5 percent more per square foot and were on the market 22 percent less time than other homes, according to a new report that tracks new home sales from September 2007 through December 2009.”

Buying an energy-efficient home is a smart investment that can pay off each month and later in the future. Just make sure to ask the right questions and look for the right features so you don’t get stuck in a home that doesn’t meet your expectations.

See more articles from QuickenLoans.com:

Hold the Phone! Beware of Phony Medical Alert Companies
Mortgage Missteps: The Too-Good-to-Be-True Deal

Published on June 7th, 2013
Modified on July 4th, 2013 - 4 Comments
Filed under: House & Home

About the author: is the founder and editor-in-chief of this site. He's a thirty-something family man who has been writing about personal finance since 2005, and guess what? He's on Twitter!

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4 Responses to “What to look for when buying an energy-efficient home”

  1. 1
    Free Money Minute Says:

    I have heard that tankless water heaters have a hard time really keeping up with the demand. Seems like a great idea if it works. It is probably sufficient for small hot water uses. Sounds like it may not keep up with shower demands.

  2. 2
    Dorothy Says:

    My husband and I built our own home that was completed in 2010. He was an electrical engineer and I think he did a very good job in making our home energy efficient, given that we’re in a rural area where the contractors didn’t know much about energy efficiency and weren’t too interested in pursuing it.

    We have a natural gas powered tankless hot water heater. It keeps up with demand just fine. The only issue I have is that the water heater is in the garage, and my bathroom is at the opposite end of the house. So it takes a good 45-60 seconds for hot water to reach the sink or shower. If I had it to do again we’d either place the water heater differently (under the house, about mid-way) or put those little “booster” water heaters under the kitchen and bathroom sinks. I may add those.

    Frank did a GREAT job in heating and AC efficiency. In South Carolina you pretty much go from heating the house to cooling it; there are not many days when you need neither. We have a whole-house fan that’s EXTREMELY powerful. It would suck the floorboards up if you didn’t open a few windows when you turn it on. I put it on a few weeks ago and it dropped the temperature in the house 9 degrees in about 15 minutes. So if the outdoor temperature is lower than the indoor temperature, and you want to cool the house, it does a great job.

    Frank used plenty of insulation in the walls and attic. He also insulated under the floors. And he used a radiant barrier in the attic. The house is 2800 square feet; so far, in the hottest summer months, I’ve never had an electric bill higher than $160, which astounds my local relatives and neighbors.

    My only sadness is that Frank died unexpectedly when the house was still under construction, so he never got to live in the house and see how successful he was.

  3. 3
    zimmy@moneyandpotatoes.com Says:

    We applied a sun blocking tinted film to most of our windows in the living room and kitchen area. You can purchase the film very cheaply at Home Depot and then cut it to fit your windows. The installation might take you a few weekends but could end up being worth the effort in energy savings.

  4. 4
    Bill W Says:

    For this one I would consider an energy efficiency expert as a part of the buying process. An experienced energy auditor specializes in analyzing the efficiency of your home, you may miss things doing it on your own. The tailored recommendations from an expertt will save you a lot money.

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