Buying an energy efficient home can be a great investment that will save you money on energy costs in the long term in addition to increasing the resale value of your home, when you’re ready to move on. With increasing consumer awareness of environmental issues, it’s growing much easier to find energy efficient homes, but it helps to be armored with some tips before you set out on your home buying journey. Savvy buyers can find the perfect house for their needs and negotiate the best deals.
If you’re using a real estate agent, which is a very good idea unless you’re familiar with real estate transactions, look for one who has experience with green homes. Some may have attended certification programs on green real estate, while others simply have experience based on previous home sales and the community in general. As you conduct interviews to find the right real estate agent for you, ask about prior experience, the kinds of homes on the market, and recommendations the agent may have for you.
Be aware that energy efficient homes can come with some immediate cash benefits for buyers. Some may qualify for special mortgages as well as tax credits and rebates to defray the cost of the home. If a home isn’t quite as energy efficient as you like but it has promise, you may qualify for assistance with modifications to increase its efficiency. Ask your real estate agent about these options and make sure to factor them in as you look at homes for sale; a high sticker price might be mitigated by long-term energy savings and immediate rebates designed to encourage green home purchases.
Some homes may be certified by independent or government agencies to indicate that they’re energy efficient. Some examples include Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) for homes, EnergyStar, and the Passive House Standard. If a home is certified, ask to see the documentation, as it will provide specific information about how well the house performed in testing and what the standards of the certification are. Uncertified homes aren’t necessarily a bad buy; you’ll just need to perform a more careful evaluation.
An energy efficient home should be designed with the local environment in mind to maximize efficiency. The thermal envelope, which protects the home from the elements, should include insulated windows, high R-value insulation, and appropriate measures to limit cracks and drafts. The green Chicago remodeling company GreenWerks often adds expanding foam insulation to existing structures, but there are plenty of other types of effective insulation available. These all help the home stay hot in the winter and cool in the summer, and reduce the amount of energy that needs to be spent on heating and cooling. You can request an energy audit to determine how much heat is lost and where the primary sites of heat loss are located.