Efficiency is all the rage for today's homeowners and buyers, and you may want to make sure that the home you buy is following that trend.
These tips help you to determine whether a home on the market will be energy-efficient, or if you will need to pay out some extra cash on your utility bills or upgrades.
Categories of Home Energy Consumption
You have probably read at least a little about cutting down on your home’s energy consumption in heating and cooling, but there are other categories of home energy use that deserve your attention. Heating and cooling typically takes up about 48 percent of the average home’s energy usage. That figure represents a 10 percent drop since the 1990s.
Roughly 35 percent of energy usage is through appliances, electronics and lighting. An additional 17 percent goes to water heating. These broad genres help you to focus your efforts on determining the overall energy efficiency of the home you want to buy.
Size and Age of Home
It probably comes as no surprise that larger homes usually cost more to heat and cool, and require more lighting and electrical outlets. The age of a home also matters. Older homes can often be wildly less efficient compared to newer homes. For example, the Residential Energy Consumption Survey showed that homes built after 2000 were 30 percent larger than homes built earlier, but only used about 2 percent more energy.
As such, a larger but newer home may be just as efficient as an older, smaller home. The older the home, the older the insulation can be, as well. Check the home’s insulation, as the efficiency of the appliances and systems in the home are only so effective at keeping heated or cooled air indoors if the insulation is damaged or does not meet current recommendations.
Appliances and Lighting
You can see how the efficiency of a furnace or air conditioner can really affect your utility bills, but there are plenty of other appliances that drain electricity or fuel that are not directly related to heating or cooling. Put together, appliances, lighting and water heating represent over half of a home’s energy expenditure. The refrigerator, dishwasher, water heater, washer and dryer are all more likely to be more efficient if they are newer.
The older things are, the more energy they use. Ask for a model number for each appliance to research the manufacturer’s predicted energy usage per year for the machine. For older homes, look at the light fixtures to determine if you need to purchase special bulbs. Inquire about the electrical system, because older wiring may need to be upgraded to support more efficient equipment.
Heating and Cooling Loads
Determining how much heating and cooling the home will need is a matter of heat transfer. While heating a home involves actually heating air in most cases, cooling relies on the removal of heat from the indoor air and expelling that heat from the home. A home’s peak heating load or cooling load describes the rate of heat transfer during the coldest and hottest seasons in the area, respectively. These calculations are usually quite complicated and likely to be done incorrectly unless performed by a professional. You can request a heating or cooling load calculation done by an HVAC technician, however, before you buy. This is particularly important if you plan to upgrade the equipment after you move in.
Buying a home, only to discover that your utility bills are sky high, is not something you want to walk into blindly. With these tips, you can gather information about a home’s energy efficiency, to help you make a wiser decision.