The demand for energy efficient homes has risen dramatically over the last few years due to the fact that they provide their owners with:

  • lower utility and maintenance costs,
  • higher home comfort, and
  • increased home value.

This homebuyers guide to energy efficient homes will give you a good idea of the kinds of things you should be looking for when searching for an energy efficient home.

1.     Ask for the HERS® Index Score

A HERS Index Score is like a home’s MPG (miles-per-gallon) sticker, which tells prospective buyers how energy efficient the home is. The lower the score, the more energy efficient the home. The Home Energy Rating System (HERS) Index is the nationally recognized system for inspecting, testing and calculating a home’s energy performance. To get a HERS Index Score, a homeowner must schedule a home energy rating with a certified RESNET Home Energy Rater. The results are compared against a computer-simulated reference home conforming to the 2006 International Energy Conservation Code (IECC) standards, which is assigned a HERS Index Score of 100. This is the benchmark for energy efficient homes.

  • Homes with scores above 100 are deemed not energy efficient.
  • Homes scoring 100 are considered energy efficient, as they meet 2006 IECC standards.
  • Homes with scores lower than 100 are energy efficient.

2.     Was the House Built by a RESNET EnergySmart Builder?

Building energy efficient homes requires in-depth knowledge and training of energy efficiency measures, and not every builder meets these requirements. RESNET EnergySmart Builders understand how to build homes that are highly energy efficient, so that homeowners can benefit from lower energy costs and greater home comfort. They are committed to increasing the energy performance of the homes they build, and to having all of their homes energy rated as per RESNET’s rigorous standards.

3.     Is the Home Equipped with Energy Efficient Appliances?

Check to see that appliances are new and energy efficient models, i.e., ENERGY STAR qualified versions. Appliances that have earned the ENERGY STAR sticker offer premium features while using less energy and thereby reducing energy costs.

  • ENERGY STAR refrigerators are 20% more efficient than the federal minimum energy efficiency standard.
  • ENERGY STAR qualified dishwasher models are about 10% more energy efficient than conventional units.
  • ENERGY STAR qualified washing machines use over 50% less water and 30% less energy than standard washing machines —saving a typical household about $50 per year in energy costs.
  • ENERGY STAR qualified ventilation fans used in bathrooms, utility rooms, and above cooking areas use 70% less energy than standard models.
  • ENERGY STAR ceiling fans move air 50% more efficiently than conventional fans.

4.     Check the Heating and Cooling Features

Heating and cooling costs can account for up to 44 percent of a typical American household’s utility bill. Ideally, the HVAC (heating, ventilation and air conditioning) system should be ENERGY STAR qualified and less than 15 years old. Some of the things you should be looking for are:

  • Furnaces and water heaters that vent outside in order to reduce risk of mold.
  • Energy efficient ventilation is in place to filter out air pollutants and improve indoor air quality.
  • The home should have a programmable thermostat that will optimize energy use.

5.     Ask About the Home’s Thermal Enclosure

A home’s thermal enclosure system consists of air sealing; insulation and energy efficient windows that work together prevent air leakage and ensure optimal home comfort. The thermal enclosure should include:

  • High performance windows that keep heat in during winter and out in summer.
  • Insulated wires and pipes that stop heat loss.
  • Properly installed insulation to maintain a comfortable indoor environment.
  • Comprehensive air sealing to reduce drafts, moisture and dust.

6.     Find out About the Home’s Water Management System

A water management system is a combination of best building practices and materials that protect roofs, walls and foundations from water damage, and prevent moisture-related indoor air quality problems from occurring. Things to look for include:

  • Angled exterior drainpipes that direct water away from walls.
  • Built-in moisture-resistant barriers to protect the foundation from groundwater.
  • Graded landscaping allowing water to drain away from the home.

If you’re interested in buying an energy efficient home, get in touch with a RESNET EnergySmart Builder in your area. To learn more about making your home more energy efficient, contact a certified RESNET Home Energy Rater or Auditor.

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