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Energy Efficiency Considerations for Prospective Homebuyers

  Energy Efficiency Considerations for Prospective Homebuyers

Summer is one of the busiest seasons for house hunting because families often prefer to relocate when school is out.

If you’re shopping for a new home, be sure to consider energy costs, which can be significant expenses for any home. The average home accumulates about $2,500 in energy expenses per year.

The size of a home is one of the most important factors in determining its energy costs. As square footage increases, lighting requirements increase and, more importantly, the burden on heating and cooling equipment increases.

In general, newer homes have better energy performance due to advancements in building codes, but buying a new home does not guarantee efficiency. Building codes are not always enforced, and a minimum-code home is not nearly as efficient as homes built to a higher standard. Look for homes that have Energy Star, Built Green or Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design certifications.

Newer manufactured homes are typically much more efficient than older manufactured homes but do not have to meet the same energy code requirements of site-built homes. Residents of manufactured homes spend about 70 percent more on energy per square foot of living space compared to residents of site-built homes. Manufactured homes built after 1994 or that are Energy Star certified have superior energy performance.

Once you are interested in a specific home, consider requesting copies of utility bills from the sellers to gauge how much it will cost to heat and cool annually.

Although many homebuyers focus on energy features that have the greatest aesthetic impact, such as windows and lighting fixtures, it’s the less visible workings of appliances that have the biggest effect on energy performance. Heating and cooling systems account for about half of a home’s energy use and are costly to replace. Here are a couple of questions homebuyers should consider about heating and cooling:

How old is the heating system? If it’s more than 10 years old, it may be necessary to replace it in the near-term.

What is the system’s seasonal energy efficiency ratio? Find out the SEER of the home’s air conditioning system. If the air conditioner has a SEER of less than 8, you likely will want to replace it.

Doing your homework on your future home’s energy costs can make a big difference in your new monthly budget.