Buying a home is an exciting time in your life. You're probably imagining all the memories you'll make in your new space and the good times to come. Maybe you're picturing cozy, warm nights indoors during the winter months. Or cooling off inside on hot summer days.
Sounds great. But you might be dreading your new home's utility bills if it's not efficient.
In this article, you'll learn the benefits of a home energy assessment and what to look for when buying a house.
What Is a Home Energy Audit Checklist?
An energy audit checklist helps home buyers check if the home they are considering buying is energy efficient. You can also audit your existing home if you're trying to lower energy consumption. Every home is different, and many factors contribute to a home's energy efficiency. Even houses that look beautiful and sturdy could have serious energy efficiency issues. It's up to you to know where to look to uncover this crucial information.
That's where a home energy audit checklist comes in. An energy audit checklist helps you know where to look and what questions to ask.
Energy Checklist When Buying a Home
This energy checklist will help you better understand how energy efficient a home is.
1. Age of the Home
You'll need to pay close attention to many of the following factors if you consider buying an older home. Many older homes are rich in charm and character, but aren't energy efficient. Old homes were built before new regulations and lack modern, energy-efficient characteristics.
If you're looking at an older home, ask the seller if there are any recent energy audit results available. You should also ask if there have been any efforts to increase the home's energy efficiency.
2. Design and Structure of the Home
An efficient design and structure will reduce your home's power consumption. The opposite is true in homes with inefficient designs and structures.
Rooms with high-vaulted ceilings look great but can be difficult to heat and cool. L-shaped homes are also more difficult for heating and cooling systems compared to homes with a rectangular or square shape.
Also, check if the roof's eaves hang over enough to provide shading to the side of the house during hot summer days. See if the property contains shrubs and trees to help protect the home from gusting winds that can penetrate the house's structure.
Lighting is a crucial feature of every home. More important than how often you leave lights on is the type of light. LEDs use 75% less energy than incandescent bulbs.
Try to use to reduce the length of time you need to use your lights each day by using natural light. A.K.A open the blinds. Combine good natural lighting with energy-efficient bulbs for the best results.
4. Windows and Doors
Windows and doors have a huge impact on a home's energy efficiency. Here are some factors to consider when conducting your energy audit:
- Are the windows and doors caulked and weather-stripped?
- Do the windows have an ENERGY STAR® certification?
- Are the windows made of double-pane glass, and are the frames of good quality?
- Does the front door have a storm door, or is it separated from the rest of the house by a vestibule or mudroom?
- Are exterior doors weather-stripped and insulated?
The appliances in your house and how much you use them will impact how much you pay in monthly energy bills. Televisions, refrigerators, stoves, computers, dishwashers, and dryers all tally up your electric usage.
Use appliances with an ENERGY STAR® certification for the best energy efficiency. Be sure to inspect all appliances that come with the home to determine how energy efficient they will be.
6. Heating, Ventilation and Air Conditioning (HVAC) System
You want to feel comfortable in your new home, but also don't want to waste money. Ask the seller if the HVAC system has been replaced or updated. Also, check if the HVAC components have ENERGY STAR® certifications.
Another simple thing to look for is a programmable thermostat. You can use this to fine-tune your heating and cooling to keep costs lower all year long. Take note of natural shade which can help you rely less on air conditioning during the hot summer months.
Insulation helps a home resist air leakage in or out to improve climate control. The less warm or cool air that escapes the less you have to replace.
Check whether the home has proper amounts of insulation in ceilings and attics. Make sure any installed insulation is free from holes and gaps.
Another place to check for proper insulation is around electrical outlets. This reveals the quality of insulating practices used throughout the home's entire construction. Be sure you can't feel any drafts coming from electrical outlets and the attic access.
8. Water System
Water bills and fees can be expensive. Ensure the home's water system is energy efficient by checking for the following:
- An energy-efficient water heater, preferably ENERGY STAR® certified
- Properly insulated hot water pipes
- Insulating blanket around the hot water heater in older homes
- Low-flow shower heads
- Faucets that are free of leaks
Remember that water bills can fluctuate depending on the homeowner's use. This means that previous years' utility bills for water may be inaccurate compared to your water use habits.
9. Record of Energy Bills Over the Past One or Two Years
Water and electricity usage differs depending on a homeowner's habits and lifestyle. But it's still important to see the utility usage history of the house you're buying. A record of past energy usage can give hints about a home's energy efficiency and show areas of weakness.
Compare heating and cooling costs in the summer and winter. Check how much money the previous owner spent on water and electricity bills. Add up all the utility costs in a year and divide by the square footage, you get the home's energy cost per square foot. You this number when shopping for houses to find one that has the best energy efficiency value for the size.
10. Questions to Ask the Seller, Realtor or Home Inspector
Ask as many energy efficiency-related questions as you can before deciding to buy or pass on a house. This is your opportunity to do some detective work and glean as much information as you can. Even if the seller gives you information about the home's energy efficiency, check for yourself.
What Are the Benefits of an Energy Efficient Home?
You'll enjoy many benefits as a homeowner when your house is energy efficient. Here are some of the benefits of an energy-efficient home:
Better Temperature Control
Part of being comfortable in your home is keeping it a comfortable temperature. When it's cold and gusty out, you want to feel warm and dry. When the weather is swelteringly hot, you want to feel cool and breezy.
When an HVAC system works at max efficiency, temps adjust fast and without strain to your system. You'll also avoid drafts and other unpleasant experiences.
Lower Operating Costs
An energy-efficient home will cost less money to operate. In fact, many of the benefits on this list contribute to lower costs on your utility bills every month. You'll use less water and demand less electricity as you enjoy days and nights in your new home.
Greater Environmental Sustainability and Efficiency
Noone wants to waste money or resources. Making your home more energy efficient will pay for itself with lower utility bills. Plus you reduce your impact on the world. Smokey the Bear would be proud.
Most efficiency upgrades will make your home "work" better. Energy efficient homes are easier to cool in the summer and warm during the winter. Hot water runs out of faucets instantly. Not to mention they have cleaner air and better circulation.
Better Air Quality
One of the benefits of using HVAC systems less often and relying more on fans and natural ventilation is experiencing better air quality within your home. You and your family will enjoy breathing in the fresh, clean air, which is essential for proper health and good energy levels. Enjoying better air quality is especially important if you have family members with breathing conditions related to asthma or allergies.
Higher Resale Value
Today's buyers emphasize energy efficiency and environmental sustainability when looking at houses. A recent study by Texas A&M found that smart homes sell for 5% more than normal homes.
Since many energy-efficiency upgrades also double as smart home devices you get 2 for 1. Improved efficiency scores and the smart home improved resale value.
How Can I Do an Energy Audit?
You can perform a free home energy audit yourself by following the checklist in this article. These steps will help you understand how energy efficient your home is and how it can improve.
If you're not the DIY type there are energy consultants who will do a thorough energy audit for a few hundred bucks. Additionally, many insulation and AC companies will provide a free home energy audit.