Buyers often want to know what their utility bills for a property will be. The answer isn’t always straightforward.
The products and building techniques that determine a house’s energy efficiency may be hidden from view. However, there are ways to learn this information.
If the seller made energy improvements to the house—upgraded insulation, new windows, efficient appliances—he will brag about it. And it’s likely the listing agent will include that in the property’s marketing materials and descriptions. If you don’t see those types of improvements listed, here are some questions to ask the seller or his agent.
- How much are the utility bills? Compare the costs to that of a similarly sized house.
- What’s the R-value of the insulation? Many people won’t know the answer, but those who do will give you valuable information. Here are the recommended R-values for different regions of the country.
- What do you know about the windows? For most of the Texas, you want windows with a Solar Heat Gain Coefficient of less than 0.25; the range is between 0 and 1, with the lower the better. If that information is not available, look for double glazing with inert gases between the panes, reflective tints, and low-E coatings that reflect heat.
- Are the appliances Energy Star rated? Energy Star is a voluntary program of the Environmental Protection Agency, and products with an Energy Star label are more energy efficient than standard products.
- Do you have the maintenance records for heating and cooling equipment? Heating and cooling equipment that is not properly maintained wastes energy.
Signs to look for
When walking through a property, do you see programmable thermostats? These devices let homeowners regulate heating and cooling based on need rather than at a set temperature, saving energy. Also, look for energy labels on appliances, which compare the product's approximate energy use to similar products. Just by glancing at the label, you can tell whether the appliance falls in the energy-efficient category or the not-so energy-efficient category.
Your Texas REALTOR® can help you communicate with the sellers and look for information about a property’s energy consumption. And be sure to discuss your energy-efficiency concerns with a home inspector, as he will examine the property’s systems.
Fran J. Donegan writes home- and garden-related content for The Home Depot and numerous other publications. He's also the author of the books Pools and Spas and Paint Your Home.