Saturday , August 13 2022

How Do You Know You’re Buying an Energy-Efficient House?

Before you buy your next home, be sure it has some of these energy- and water-saving features.

Alina Bradford

CNET Contributor

Alina Bradford has been writing how-tos, tech articles and more for almost two decades. She currently writes for CNET’s Smart Home Section, MTVNews’ tech section and for Live Science’s reference section. Follow her on Twitter.

Megan Wollerton

Senior Writer/Editor

Megan Wollerton has covered technology for CNET since 2013. Before that, she wrote for NBC’s (now SyFy). Megan has a master’s degree from the University of Louisville and a bachelor’s degree from Connecticut College, both in international relations. She is a board member of the Louisville chapter of the Society of Professional Journalists. When Megan isn’t writing, she’s planning far-flung adventures.

Consider purchasing a home with green features that can make living a little more eco-friendly — and economical. 

Before you officially close on your new house, take note of the energy-efficient features that come with it. Energy-efficient features could save you big over time. 

With green home upgrades proven to save money on utilities, many current buyers now see energy-efficiency as a priority when looking for a home. In fact, a March 2021 study found that 83% of buyers desire Energy Star-rated windows, 81% desire Energy Star-rated appliances and 80% of buyers desire energy-efficient lighting. Not only are green home upgrades good for your wallet and the environment, they could even increase the value of your home. 

If you’re in the market for a new home, follow these tips and tricks to ensure that you buy on that’s energy-efficient. 

Read more: How to Save Money on Your Gas, Electric and Water Bills: 7 Free Ways

Around 47% of millennials think solar panels and efficient energy storage are important features in a new home, according to a survey by Nationwide Mortgages. Going solar isn’t just a good move for the environment, it’s also a good move for your bank balance. Many electric companies will pay solar home owners for any excess energy they create with their panels. 

When buying a home with solar panels already installed, there are some important questions to ask:

Another green feature that will save you money are smart thermostats. According to Energy Star, “If everyone used a smart thermostat, we would save 56 trillion BTUs of energy and offset 13 billion pounds of greenhouse gas emissions each year, equivalent to the emissions of 1.2 million vehicles.” 

(Learn more about Energy Star Appliances and how they can save you money.)

How does such a small device offer such green goodness? It automates the heating and cooling process through smart features like geofencing, remote sensors and more. Many can also be controlled using an app or voice commands through Alexa or Google Assistant, which makes them convenient as well as environmentally friendly. Some of our favorite smart thermostats include the Ecobee SmartThermostat with Voice Control, the Nest Thermostat and the Amazon Smart Thermostat

Read more: Make the Most of Your Smart Thermostat to Save Money and Energy Now

The Amazon Smart Thermostat is the least expensive smart thermostat we’ve tested — and it’s also our favorite. 

Tankless water heaters — also known as instantaneous water heaters and on-demand water heaters — make water as you need it, instead of keeping water warm in a tank. As you can imagine, heating water only when you need it is much more efficient.

If you only use 41 gallons or less of hot water each day, tankless water heaters can be 24% to 34% more energy efficient than regular water heaters with tanks. If you use a lot of water, around 86 gallons per day, they are around 8% to 14% more energy efficient, according to the Department of Energy. For supreme energy efficiency, a home with a tankless water heater installed at each hot water outlet can save 27% to 50%.

When you’re buying a home with a tankless water heater, be sure to ask if it’s electric or gas. An electric heater can heat 2 to 5 gallons (7.6 to 15.2 liters) of water per minute while a gas-fired heater can heat 8 to 11 gallons (30.3 to 41.6 liters) per minute. 

The problem with a gas-fired heater, though, is it can waste more energy than an electric unit by having a constantly burning pilot light. A gas-fired heater with an intermittent ignition device is the best choice because it starts up the heating process without a pilot light, maximizing energy savings.  

Read more: Storage Tank Water Heaters vs. Tankless Water Heaters

Reclaimed wood is wood salvaged from old buildings. Homes that incorporate this type of wood save trees and keep perfectly good wood out of the landfill.  The character of the old wood also adds a special aesthetic quality to the home. 

Have your realtor keep an eye out for homes that use reclaimed wood in:

This house has slanted roofs, which direct water to a water filtering and storage system.

There are two types of water-harvesting systems that are ideal for anyone who wants a home that’s as green as possible: rain harvesting and gray-water harvesting.

Rainwater-harvesting systems can be as simple as plastic barrels attached to the gutter system, or as complex as underground storage tanks complete with filters to sanitize the water. The type of gathering system you want in your future home depends on your needs.

If you just want to capture rainwater for your garden during dry times, then a barrel system may be sufficient. On the other hand, if you want to collect enough water to supply your entire household, multiple storage tanks and plumbing to the home would be a better choice.

Read more: How to install a rain barrel to save money and help the planet

Gray-water harvesting is collecting water from sources such as the kitchen sink and the bathtub for reuse. Before buying a home with a gray-water system, be sure to ask exactly how the water is reused. Some systems will collect the water from sinks, showers and tubs and store it for use in toilets or sprinkler systems. More advanced systems will filter the water so that it can be reused for drinking, cooking and bathing.

While gray and rainwater systems seem like a great way to save on your water bill, be wary. In many cases you won’t be able to “go off-grid.” Some towns require residents pay for city-supplied water, whether they use it or not.

While you may be unlikely to find a home that incorporates all of these green features, you can use this list to decide which ones are the most important to you. Then contact your realtor to find a home that meets your needs.

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