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Trinity Valley EC News

Buying or Selling a Home? Consider Energy Factors

Message from TVEC Energy Management Supervisor Chris Walker, BAP

March is considered the best month to list a home for sale, and today’s homebuyers often consider energy efficiency as part of their purchasing decision.

Considering efficiency is important as energy costs (such as electricity, gas and propane) are significant expenses for any home. The average home costs approximately $2,500 in energy expenses per year. Think about how much money that is over the life of the home.

The size of a home is one of the most important factors that will determine 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 doesn’t guarantee efficiency. Building codes aren’t always strictly enforced, and a minimum-code home is not nearly efficient as homes built to a higher standard. When energy efficiency or green features are a high priority, 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 they don’t have to meet the same energy code requirements of site-built homes. Residents of manufactured homes spend about 70% more on energy per square foot of living space than residents of site-built homes. When considering a manufactured home, those built after 1994 or that have an Energy Star label have superior energy performance.

Sometimes buyers will be interested in the energy performance of a specific home compared to similar homes and may request electricity, natural gas or propane bills from the sellers so they can estimate how much it will cost to heat and cool the home annually. While this is not a precise measure of home energy performance, it can be a good indicator.

For a deeper dive, check the Home Energy Rating System Index. It’s like a “miles per gallon” rating for a home that allows consumers to comparison shop based on energy performance, similar to the way they can comparison shop for cars.

A certified Residential Energy Services Network home energy rater will need to inspect the home and develop a HERS rating. This rating can be done during the inspection process or may be requested from the seller.

Although many homebuyers focus on energy features that have the strongest impact on the aesthetics of the home, such as windows and lighting fixtures, it’s hidden systems like appliances that have the most impact on energy performance. Heating and cooling systems consume about half of a home’s energy use and are costly to replace. Here are a couple questions homebuyers should consider about heating and cooling:

How old is the air conditioning and heating system? If the home’s heater or AC is more than 12 years old, it may be necessary to replace it in the near-term.

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

A home’s building envelope insulates the home’s interior from the outdoor environment and includes features like doors, walls and the roof. If the quality of the building envelope is compromised, it can contribute to higher heating and cooling costs.

Whether you’re buying or selling, having a good picture of a home’s overall energy efficiency can be useful.