There has been a lot written lately about the importance of ‘greening' your home--but it is mostly geared toward remodeling. But buying a new home is a wonderful opportunity to work towards protecting the environment, too. There are some simple things that you can ask about a house that you are considering that can help you to evaluate how ‘green' the house is and what you can do to improve its carbon emission footprint.
The government has provided a really great website to help you understand the right questions to ask and to find tools to evaluate your current, and future, house. You can find this website at: http://www.energystar.gov/. Here you will find information about appliances, HVAC and more, and how these items can impact the environment.
Some questions that you can ask your seller to help you evaluate the ‘green factor' of a home you are considering:
- How old are the appliances? Which, if any, of them are Energy Star appliances? Per the website, the definition of Energy Star appliances are," ENERGY STAR qualified appliances incorporate advanced technologies that use 10-50% less energy and water than standard models."
- Ask the seller for copies of the heating and air conditioning bills for the past year. There is a tool on the Energy Star website that allows you to enter in the information and generate a measure of carbon emissions. This tool, called the Energy Star Yardstick can be found at: http://www.energystar.gov/index.cfm?energy_source_id=n&fuseaction=home_energy_yardstick.showStep3&zip=20194&people=5&area=6000&decade_id=1990s&pump=No&dm=M.
- Check the insulation levels. This can be a hard task, but a good home inspector should be able to provide information about the levels in obvious areas, such as the attic. Insulation levels are easily corrected by either blowing insulation in to fill in space between walls, or laying sheets of batt insulation. The recommended level for most attics is to insulate to R-38 (or about 12 -15 inches, depending on the insulation type). Other places that often lack insulation are the trim and moldings around doors and windows.
- If you are really serious about evaluating the ‘green factor' in the home you are buying, you could hire a professional to perform a comprehensive home energy audit. A thorough professional audit will use equipment such as blower doors, which measure the extent of leaks in the building envelope, and infrared cameras, which reveal hard-to-detect areas of air infiltration and missing insulation.
- Have the owners used any sustainable products in their remodeling projects. Examples include, cement board siding, decking made out of recycled materials, and natural stone decorative products.
The government website, http://www.energystar.gov/ is a wonderful resource for educating yourself about energy efficiency. For many of us the effort to ‘go green' seems overwhelming. Buying a new house is the perfect time to take one of these ‘baby steps' towards reducing our personal carbon footprint!
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