Is Energy Efficiency Important To You? What You Need To Ask About Homes For Sale

Do you want an energy-efficient home? Residential heating costs make up almost 42 percent of most American households' utility bills, according to the U.S. Department of Energy. If you want to lower heating/cooling costs and help the environment, take a look at the top energy efficiency-related questions to ask when you are looking to buy a new, energy-efficient home.

What Type of Windows Does the Home Have?

Don't let the warm or cool (depending on the season) indoor air leak out of your new home's old windows. Before you put an offer down on your would-be new home, ask the seller about the age and type of windows. Older single-pane windows lack the insulation necessary to keep your heating and cooling bills low.

New multi-pane windows sandwich an insulating gas between two or more pieces of glass. This type of window provides an effective and efficient barrier. Not only can you lower your home heating and cooling costs with quality multi-pane windows, but you'll also increase interior comfort.

Along with the glass and gas insulation, feel for air leaks as you tour the house. Poorly installed windows, worn seals, and damage allow air to get in or out of the house. This can dramatically decrease energy efficiency and cost you money unnecessarily on your utility bills.

What Is the Furnace's AFUE?

The AFUE (or annual fuel utilization efficiency) ratio measures the ability of a furnace to convert the fuels' energy into heat in one year. The higher the percentage, the less heat the system uses, and the more efficient it is. Newer sealed combustion high-efficiency heaters can have an AFUE between 90 and 98.5 percent.

If the seller doesn't know the furnace's AFUE number, look for it on the appliance. The U.S. Federal Trade Commission requires manufacturers to clearly display this number on the heater.

How Well Insulated Is the Home?

Even though the house may have a high AFUE furnace, without insulation the heat can quickly escape through the walls, attic, basement, or other similar spaces. A high R-value insulating material offers increased energy efficiency. Along with the type of insulation, the placement of the material and the number of layers can impact the R-value.

The seller may not know what type of insulation is in the home—or if it has any insulation. If you have already fallen in love with your dream home, but aren't sure about the insulation situation, a home inspector or other expert can help you to determine the overall energy efficiency.

For more information about looking for energy-efficient homes for sale, contact a local real estate agent.