The housing market is not too pretty these days…but that's only if you own. As anyone with a vested interest in property knows by now, home prices from just one year ago have dropped dramatically, and in some cases in half. If you are unencumbered by a home of your own, it may be time to check out a pretty cheap property while the housing market stays quasi-dormant.
However, a smart homeowner doesn't just jump at a seemingly great price, but takes into consideration what renovations or improvements are necessary. It is important to consider the energy costs of a property as well, which requires taking stock of the green advantages a house offers without having to do any work.
When searching for a new home for you and your family, consider the following advice:
Southern Orientation - The house should face south, with approximately 35 to 40% of the home's total window footage on the south side to collect the sunlight during the day. Combined with an open design and the slow motion of ceiling fans, you can learn how to keep your home comfortable all day without touching the thermostat.
Southern Overhangs - On your home's southern side, the roof should extend out farther than most roofs do. Eaves should extend about 2 to 2-and-a-half feet farther than they do on most homes in order to block the summer sun, while letting in the warmth of the sun during the winter. This is possible because the sun peaks at about 20 to 30 degrees off the horizon in the winter, as opposed to about 75-80 degrees in the summer.
Home Energy Audits - Before buying that house, why not have a professional look at it to see what level of improvement the home will need to reign in energy costs. A certified Home Efficiency Consultant will point out all the areas of the home that are susceptible to heat loss, as well as chart out a plan to drastically reduce your energy bills.
Energy Star Appliances - If you were going to upgrade a major electrical appliance, it is almost definite that you will not find a better product for your money than an Energy Star model. Whether it be a refrigerator, a clothes washer, or a furnace, Energy Star appliances will save you money. If the home you are looking at offers these models, that will be one less thing to worry about.
Ratings - Make sure you check the ratings on the furnace and air conditioning unit. If these appliances are over 10 years old, they will probably need to be replaced. If one of these products need to be replaced, make sure you consider Energy Star, as their products will produce less emissions, and cost you less on your energy bills in the long run.
Windows - It is important to rate these as well, as older windows and single-paned systems will act as a gaping hole for heat to escape your home. For major leaks, a new window may be required, however you may be able to get away with a little weatherstripping to solve the problem.
The Attic - The Attic is the number one culprit of heat loss in the entire home. When a home has pull down attic stairs, they are just asking for high energy bills. Most times the covering for these stairs is a simple piece of plywood that has no seal. The air you heat up all day runs right out of these cracks and out through the roof since heat rises. If the attic has pull down stairs and insufficient insulation, you are constantly throwing money right out the window.
Hot Water Heater - Hot Water Heaters and Furnaces can be compared to a spaghetti dinner, if you were constantly worried that you may want spaghetti at any time. The water heater heats water all day long so it can stay at optimal shower/sink temperatures. However, most of the time, you don't really need hot water at all. Don't be mistaken; with a Flash-Heating, or On Demand system, you will have hot water when you want it. However, it makes no sense to replace a furnace or water heating system if it is relatively new. Instead, get a hot water heater blanket that will reduce your water tanks heat loss dramatically.
Programmable Thermostats - 70% of homeowners with programmable thermostats do not program them. This means their homes are staying at whatever temperature they feel comfortable with while home. This is like leaving your car running all night, so it isn't cold when you get to it in the morning, except that returning to a properly programmed home should be no less comfortable than it normally would be. The program should certainly account for the time necessary to get to optimal temperature.
Drafts - As stated in the Attic section, drafts and leaks are the number one culprit of heat loss and high energy bills in homes. Make sure the attic is properly insulated. And in case of a fireplace, be sure that there are ways to seal it in the winter, as the heat you generate in your home will travel right up and out the flue.
GREENandSAVE.com is a free resource for anyone that wants to save energy, money, and the environment. The articles, product reviews, online tools, and return on investment calculations are researched from a diverse range of public and private sector sources. Overall, the company is passionate about saving money as well as creating healthy homes, offices, and lifestyles.
To hear the audio for this and other Great Green Home Show radio segments, visit the "On the Radio" section on GREENandSAVE.com. For a comprehensive list of Green Home Remodeling projects, take a look at the Return on Investment Table at GREENandSAVE.com. Or, you can get an Energy Audit or Home Efficiency Checkup from a trained professional which will surely save you money. If that doesn't sound right for you, perhaps you should consider a career in the burgeoning Eco-Economy; take a look at some Green Collar Jobs in the area.