Want to determine your home’s energy efficiency?
If you’d rather not pay a utility bill that’s almost the size of your mortgage payment, do the smart thing: ask your utility company to conduct a home energy audit. Not only will they give you the results of the audit, they’ll make recommendations about what you can do to improve your home’s energy efficiency and give you an estimate of how much money you could save as a result of the improvements. In many communities, this is a free or very low-cost service offered by the local utility company.
Why is an energy-efficiency evaluation an important part of buying a home?
That’s because the SEER (Seasonal Energy Efficiency Rating) is one of those “hidden” costs of every home; it figures into what a home will cost you every month and every year that you live in the house. And the single most important element that affects your energy bill is your heating and air conditioning system. Basically, the newer the heating/cooling unit is, the more energy efficient it probably will be. What you want is a unit with a high SEER rating; a rating that ranges anywhere from 12 to 18 is considered to be the most energy efficient.
What else affects energy efficiency in a home?
Lots of things. For instance, find out what kind of attic insulation is in place. See what type of windows are in the house. The furnace, the water heater, the roof, and the major appliances also make a difference.
Here’s a checklist that homebuyers should familiarize themselves with:
How old is the furnace and what kind of fuel does it use? The newer the furnace, the more energy efficient it could be. If a furnace is more than 12 years old, it would be wise to replace it immediately, even if it’s still working. That’s because new, energy-efficient models can save 25% to 40% on heating bills-which means a new furnace will virtually pay for itself in savings in a relatively short time! Another rule of thumb you should consider: natural gas or propane furnaces cost less to heat a home in the long run.
How old is the water heater and piping, and what kind of fuel does the water heater use? Newer units heat water more efficiently than old ones. And, in general, natural gas water heaters cost less to heat water. As for piping, if it’s old, that might mean that there’s a lot of heat loss as the hot water travels through the house. If old piping can be easily accessed, it should be replaced. If it can’t be replaced, then the piping and the water heater should be insulated. By the way, here’s something that surprises a lot of people: In some South Texas cities, hot water represents the second-highest energy cost in a home. (We bet you already figured out that air conditioning is the first).
What kind of windows are in the house, and where are they located? Single-pane windows don’t offer much protection against hot or cold weather. What you want are windows with double or triple-pane glass. They will give you much better insulation, especially if they have special coatings on the glass that block out the sun.
How old is the roof and what kind of condition is it in? The roof is your home’s major protection against the weather and it’s also the top layer of your insulation. A newer, lighter-colored roof of composite materials is your best bet when it comes to energy-efficiency. The lighter colors reflect the sun’s rays better, and most of the newest composite materials give you excellent insulation, especially in the summertime.
How efficient is the insulation in the attic? If there are only 3 to 6 inches of fiberglass blanket insulation, that’s only going to give you an R-value between R-9 and R-19. That’s not enough to be truly effective. The United States Department of Energy (DOE) recommends that attic insulation should give you an R-49 rating. By the way, attic insulation is one of the most inexpensive ways to improve a home’s energy efficiency.
Are the major kitchen appliances (refrigerator/freezer, oven/range, etc.) older or newer? Newer appliances are likely to be considerably more energy-efficient than older ones.
Have any questions? Want to learn more about making a home more energy-efficient? Call Cytech Heating & Cooling (956) 630-6645 or toll free 1-888-298-3244. Here are some helpful resources that you can also consult: The US Department of Energy/Consumer Information. The Energy Star and Residential Energy Services Network. Your local energy company or supplier. One online resource you’ll find especially helpful is http://www.acca.org. It’s the Air Conditioning Contractors of America website. And it’s chock-full of facts and links that will make you a truly informed energy consumer-with much lower utility bills!