When looking for a new home or apartment, there are many factors that seem obvious: layout, location, neighborhood features, nearby schools, local businesses, etc. However, there is another important factor that must be discussed: energy consumption.

An energy efficient home or apartment will represent a higher initial investment, but the energy savings through the years will outweigh the upfront cost. This article summarizes the features you should check when looking for a new home or apartment.


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Appliances

Home appliances like refrigerators, washing machines, dryers, microwaves, ovens, water pumps and dishwashers represent a large share of energy consumption. If these elements are included with the house, make sure to check for ENERGY STAR ratings. Appliances are subject to rigorous testing by third-party labs before getting the ENERGY STAR label, which means that energy efficiency is guaranteed.

If you are purchasing a home or apartment with no appliances yet, there is an excellent chance to install the most efficient products in the market.

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Heating Systems

Another characteristic to consider regarding home appliances is their energy source. In general, electrical appliances have a higher operating cost than gas-fired appliances. Pay special attention to space heaters and domestic hot water systems, which can be very expensive to run with electricity. Heat pumps are an exception, since they can compete with gas heaters in running costs, without burning a fossil fuel locally.

The way a home is heated has a major impact on energy consumption, and heating systems are characterized by their variety. The types of equipment you may find include furnaces, boilers, resistance heaters, steam radiators, hot water radiators and radiant floors. To find the best option, the best recommendation is getting in touch with a professional HVAC engineering firm.

Insulation

During an inspection, checking if all the walls are well-insulated may not be possible. However, there is one key place that must be inspected before purchasing a house: the attic. Improperly insulated attics can cause plenty of issues, especially during the winter.

According to the ENERGY STAR recommendations, the attic insulation should be as high as the floor joist insulation, with no low spots to maximize efficiency. House sellers should provide all the available information about the insulation of components such as roofs and walls. If the budget is available, thermal imaging is a very effective method to detect insulation issues.

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Windows

If there are air leaks around windows and doors, heating and cooling appliances must work harder to keep the desired temperature. Look for windows with energy efficiency certifications and storm resistance properties, and also check if they are properly installed without gaps around the edges.

Another thing to consider is the placement and number of windows: having plenty of efficient windows will provide energy savings by allowing sunlight in. Less artificial lighting is required, and open windows can provide natural ventilation when the weather is suitable.

Electric Supplier

In some places, residential energy users can choose the electric supplier. By finding a favorable electricity plan, you can achieve significant power bill savings over time. If you are concerned about using electricity from clean sources, suppliers will often disclose their mix of energy sources. For instance, you can minimize your environmental impact by finding an electric supplier that gets most or all of its energy from renewable sources

Plumbing

The plumbing system design has a direct impact on water bills, and there is also an energy cost when a water pump is involved. In the case of domestic hot water systems, consider there is also a heating cost. Plumbing fixtures like faucets and drains should have water efficiency ratings - fixtures with the WaterSense label from the US Environmental Protection Agency offer water savings of 20% or more.

While checking around the kitchen or bathrooms, examine the pipes underneath the sinks. Watch out for any leaks or mold growths: leaks increase your water bill, while mold has a negative effect on air quality and health. If any of the two issues is found, make sure it is repaired before you buy or rent.

Consult a Professional

Many aspects of mechanical, electrical and plumbing systems are difficult to assess, unless you have a professional background in engineering or architecture. Consider hiring a professional to properly inspect the house and ensure all installations are code-compliant. By getting a professional opinion, you protect yourself from unexpected issues and reparation costs, and you can also negotiate a better price.

 

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