Some options that builders offer seem expensive upfront but can be well worth the money when you move in and start living your best life in your new home. Here are a few questions and answers to help you understand energy efficient items you may want to consider when purchasing your new home.

I’ve heard that CFL bulbs are filled with poison gas and need to be disposed of carefully. Is that true?
Because CFLs contain mercury, the EPA recommends that you bring old CFLs to qualified recyclers (such as the Home Depot) rather than just throwing them away. 

Why is an “airtight” house a good thing?
Eliminating the number of places where conditioned air (both heat and cold) can enter or escape from a house can reduce the amount of money the homeowner spends to keep their home comfortable. Up to 35% of the heat that is lost in a home is lost through the walls. Sealing them will not only reduce this waste but will also make your home more impervious to dust, allergies, and pests.

How do vinyl windows save energy?
Vinyl windows have a lower U-factor (or heat transfer rate) than steel, aluminum, or wooden ones because heat and cold don’t travel through vinyl as rapidly as it does the other materials. Vinyl window frames are actually often cool to the touch, even on a hot day. The reduced heat or cold transfer from the outside of the window to the inside means the homeowner will have to spend less money on utility bills heating or cooling the interior of the home.

How do multi-paned windows save energy costs?
Multi-paned windows have lower U-factor than single-paned windows. These windows have multiple layers of glass with gas-filled spaces between the panes. These windows reduce heat and cold transmission through them into the interior of the house and reduce the amount of heating and cooling required to keep the home comfortable.

What is the big deal about tinted glass on windows?
Tinted windows can save energy costs by reducing the warm sunlight that enters your home, thereby requiring less energy to cool the interior of your home. Sunlight can also cause upholstery, wood, and pictures to fade, so reducing the amount of sun that enters a home can keep colors in your home brighter longer. Tinted windows can increase heat resistance (U Value) as much as 40% over clear, non-tinted windows. 

Do solar panels work on a cloudy day?
Solar panels do generate electricity on cloudy days, just not as much as they do when it is sunny.

Do solar panels work when they’re covered with snow?
Solar panels need sunlight to produce electricity. So, if they’re covered with snow, they’re not producing electricity.

Do I need to cover my entire roof with solar panels to make a difference?
When it comes to solar energy, it’s not really about size or number that matters. It really starts with how much of your traditional electricity do you want to replace with solar. Most of us do not want to go completely “off-grid” or off the electrical grid. Still, we want to reduce our traditional electricity bills by using solar power. Let 's say you wanted your solar system to account for 80% of your energy consumption. Since one solar panel produces about 1 kWh per day, you would use 30 solar panels to account for 80% of your average consumption. Then, look at the variety of solar panels on the market that can meet your goal and determine how many of them you’ll need. Before you even start this, you’ll need to learn how many kWh (Kilowatt Hours) or electricity you’re using. 

How do I determine how many kilowatt-hours (k Wh) of electricity I’m using?
The easiest way to learn how many kWh of power you’re using is to check your utility bill. It should show you clearly how much electricity you’re using. If you’re coming from an apartment where your utilities are paid, look at the appliances. Most have a sticker somewhere on them that will tell you how many kWh they use. You can also search online where several sites have lists of household appliances and the amount of energy they use. Many even have estimated monthly costs listed as well.

How many batteries do I need with a solar house, and how long will they work before they need to be charged again?
To do this, you’ll first have to determine how much electricity you want your solar power system to provide and for how long you want to provide it. If you’re going off-grid (something very rare), you’ll need a substantial about of batteries to store the power you generate. If you have the security of city-provided utilities, your needs won’t be so extreme.

Most builders have included some energy-efficient items in the base price of homes; but there are some worthwhile options to consider. Worth the investment? While it depends, often, the answer can be “Yes.”