When buyers start searching for their new home, they are looking for the best value for their money. Energy efficiency is an integral part of building and living in a new home. The home building industry understands that saving energy is vital to the planet, and some of these new appliances and materials can save homeowners a significant amount of money. Since the country began focusing on saving energy and using sustainable, eco-friendly resources, a new vocabulary has worked its way into many new home discussions.

How much money can I save if my home is energy efficient?
The amount of money you can save varies with the type and size of home you’re buying and the home you’re using to compare costs. However, the savings can be significant when you add them up over time. Here are a few examples; a CFL light bulb costs about $10 to buy and operate over the course if it’s life compared to the $40 it will cost to light your home with incandescent lights. An energy-efficient clothes washer can save a homeowner about $45 per year in utility bills compared to a standard washer. Energy-efficient air conditioners can save 8% annually on utility bills. Radiant barrier in the attic of a new home can save the resident 10% per month on heating bills, and attic insulation with an R-value of 38 will save you $170 per year in some climates over R-15 insulation. Another critical thing to consider is that an energy-efficient home will be easier to sell when the time comes!

Are sustainable building materials better than traditional materials?
There is a lot of information on the internet about green or sustainable building materials. Sadly, much of it is motivated heavily by the point of view of the author. Often, sustainable building materials are very similar to the products that we use today, they’re just fabricated using different techniques or materials. If you believe in using as many sustainable or green products as possible in your home, do a little research on the companies that are providing the materials. These companies will let you know how they create these products or harvest the materials and why they believe in what they do.  If minimizing your impact on the environment is essential to you and your family, you can put as many sustainable or green materials into your new home as you’d like.

         

Do I pay more for a green home?
The short answer is yes, but it’s a complicated short answer. There are almost as many answers to this question as there are websites. Sadly, the data is tough to verify because there are different degrees of “green” as well as higher and lower quality levels of these products. Let’s face it, at some point, all homes will have some degree of green built into them, and the only choice we’ll have is how much green we want to invest in a green house. Many of the current websites indicate that a green home can cost an average of 9% higher than a comparable non-green home. The challenge is that you really can’t find any homes built without green building products or appliances anymore. The easiest way to see the benefit of a green home is to compare it to a house that was constructed ten or twenty years ago. Today, you may be able to get an older home for less than you’ll spend on a new home. Still, you’ll probably have to do significant renovating on the property, or you’ll pay more on utility bills while you live there. So, while you may initially spend more for a green home, it may actually cost less to live in it!

Should I xeriscape my lawn?
If you live in an arid region such as the southwest, you should consider xeriscape landscaping for your yard. Plants that do not require much water plants will thrive better in a dry environment. Very often, these areas have water restrictions on lawn watering.

Which insulation is best for me?
The best answer to this is that a few different types of insulation may be the best choice for your new home. Attics often need the most insulation to escape heat loss. Therefore, the fiberglass insulation with a high R-value may be the best way to save money. In most cases, for the interior walls of your home, you’ll have a few choices. Rolled fiberglass insulation is cost-effective, holds its shape over many years, is easy to install and repair if there is a water leak. It can also retain moisture and contribute to mold growth. Blown-in insulation is easy to install, can be excellent for odd-shaped areas, or can be easily added over rolled insulation to increase the R-value. However, it does have a tendency to settle over time and may need to be re-blown in after several years. Cellulose insulation is made of recycled materials, has many of the advantages of blown-in insulation. It has excellent R-value, can be cheaper, and carries a lower risk of mold and insects. However, it is heavier than other types of insulation and can create dust in the home. Foam insulation is perfect for odd-shaped areas and can create airtight seals around studs and framing joints. It adds some structural strength, reduces the likelihood of mold, and is also an amazing sound buffer. Spray foam is costlier than the other types of insulation. It takes longer to install and is a bit messier though this shouldn’t be a problem with a new home.

Learning the ins and outs of energy efficiency is worth a homebuyer’s time and effort. Understanding the benefits of being green may end up with green being a new home buyer’s “favorite color!”