Most of us will never buy anything bigger than a house, and we typically find ourselves juggling several different issues when shopping for one. In today's world we're forced to place an ever-increasing emphasis on energy efficiency. Energy consumption levels are directly related to personal comfort, affordability, and to the resale value of the home.
Banks and other institutions used to simply add pricipal, interest and taxes (the “PIT" formula) to determine whether or not we could afford the house we wanted, and neglecting energy costs often led to the “money PIT".
BEAUTY MAY ONLY BE SKIN DEEP: Two houses that look the same can easily have a 50% or greater difference in heating and cooling costs. But even a very old home might be quite energy efficient, if energy efficiency was a factor in prior renovations. One of the most elusive considerations and sometimes most dramatic of all, is comparative lifestyles. Two working people with no children might only heat one or two rooms for a few hours a day. A family of four, especially with small children, might need to fully heat the house 24 hours a day.
COMPARING UTILITY BILLS can indicate which houses have higher or lower energy costs; but different heating systems, family size and lifestyles, and energy features of a house will have a large effect on these readings. Energy bills should only be used as a starting point for comparisons, and remember - NEARLY EVERY HOUSE CAN BE IMPROVED UPON.
CONDUCT AN ENERGY AUDIT as you walk through each prospective house. In addition to utility bills, types of systems and lifestyles, note the age and condition of the heating/cooling systems, air barriers, insulation, doors, windows, weather-stripping, caulking, etc. Note the location. Is the house sheltered on the windward side? Are there any shade trees?
Learn as much as you can about energy efficiency, so that you can verify if the vendor has been “energy-wise", and that your house is not an energy money pit.
Gil Strachan is a professional home inspector, representing Electrospec Home Inspection Services in east-central Ontario, Canada since 1994. Visit http://www.allaroundthehouse.com to learn more about home inspections.
"The Home Reference Book"
You can probably find a home inspection for a little less than what we ask, but you probably won't find the Home Reference Book. A $60 value, this solutions-oriented reference tool comes free with every inspection we perform.
It's the first tool you should have around the house!