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Tips for Finding a Perfect Energy-Efficient Home

By Kellen Owings

Finding a home designed with energy efficiency in mind has long-term benefits for both your wallet and the environment. To help, the U.S. Department of Energy developed the Home Energy Score, a national 1-10 rating system that assesses your home's energy efficiency based on its structure, heating, cooling and hot water systems.

To help find a great energy-efficient home, you can enlist the services of a DOE-trained Home Energy Score Assessor. They can perform a home energy audit of the house you plan to purchase, or your current home, to provide its Home Energy Score. From there, you can learn what improvements you can make in order to raise your score and save money.

If you' re in the market for a home, you can get a head start by sizing up the energy efficiency of homes you're looking at, even if you don’t get a home energy audit. Here are some tips.

Look for clues in the listing. Look for mentions of third-party green certification like LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) or energy-efficient upgrades that have been done to the home (e.g., new appliances, new windows and doors, etc.) Bear in mind that not all sellers will think to include these details in their listings, so be sure to ask your agent about energy efficiency specifically.

Get an eco-friendly agent. When looking for an agent to work with, find out their knowledge of green and energy-efficient properties. Ask if they’ve had success in finding such homes, or if they have listed them before. Some may even have third-party certifications proving they are knowledgeable and have taken courses in the matter, such as the Green Designation from the National Association of REALTORS®.

Look at past bills. To get a true gauge of the energy efficiency of homes you're considering, ask to see the utility data or past bills during the shopping stage or as a provision in the sales contract. This will give you great insight into have much energy the home is using during each season.

Explore energy-efficient mortgages. If you purchase an older home that is not built with a modern set of energy efficient guidelines, you may be able to get an energy-efficient mortgage (EEM). This type of mortgage builds in the expense of energy-efficient improvements into the mortgage payment. You’ll get money to make improvements, and in time, the savings on energy bills will offset the extra cost.

By following these tips and looking into a home energy audit, you’ll be better prepared to find the green home of your dreams.

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