As climate change becomes more and more of an issue in the United States and around the world, having a green home becomes more and more desirable. According to the National Association of Realtors (NAR), there has been a noticeable increase in the number of homes on the market with energy-efficient features as homeowners try to reduce their impact on the environment.
Green home features, like solar panels, can improve your home’s efficiency by requiring less energy and fewer resources. If you’re considering upgrading your home with green features, here’s everything you need to know, including which green upgrades can increase your home’s value and how to find your home energy score.
Energy statistics 2022
Energy-efficient homes are becoming more common, and buyers are prioritizing green features when shopping. Here are some statistics on energy-efficient homes, including those certified LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design), a rating system widely used by the US Green Building Council.
Checklist for an energy efficient home
If you are considering an energy efficient home, there are a variety of things to look out for. Here are some of the biggest:
- house size: In most cases, larger houses are less efficient because they use more energy to heat and cool. Additionally, larger homes often have more lights, appliances, and other features that require power.
- Green Features: Look for homes that are already equipped with green features. Examples include solar panels, heat pumps for heating and cooling, Energy Star certified appliances and a rainwater harvesting system.
- Building design: The design and layout of a home can have an impact on its energy efficiency. For example, open plan homes are often more efficient than homes divided into smaller rooms because it’s easier to control the temperature and requires fewer building materials.
- Insulation: Look for well-insulated houses to keep the house warm in winter and cool in summer. Spray foam insulation is widely considered the most energy efficient type of insulation.
- Doors and windows: Efficient, well-sealed windows and doors can reduce heating and cooling costs. For better efficiency, you can also install blinds to reduce cold drafts in winter and keep the heat out in summer.
- Sources of energy: Some homes are partially or entirely dependent on renewable energy sources, such as solar power. Homes with solar panels may be more expensive, but they can lower your energy bill. Some states offer incentives for homeowners with solar.
- Indoor environmental quality: Having a good ventilation system can improve the efficiency of your home while reducing the amount of indoor pollution.
- Landscaping: Look for homes with drought-resistant plants, especially in dry areas that don’t get much rain. Some examples of drought-tolerant plants include lavender, rosemary, aloe, and geraniums.
Energy-efficient homes do more than reduce heating, cooling and electricity costs. They also have a positive impact on the environment. When your home requires less energy, it frees up important resources, like water, and reduces reliance on commercial building materials, which often generate large amounts of greenhouse gases.
How can energy-efficient features help sell a home?
A home’s energy efficiency isn’t just important while you live in it. Certain green home features can also increase the value of your home when you are about to sell it.
Data shows that green homes are increasingly sought after by buyers. In a 2022 NAR survey, 50% of realtors said they had helped a client buy or sell a home with green features in the past year, up from 32% the year before.
Another NAR study looked at the energy efficiency features that homebuyers rated as most important. The efficiency of heating/air conditioning and windows/doors/sidings topped the list, with 30% of buyers saying they were important. After that, 24% of shoppers wanted energy-efficient lighting, 20% wanted energy-efficient appliances, and 10% wanted landscaping to save energy. A smaller number of homebuyers, just 3%, were specifically looking for a home with solar panels.
Although energy upgrades can be expensive, certain changes can potentially significantly increase the value of your property. For example, in New Jersey, homes with solar panels can sell for nearly 10% more than homes without — for a median-priced home there, that equates to over $32,000.
Home Energy Score: What Is It and How Can It Help Make Your Home Greener?
Wondering how to make your home more energy efficient? Start by getting your home energy score. This rating system, provided by the US Department of Energy, reflects your home’s current efficiency based on energy use and associated costs. The DOE likens it to a miles per gallon rating for a car, but for your home. Scores are on a scale of 1 to 10, with 10 being the most effective. You can enter your zip code online to find a qualified appraiser to rate your home.
When the assessment is complete, you not only receive a score, but also a full assessor report that breaks down your energy usage and provides suggestions for improvement. However, keep in mind that home energy scores are primarily for your own benefit. The main goal is to help you save money by making strategic green improvements.
Energy saving improvements
Here are some green improvements that can have a significant return on investment:
- Buy energy efficient appliances: Many appliances are available in energy-efficient versions, including washers and dryers, dishwashers, refrigerators, water heaters and air conditioners. If you’re already planning on getting some new appliances, it might be worth the slightly higher cost of an eco-friendly model.
- Switch to a smart thermostat: Smart thermostats make it easy to control your home’s temperature all year round. You can also control the temperature remotely, so you don’t waste money on heating and cooling when you’re away from home.
- Replace bulbs with LED bulbs: Consider replacing traditional light bulbs in your home with LED or low-energy versions. According to the DOE, the average household saves about $225 in energy costs each year by switching to LED bulbs.
- Install low-flow light fixtures: Water use is a big part of energy efficiency. To reduce usage and save money, consider replacing plumbing fixtures with low-flow options, including low-flow toilets, showerheads, and sink faucets.
- Use ceiling fans: Installing ceiling fans can save you money on cooling your home in the summer. They’re very inexpensive compared to whole-house air conditioning systems, and while they don’t do all the work, they can make you less dependent on air conditioning.