A family looking at a new home

Energy pointers for house hunting

Factoring energy-efficient features into your search could save you money in the years ahead.

Looking for your perfect home is an exciting process, but there's more to look out for besides granite countertops or beautiful hardwood floors.

Watch out for old appliances

Large appliances like fridges, stoves and laundry machines often come as a package deal when you're buying a home. Appliances that are ENERGY STAR®-certified will help keep your monthly bills down.

Washing machines with that blue seal, for example, use 25 per cent less energy and 33 per cent less water than standard products. Likewise, ENERGY STAR®-certified refrigerators are nine per cent more energy efficient than standard products and use only half the energy of older models.

While you're in the kitchen, check that the fridge door seals are in good condition to ensure no unnecessary energy is used to maintain a set temperature inside.

The good news? If appliances like dryers or dishwashers are dated in your new home, you can factor rebates into the cost of upgrading.

Keep temperature in mind

You may not think about comfort levels during an open house walk-through, but your home’s temperature is crucial for your day-to-day living. Heating and cooling systems make up a large portion of energy bills, so pay careful attention to them when visiting a property.

If the house has a furnace or air conditioner, find out how old they are and what shape they’re in (ideally, they’ll be ENERGY STAR®-certified). Older equipment is often less efficient, but proper maintenance can keep them running smoothly until you can invest in more efficient models.

Some homes may have air-source heat pumps, which are much more efficient at heating or cooling your home than electrical furnaces and heaters. They move air instead of producing it, reducing your household’s carbon footprint and saving you up to $325 a year. 

If you spot ceiling fans, that’s a plus. An ENERGY STAR®-certified ceiling fan will use up to 40 per cent less energy  than regular fans.

What’s behind the walls?

Take insulation levels of your potential new home into consideration by asking the seller (or your real estate agent) whether the walls, floors, interior hot water pipes and the attic have been insulated and upgraded for a comfortable home all year long. For example, insulated exterior walls can stop up to 20 per cent of home energy loss and help you save on your heating and cooling costs.

Beware of drafty windows and doors

Drafty windows can account for up to a quarter of your home’s heat loss, which means more energy is being used on air conditioning or heating. Look for condensation, poor caulking or gaps between the window and the house’s siding.

If your perfect home is drafty, weatherstripping around doors and windows is an inexpensive way to make it more comfortable and energy efficient. Air-sealed or weatherstripped doors and windows can reduce up to 15 per cent of your heating bills by preventing warm or cool air loss through the gaps.

If you want to upgrade, look for high-performance ENERGY STAR®-certified windows, which are designed to reduce condensation and block outdoor noise. Additionally, storm doors and windows are great features that also act as an extra layer of protection from the weather, reducing almost 50 per cent of heat loss.

Think about light

Consider the lighting sources in your potential buy. Is there overhead lighting, and if not, would you want to add it? There may be opportunities to use more task lighting in a potential home, so you can save on the costs of keeping all the lights on. Plus, if the home already has energy-efficient LED lighting, you can save a bundle.

Consider natural light, too. A home with plenty of windows and light is a draw for most of us and can help keep your home warmer during the winter. But they may add to your cooling needs in the summer, so think about how window coverings can help block sunlight.

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