Five Green Features to Keep an Eye Out for When House Hunting

by Michael Kiefer

Energy Efficient Windows from Glas Sustainable Development

With the Green Festival coming to town, now is a good time for this week’s article on the top five green features you should watch for when shopping for a home. Our regional multiple listing service (MRIS) now allows agents to post specific green features about properties, however agents need to be actually aware of those features and post them correctly.

Here are five things that should be on your checklist as you look for your new home:

* Building insulation
* Recently-installed Energy Star-rated appliances
* Double paned or storm windows with screens
* Ceiling fans
* Low VOC finishes

While some of these features add to the overall appraisal value and can be quantified in a mortgage, others become more of a lifestyle comfort to consider when evaluating the property value with your agent. Although the market has not evolved to the point where all agents are actively marketing these features, being armed with the following guidelines will help you make wise decisions.

Building Insulation

When previewing homes, it is difficult to know how much insulation is behind the walls.  Generally, developers and builders go with what the code calls for, which, as discussed in past articles, is the bare minimum. (Note: Walls are supposed to have R-13 insulation and attic/crawl spaces are to be equipped with R-38.) Some developers are seeing the benefit of paying better attention to “green features” and are using spray-in foam insulation applications, which give much more bang for the buck than other forms of insulation.

Energy Star Appliances

The value of a home equipped with Energy Star-rated appliances is finally making its way onto appraisers’ radars and they are being a bit more attentive to the economic factors and efficiency that these appliances bring. When looking at appliances in a new home, be particularly attentive to refrigerators, washing machines, and HVAC equipment, as they tend to use the most energy. Understanding the “miles per gallon” of a home can be understood by reading any of the yellow “Energy Guide” stickers on the side of these appliances.

The Window Factor

Nothing beats a great window, but what is your best option when there are literally dozens of manufacturers and styles out there to choose from? The key to making sure you are getting decent windows with your purchase is to examine each one before you make an offer. This includes: checking for screens, making sure there is no condensation between the panes of glass (condensation means the insulating inert gas has leaked out and the window needs to be replaced) and checking to make sure there are no gaps between the top and bottom windows that would let air in.

Ceiling Fans

Good ceiling fans tend to rank rather high on a buyer’s checklist these days as it is much more efficient and cost effective to cool a home with a ceiling fan than with air conditioning. Look for homes that have fans on different floors as it will circulate the air much more evenly throughout the property. 

Low/No VOC (Volatile Organic Compound) Finishes

The use of low VOC floor and wall finishes, although not entirely mainstream, are now used by a growing number of consumers that are conscious about their home air quality. Finishes that contain high levels of VOCs produce a breathable gas when applied, diminish air quality, and may even be detrimental to your health. But how does one really do a search on homes with low VOC finishes? Although consumer awareness is growing in terms of the benefits of reduced chemical use in the home, identifying homes where low VOC products are used is still not that easy. However, there are an ever-increasing number of retailers out there (Amicus in Kensington is one) that supply low or no VOC finishes from paints and stains to carpets, so some of the final green touches of your new home could actually be completed as a do-it-yourself project.

If you have additional questions about green features, contact me at .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address).

See other articles related to: green real estate dc

This article originally published at http://dc.urbanturf.com/articles/blog/five_green_features_to_keep_an_eye_out_for_when_house_hunting/1393


  1. Steven said at 11:56 am on Thursday October 8, 2009:

    Not only is the Green Festival coming to town, but so is the Solar Decathlon!

  1. Adam Gallegos said at 11:11 am on Friday October 9, 2009:

    Good post.  In addition, we have created a list of 10 tips for greening the home buying and selling process.  http://tinyurl.com/yjb5muo

  1. HyoJung Garland said at 9:56 pm on Friday October 16, 2009:

    Listing specific green features in the MRIS is an excellent idea! I suggest also if the seller doesn�™t mind to disclose their energy bill, it will be good to check as a buyer. With consideration of the number of household, still that can give the idea for the reality! Our energy bill is about $150ish and our neighbor was complaining about her $500 bills. If seller has also sustainable landscape feature, that should not be missed. (i.e. Pervious paving, rain barrels, low water consuming planting materials, etc.)
    By considering all these items, consumers should be willing to pay more upfront in the exchange of the low on going energy bill.

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