Home Inspection and Your Green Home

by Michael Kiefer


Once you have found your new home and successfully negotiated the contract with your agent, the next step is usually to schedule a home inspection. However, much like houses, home inspectors need to be evaluated, and finding one that can answer the flurry of questions that you have about the integrity and energy efficiency of your home is important these days.

Most home inspectors are becoming well versed in issues concerning the energy efficiency and green attributes of homes, but if you really want to be proactive you need to generate your own list of questions. Here are some that are worth asking:

  • What are ways that I can increase the efficiency of my HVAC system?
  • Where can I add insulation in the house and what type would you recommend?
  • What can I do to remove the condensation between double pane windows?
  • What kinds of paints can I use on the roof to make it reflective?
  • Can I change the old thermostat to a programmable one?

The answers that an inspector gives to these questions will help you narrow down and choose one that understands the importance of the green attributes of various systems in a home. However, if you really want to understand more about the home you are going to be living in, you may want to accompany him/her during the inspection.

Typically, the first place that inspectors head is to the basement where the HVAC, water and heating systems and electrical panel should be. Most systems should have an installation date and efficiency rating, but keep in mind that a system is only as efficient as the maintenance that was put into it over the course of its life, so ask the inspector if dirt/corrosion has built up reducing the overall efficiency. Some inspectors estimate approximately how much life might be left in a system and whether it should be replaced or if a service agreement should be negotiated into the sale. If you want to be a bit more inclusive, ask the inspector about the A-coil on the HVAC system as this will give you an indication of how well the current owner maintains the cooling system and the house overall.

Electrical wiring tends to be tricky to evaluate as some DC homes have brand new wiring and some have the original wiring that can be 70 or so years old. A well-labeled electrical panel and organized wiring tends to indicate a professional installation, however always ask the inspector what type of wiring it is and the approximate age.

If you are looking at buying a newly built or renovated home, it has most likely been insulated according to code (meaning the bare minimum). However, your inspector really needs to dig around and measure the depth of the insulating material used. If it is an older property that hasn’t been renovated, chances are you will be investing in some insulation and, if properly done, it is well worth the time and money spent. Insulation works best with a tight building envelop (meaning well sealed from outside air) as humid air transpiring through the insulation reduces its expected insulating value. Ask your inspector if they see or feel any signs of air movement occurring (dusting streaks sometimes around vents indicate that conditioned air might be escaping) as this can add on a significant charge to your utility bills.

Plumbing tends to be a challenge in older homes as you will run across mixed metals being used in pipes which, for the most part, should be avoided. Galvanized piping, in particular, makes inspectors cringe as it eventually leads to corrosion and reduced water pressure on upper floors. There isn’t one material that is greener than another, but most builders use PVC due to its cost effectiveness and quick installation. Copper tends to be better quality although the hot water runs need to be insulated as it radiates heat quickly.

Overall, a home inspector can share some insightful information, but you need to do your homework to know if your pending purchase is truly a wise one. Alternatively, if the negotiated price reflects the opportunity of building in that future efficiency, you should let the inspector know of your plans and take notes.

See other articles related to: green real estate dc

This article originally published at http://dc.urbanturf.com/articles/blog/home_inspection_and_your_green_home/1367


  1. Benji said at 11:08 am on Thursday October 1, 2009:

    Thanks for this series of green articles. After reading this one, I wondered if there are particularly good home inspectors in the DC area that are known for having “green” expertise. Anyone know if any?

  1. Michael Kiefer said at 11:25 am on Thursday October 1, 2009:


    What I can say from working with home inspectors on both sides of transactions they all have certain features they really concentrate on.  The best step would be to review the following page http://www.ashi.org/find/results.aspx?st=1&lat=38.9245134&lng;=-76.9700669&radius=150 as it will have all those that are certified or licensed in some capacity and make some calls well before you start looking at houses.  You should also ask if they were ever contractors or builders as they will certainly have a different view on things.

    Hope this helps!

  1. Kevin A. Jenkins said at 2:52 pm on Thursday October 1, 2009:

    The information in this article is timely and right on the spot. I purchased a house in June 2009 and i wish i had asked many of the questions before hand. Instead, i found out from my contractor that my home inspector was good, but had i read this article before, i would have known specific questions to ask.

    I still got a good deal though so i’m not complaining.

    Great tips.

  1. B said at 3:32 pm on Thursday October 1, 2009:

    A more useful piece of advice—never let your real estate agent recommend an inspector.  Agent rolodexes are only filled with simpatico inspectors who aren’t deal killers.  You may in fact need a deal killer if your home inspection turns up real issues.  You want the truth

  1. Cliff K said at 3:22 pm on Friday October 2, 2009:

    Great article with good questions for buyers. However, as a home inspector I have to tell you that it the certification process can be frustrating. I have a certification to do energy inspections and my current certification can qualify borrowers for an energy efficiency mortgage. It’s not enough so I’ll be testing next week for my HERS-RESNET credentials. There’s another body, the BPI, which also certifies auditors, and I’ll probably get that certification in JAN. And that’s just the beginning. I just got my healthy homes certification, which cover indoor health issues like allergens, insects, and mold, which I used this morning to advise a home owner on a mold and moisture problem. And alas there are other orgs that say I need their certifications in this area as well. My hope for future inspectors is that some of these orgs quit hating on each other and merge and make it easier on us.

  1. Steve S said at 12:15 pm on Monday October 5, 2009:

    Great suggestions! I would add that when you, your agent and inspector are going through the property and see an issue, ask right away what the implications are to your goal of a green/efficient house. Also ask for approximate cost to remedy, and if possible, a recommendation on a contractor. Assembling all this at inspection time will help you negotiate with the seller (if desirable) and facilitate getting the work you need done.

    Re: B said’s comments: I would say “It depends”. Inspectors can sometimes be hard to schedule on short notice. So if your agent is the only one who can find one to get the inspection scheduled on time, then I wouldn’t let that hold things up. But this begs the question—if you can’t trust your agent to be impartial and truthful with inspections, what other aspects of the buying process are you risking with an untrustworthy agent?? And this will be even more so with regards to energy efficiency and green buying which have a myriad of acronyms and important considerations all their own.

  1. Joni Aarden said at 11:34 am on Tuesday October 6, 2009:

    These are really great tips! So important to be aware of these things before you purchase a home so that you know what you are getting in to. It’s all about being an educated “Green” homebuyer!

    Thanks for the info!

  1. Margarita Rozenfeld said at 12:34 pm on Thursday October 8, 2009:

    Awesome tips Michael!  I think it’s important for consumers to be educated and aware and you’re providing us with a good place to start.  Thank you!

Join the discussion

UrbanTurf now requires registration in order to post comments. Register here, or login below if you are already registered.

Click here if you forgot your password.

DC Real Estate Guides

Short guides to navigating the DC-area real estate market

We've collected all our helpful guides for buying, selling and renting in and around Washington, DC in one place. Visit guides.urbanturf.com or start browsing below!

Northern Virginia

Profiles of 14 neighborhoods across Northern Virginia

Looking to Give People A Reason to Stay Past 6pm
Happily Straddling the Line Between City and Suburb
Columbia Pike
Arlington’s Neglected Stepchild is Getting a Makeover
Crystal City
Turning Lemons into Lemonade
Lyon Village
Developing An Air of Exclusivity?
Hitting Its Growth Spurt
An Urban Village Hitting Its Stride
Del Ray
Virginia’s Small Town Near the Big City
Eisenhower Avenue
The Vibrancy Might Take a Few Years
The Quiet Neighborhood By the Beltway
Old Town
Mayberry By The Potomac
132 Commerical-Free Acres
Downtown Falls Church
Staying the Same in the Midst of Change
Tysons Corner
Radical Change Could Be On The Way

See more Northern Virginia »


Profiles of 14 neighborhoods in suburban Maryland

Small-Town Living in the State Capital
Bedroom Community Gets Buzzing Cache
Cabin John
In With The New While Maintaining the Old
Chevy Chase
Affluence, Green Lawns and Pricey Homes
Downtown Silver Spring
Experiencing a Resurgence After a Bumpy History
A Suburb on Steroids
Rockville Town Square
Despite the Dynamism, Still Somewhat Generic
Takoma Park
More Than a Little Bit Quirky
A Foodie Magnet on the Verge of Change
Capitol Heights
Kudzu, Front Porches and Crime
Glass Half Full or Half Empty?
Mount Rainier
Artists, Affordable Homes and A Silo Full of Corn
National Harbor
A Development Rises Next to the Potomac
Riverdale Park
A Town Looking For Its Identity

See more Maryland »

Northwest DC

30+ neighborhood profiles for the city's biggest quadrant

16th Street Heights
DC's Sleeper Neighborhood
Where (Almost) Everyone Knows Your Name
AU Park
One of DC’s Last Frontiers Before the Suburbs
DC’s Northern Neighborhood on the Cusp
DC’s 535 House Neighborhood
Cathedral Heights
Do You Know Where That Is?
Chevy Chase DC
Not to Be Confused With the Other Chevy Chase
Cleveland Park
Coming Back After A Rough Year
Columbia Heights
DC’s Most Diverse Neighborhood, But For How Long?
An Island of Serenity East of the Park
Dupont Circle
The Best of DC (For a Price)
Foggy Bottom & West End
Where the Institutional Meets the International
Forest Hills
Ambassadors and Adventurous Architecture
Fort Totten
Five Years Could Make a Big Difference
Foxhall Village
350 Homes Just West of Georgetown
Friendship Heights
A Shopping Mecca With a Few Places to Live
History, Hoyas and H&M
Glover Park
One of DC’s Preppier and More Family-Friendly Neighborhoods
A Posh View From Embassy Row
LeDroit Park
A Quiet Enclave in the Middle of the City
Logan Circle
Trendy Now, But Not By Accident
Mount Pleasant
Sought-After Homes Surround Main Street in Transition
Mount Vernon Triangle
From Seedy to Sought-After
The Long, Skinny Neighborhood at the City’s Northwest Edge
Park View
It’s Not Petworth
Penn Quarter/Chinatown
DC’s Go-Go-Go Neighborhood
Getting a Vibrancy of Its Own
The Duke’s Former Stomping Ground
Shepherd Park
DC’s Garden of Diversity
Spring Valley
A Suburb With a DC Zip Code
Not To Be Confused With Takoma Park
Not Quite Like Its Neighbors
U Street Corridor
The Difference a Decade Makes
Woodley Park
Deceptively Residential
Adams Morgan
No Longer DC’s Hippest Neighborhood, But Still Loved by Residents

See more Northwest DC »

Southwest DC

The little quadrant that could

Southwest Waterfront
A Neighborhood Where A Change Is Gonna Come

See more Southwest DC »

Northeast DC

Profiles of 10 neighborhoods in NE

New Development Could Shake Up Pastoral Peace
A Little Bit of Country Just Inside the District’s Borders
Not to Be Confused With Bloomingdale
H Street
A Place To Party, and To Settle Down
The Northeast Neighborhood That Few Know About
Michigan Park
A Newsletter-On-Your-Doorstep Community
Evolving from a Brand to a Neighborhood
Ripe for Investment Right About Now
The Difference 5 Years Makes
Big Houses, A Dusty Commercial Strip and Potential

See more Northeast DC »

Southeast DC

6 neighborhoods from Capitol Hill to East of the River

Capitol Riverfront
Still Growing
Hill East
Capitol Hill’s Lesser Known Neighbor
Congress Heights
Gradually Rising
Notable for Its Neighborliness
Historic Anacostia
Future Promise Breeds Cautious Optimism
Eastern Market
A More European Way of Living

See more Southeast DC »

Upcoming Seminars ▾