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 https://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!

Comments are closed.

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