Summer is heating up quickly. Many homeowners don’t realize that properly preparing a home for the summer is just as important as the steps we take in the winter to reduce heating costs.
According to the Environmental Protection Agency, nearly 20 percent of the average homeowner’s utility bill is spent on cooling. In the sweltering summer months, the increased energy production needed to run air conditioners raises costs and also contributes to pollution. While there are several areas in every home that contribute to the cost of energy bills, REALTORS® should highlight energy-efficient features like new cooling systems and windows as selling points when showing homes to potential buyers.
After a homebuyer selects their home, real estate agents can help their clients take a proactive approach to saving on energy costs by recommending a home inspection company that goes behind the scenes to provide thorough, professional and comprehensive home evaluations. At Pillar To Post, our inspectors evaluate more than 1,600 items in and around the home, including HVAC systems and all areas where heat is likely to infiltrate, such as roofs, attics, windows and doors.
REALTORS® should remind their clients that by hiring a home inspector, they’ll be more informed about how energy efficient their dream home is and what they can anticipate spending on energy bills and annual maintenance.
Sources of Heat Infiltration and Locating Energy-Related Selling Points in the Home
A new air conditioning/heating system, energy-efficient windows and doors and light-blocking window treatments are all features real estate professionals should use as selling points when discussing energy efficiency with homebuyers. Not only do these features add value to a home, but REALTORS® should also point out the long-term cost savings when it comes to paying the utility bill.
A new air conditioner is a perk for homebuyers. Most cooling systems last about 15 years before needing replacement. When showing a home with an air conditioner that was purchased within the last several years, REALTORS® should be sure to mention this information to the buyer because it means one less potential expense to worry about in the near future. A home inspector can give further details on the capabilities of the system.
Window technology has come a long way in recent years, and new windows—as opposed to leaky, poor-fitting windows that often waste energy—are a great added feature for homebuyers. When house hunting, REALTORS® and their clients should not only pay attention to the quality of windows but also the direction houses face and where windows are located. In North America, south-facing windows receive the most heat throughout the day (north windows receive the least, and east and west get hit hard, but only briefly when the sun is rising or setting).
While a south-facing room filled with windows might be appealing to an interior decorator’s eye and is a comfortable temperature at 9 a.m., the temperature can easily rise 10 degrees by afternoon if window coverings aren’t used. Light-blocking window treatments are another major selling point for REALTORS®, especially in geographic areas with warmer climates where the sun beats harder into the home. Increased sunlight forces the air conditioner to work harder, which also raises energy costs. Many first-time homebuyers are unaware of the benefits of custom window treatments, both in terms of energy savings and costs of installing them after the sale.
Most homebuyers never set foot in an attic before going under contract, but a reputable home inspector will spend a considerable amount of time in the attic during the inspection process. Because hot air rises, the attic is typically the hottest spot in the house. Attics can reach 150 degrees in the summer, making proper insulation imperative. Weather-stripping and sweeps placed around the attic entry will add additional protection to ensure the hot attic air doesn’t escape into other areas of the home. A solar attic fan is another energy-efficient selling point. When an attic is hotter than the peak outdoor temperature, an attic fan vents the extra heat, saving money on cooling costs.
A home’s duct system is another area that should be thoroughly inspected by professionals. Nearly 20 percent of the air moving through a home’s duct system is lost due to leaks and poor connections. Duct work should be sealed using mastic sealant or metal tape. Home inspectors will check all ducts that are easily accessible—such as ducts found in attics, crawlspaces, unfinished basements and garages—and show where sealing is inadequate. A home inspector will also check connections at vents and registers to make sure they’re well-sealed in areas where they connect with floors, walls and ceilings because all these areas are common locations to find leaks and disconnected ductwork.
Not every homebuyer can afford a home with energy-efficient upgrades. However, REALTORS® can also provide helpful do-it-yourself tips to help homeowners reduce energy costs and keep their new homes as cool as possible during the summer months without having to spend a lot of money. Window treatments don’t have to be costly; installing curtains, mini-blinds or basic shades and making sure they’re closed while the sun is hitting the glass can reduce solar gain by 40 to 50 percent. Ceiling fans and programmable thermostats are both relatively affordable and relatively easy to install. A programmable thermostat should be set at 70 to 75 degrees when at home and turned up to 80 when no one is home. Position electric devices a few feet away from the thermostat because the heat they emit can trigger the AC unit to turn up and run longer than necessary. At night, when the temperature is at least three degrees cooler outside than it is indoors, open opposing windows to create a nice cross-breeze, then close them in the morning to trap in the cool air.
Dan Steward is the President of Pillar To Post Home Inspections.
For more information, visit www.pillartopost.com.