Saving Green with Energy-Efficient Building Products

If you're in the market for a new home, make sure you carefully examine the houses you visit to see which building products installed in the home can help save on your long-term energy bills. Choosing a home constructed with energy efficient and easy maintenance products can help keep the "green" in your home ... and in your wallet.

"Look beyond the number of bedrooms and bathrooms when visiting homes for sale," says Mark Clement, co-host of MyFixitUpLife home improvement talk show. "Homebuyers should walk in with a checklist that includes seeking out ENERGY STAR® qualified appliances, windows and HVAC systems. They should also be looking for a roof with an exceptional warranty, an energy-efficient fiberglass entry door, and preferably an insulated precast concrete basement. Low-maintenance exterior siding, trim shutters and other details also play into the equation."

Clement, a professional contractor with 20+ years of experience, believes homebuyers can save long-term funds by making smart purchasing decisions in the beginning. "You don't buy a house for today, but a home for tomorrow," says Clement. "You want it to last without having to replace half of the home while you live there."

From his experience, Clement offers consumers this "take along checklist" for evaluating homes "from the bottom up" when visiting houses for sale:

    Basement - Look for a damp-free basement. A fantastic situation is a foundation constructed with precast concrete wall panels rather than poured or block concrete. As opposed to concrete blocks or poured concrete, precast concrete panels provide a dry, comfortable, damp-resistant foundation for a home. The energy-efficient walls help lower energy costs and reduce energy leakage while providing increased living space in a comfortable setting.
    HVAC System - Ask about ENERGY STAR and efficiency ratings on the furnace, air conditioning unit, boilers and heat pumps in any home you look at. Ideally you want products that have the "ENERGY STAR Most Efficient" designation. This special classification recognizes the most efficient products in these categories, which can help you save on energy bills.

A second inspection by an HVAC professional may also pay for itself in a few months of utility bills. HVAC systems are often over or undersized. Ductwork that's too small takes a trained eye to spot. In other words, even if a furnace's rating is 98 percent efficient, if the ducts it runs into are too small the unit will never run at peak efficiency --- and you'll pay for it in your utility bills.

    Entry door - As you look at the home's main entry door, determine what the door is made of. A solid fiberglass door is up to four times more energy efficient than a solid wood door, plus you get the benefits that fiberglass has to offer, including resistance to rot, rust, dings and weather.

    Touch the door and check for drafts around the perimeter. If the door feels hot or cold, there may not be enough adequate insulation in its construction. And, look carefully at the weatherstripping to make sure it has not worn out, which can cause air leakage. Also look for bubbling or faded paint at the edges, rust or other signs of wear. If a door needs to be replaced, consider the fiberglass entry doors in the Therma-Tru® Classic-Craft® line. They can come with woodgrain for staining or a smooth surface that can be painted to accent any home design.
    Siding - Look carefully at all sides of the home exterior to see if there is any rotting, warpage, loose or missing pieces or signs of termite damage on the siding. A properly installed cladding should provide years of low-maintenance, comfort and quiet service. Fiber cement, stucco and brick home exteriors are a few options that are traditionally easy to maintain while providing a long-lasting, dependable exterior.
    Windows - Determine when the windows were last replaced in the home and what type of framing material is used. One way to tell their age is to operate them. They should open, close and lock smoothly. Ideally, you're looking for vinyl-framed windows which are extremely easy to maintain. Vinyl is an excellent insulator, and some of the best windows have fusion-welded corners and multi-chambered construction for increased energy efficiency.

    Many manufacturers offer ENERGY STAR qualified glass packages with Argon or Krypton gas fill. These harmless gasses help prevent the penetration of ultraviolet rays into the home and help keep a home cooler in the summer and warmer in the winter, resulting in lower energy bills for the homeowner.
    Trim - Examine the trimwork, porch railings, shutters, louvers and other exterior decorative features on the home. If these are poorly installed or made with substandard products, you may find signs of rotting, insect infestation or the need for repainting or repair. Seek out urethane trim products that are resistant to weather conditions, humidity, rotting and insects. These decorative products offer years of beauty without the hassles of ongoing maintenance.
    Roof - Look up at the roof and search for curling, broken, missing or fading shingles. Ask about the age and material of the roof, and about the roof's warranty. Stay away from natural, untreated wood shake roofs that can be a fire hazard or those roofing materials that can be damaged by hail, insects or severe weather.

    Look for a roof that has a strong warranty to assure you won't be replacing the roof often. 



Reprinted with permission from RISMedia. ©2013. All rights reserved.