Linda Legner is a freelance writer in Burr Ridge, Ill., who covers design, engineering, construction, and real estate topics for newspapers, magazines, and businesses. She can be reached at LLwritebiz@aol.com.
Homes That Save Buyers Money
Appeal to earth-friendly buyers by calling attention to all of your listing's energy-saving features.
September 1, 2005
This growing trend gives you the opportunity to make your listing stand out from the rest by calling attention to all of its energy-efficient amenities, from properly-sealed windows to Energy Star appliances.
Whether your listing is a brand new condo or an old Victorian, just a bit of investigating can uncover many "green" features that will grab buyers' attention. Use this list to identify areas of the home where energy efficiencies may be lurking:
- Appliances and lighting. From the laundry machine to the dining room chandelier, energy-efficient products are proven to save money and consume less energy. To confirm that various products outperform average standards, look for the blue-and-white Energy Star label. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency issues this designation only to products that are among the most efficient on the market. The Energy Star Web site provides a comprehensive list of all Energy Star Qualified Products.
- Insulation. Air leaking through exterior surfaces—such as walls, windows, the roof, and the floor—can waste 25 percent to 40 percent of the energy used to heat or cool a home, according to Energy Star. Local building codes and the U.S. Department of Energy specify acceptable insulation, measured in R-values. The higher the R-value, the more effective the insulation. If your listing has insulation that surpasses local standards, that's an advantage you can tout to potential buyers. Be sure to mention insulation installed in attics and crawlspaces. Also, don't forget to point out wraps, sealants, foams, and tape installed to reduce air moving through the gaps around framing, piping, electrical wiring, and outlets.
- Windows. Depending on the climate and total glass area, windows account for 25 percent to 50 percent of a home's heating and cooling needs. But technological advances in window materials mean much better energy efficiency. U-Factors rate insulating ability for windows; the lower the U-Factor, the better the insulation of the window. Typical U-Factor values range from 0.25 to 1.25. If your listing has insulated window frames or frames made of low-conductance materials (wood, vinyl, or fiberglass), you should call out these features to potential buyers.
- Heating and cooling systems. Efficient heating, ventilation, and air conditioning equipment consumes less fuel, emits less pollution, and generally requires less maintenance. A furnace's heating efficiency is measured by the annual fuel utilization efficiency rating, or AFUE. The U.S. Department of Energy requires all furnaces sold in the United States to have a minimum AFUE rating of 78 percent, which means that the furnace converts 78 percent of the fuel to heat. Only ratings of higher than 90 percent earn the Energy Star label. Similarly, air conditioners should have at least a 10 seasonal energy efficiency ratio, or SEER. Energy Star requires a SEER rating of 12 or higher. If the home has zoned systems that allow different areas to be heated and cooled separately, let potential buyers know that these features deliver additional operating savings. Point out programmable thermostats with timers and variable-air controls, as well as ceiling fans. Let buyers know if a fireplace has glass doors and a heat-air exchange mechanism, which returns warmed air to the room instead of letting it escape. And don't forget to promote radiant flooring, which heats from the ground up and eliminates the draft and dust problems associated with forced air heating systems.
- Landscaping. Well-done landscaping can greatly reduce heating and cooling costs, protect the home from winter wind and summer sun, and help control noise and air pollution. Also, some species of trees, bushes, and grasses require less water than others, or are naturally more resistant to pests so they require fewer pesticides. Learn what kind of plants and trees are growing around the house and promote all of their benefits to buyers. For more details on what to look for, visit Landscaping for Energy Efficiency, an online guide from the U.S. Department of Energy.
- The entire house. Some new homes are rated for overall efficiency by the Energy Star program. A new home certified through the Energy Star program performs at least 30 percent more efficiently than houses built to the 1993 Model Energy Code (or 15 percent more efficient than your state energy code if that is more stringent). The Energy Star designation is verified by an accredited home energy rater and displayed on the inside of the circuit breaker.
Even if your listing isn't a home that buyers would traditionally think of as being green, it is sure to have at least some eco-friendly features that will give it a marketing edge. Let potential buyers know how the home will help their energy bills and the environment, and you may be surprised at how fast you can clinch the sale.
Energy Star Program
The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency introduced Energy Star in 1992 to identify and promote energy-efficient products to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. The label is now on appliances, lighting, home electronics, and other products. It also covers new homes and commercial and industrial buildings.
Glossary of Energy-Related Terms
The acronyms alone can be confusing! If you can't recall what AFUE measures or what SEER stands for, come to this glossary for clarification. You'll also find definitions for hundreds of energy-related words.
Energy Savers: Tips on Saving Energy & Money at Home
This site, from the U.S. Department of Energy's Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy, offers energy-saving tips for all areas of the home, plus a variety of booklets you can download and print in English or Spanish.
Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy
This portal site by the U.S. Department of Energy provides links to other Web sites and online information on energy efficiency and renewable energy.