Can an Older Home be Energy Efficient?

THE SHORT ANSWER HERE IS YES; BUT IT COMES WITH A FEW CAVEATS.
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Sustainable & Attainable

Each passing decade has assured a new era of eco-friendly, energy efficient awareness. Homes built today are more energy efficient than older homes; and it’s not even close. The difference is as much as 30% more according to the U.S. Green Building Council. High-efficiency HVAC systems, enhanced Insulation and Energy Star appliances are among some of the contributing factors. That said, this does not mean that an older home can not be energy efficient. It simply means older houses are not required to meet current more green sensitive eco standards. You can still enjoy the beauty and charm of a more vintage home while being energy efficient. But, this typically calls for a significant amount of modern updates. While new homes cost more initially, you’ll benefit from a more energy efficient home the day you move in. Determining which is the best option for you requires some careful consideration. We’ll go over everything you need to know!

What is an Energy Efficient Home?

Energy efficient homes are designed with energy-saving features that save money on heating,cooling, water, and lighting. You’ll also typically find enhanced insulation, air sealing and high quality HVAC systems. In addition, premium windows and doors also contribute to lower energy bills.

Energy Efficient Home Benefits 

Energy efficient homes have energy-saving features that save money on heating, cooling, water, and lighting. You’ll also typically find enhanced insulation, air sealing and high quality HVAC systems. In addition, premium windows and doors also contribute to lower energy bills.
  • Increased Comfort: Energy efficient homes provide more consistent temperatures throughout the home. 
  • Eco-Friendly: An energy efficient home lessens environmental impact by reducing pollutants released into the environment.
  • Reduced Energy Bills: Less power usage means lower energy bills.
  • Improved Indoor Air Quality: Better insulation reduces the amount of dust, allergens and pollutants in the air from the outside.
  • Increased Home Value: An energy efficient home is a great selling point that adds value to your investment.

Buying an Older Home 

Both building or buying a home present their own unique challenges. This is particularly true if your goal is to purchase a greener, energy efficient house. New houses are built to the latest updated government set standards and regulations. The US Building Code was enacted in 1976. Since then, it has been a major influence in developing green, eco-friendly, home designs and construction practices. This is important to note because approximately 40% of existing US homes were built prior to its introduction. But, regardless of the initial obstacles, enjoying an eco-friendly, energy efficient older home is possible. Start with a qualified real estate agent who understands your needs.

Older Home Pros:

  • Lower Perchance Price - The cost of buying an older home is significantly lower then a new home
  • Established neighborhoods - Older homes have more mature trees and landscaping. 
  • Closer to main business and entertainment areas- Older homes are typically more conveniently located to hospitals, retail and entertainment venues.

Older Home Cons:

  • Higher utility costs - The US Census Bureau reports older home's electricity bills are 17% higher and gas bills are 38% more expensive
  • Less square footage - New homes have larger, more open floor plans
  • Outdated safety standards - Electric, fire safety, and natural disaster protection do not match the high standard of new homes.

Energy Auditor Inspection

Qualified energy auditors or energy efficiency contractors specialize in making older homes more energy efficient. These professionals assess the power usage and determine how to increase overall efficiency. They inspect furnaces, air conditioners, and weatherization. They also advise on ways to reduce energy consumption by installing better insulation or sealing air leaks. If you are purchasing an older home, have a professional consultant check out the property for potential energy efficiency problems.
Having this information prior to signing a contract will allow you to better gauge your true cost once updates are complete. The cost of an energy consultant to audit your home will vary depending on the size and complexity of your home. Generally, a home energy audit from a professional consultant will cost between $500 and $800. This cost includes on-site diagnostics, a thorough inspection of all components of the home's energy system, and a detailed report. In addition, some regions will offer financial incentives or rebates for having an energy audit done; check with your local utility provider for more information.
The cost of the energy audit is typically the responsibility of the buyer. If you are working with a real estate agent, these fees may be included in the cost of the services. Additionally, some energy providers may offer energy audit discounts or incentives.
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Energy Efficiency Tax Breaks

A concern many homeowners have is the initial cost of energy efficient renovations. Fortunately, there are plenty of government sponsored rebates and incentive programs for making these improvements. Also, the potential for considerable long term energy savings can more than offset these expenses.
  • Discounted or free EnergyStar home performance audits offered through utility companies
  • Rebates or credits for installing energy efficient equipment after an energy audit
  • Money off on energy efficient products or services based on the results of an audit.
  • Discounts on a homeowner's energy bill after the installation of energy efficient equipment.
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