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Earth day tips

Posted by Rona Fischman  April 26, 2011 01:45 PM

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I’m a little late for Earth day, which was last Thursday, but the beautiful weather on Sunday inspired me to mention these spring energy tips for home buyers.

The energy costs of a house can’t be determined by size alone. The two factors that affect it the most are personal usage and the efficiency of the house itself. Usage depends on you. Efficiency can be modified once you own it.

I frequently have buyers who get stuck in the details of energy costs and miss the big picture. A low annual energy bill (given by the happy sellers) may reflect a winter when they were in Florida and the thermostat was set at 45 degrees. If a buyer depends on that figure, the buyer must also know the typical usage of the current residents.

Buyers, these are the things to watch for when house hunting in the spring and summer:

Attic:

The purpose of attic insulation is to keep home heat from rising out of the living space during the winter. This is a very effective way to save home heating costs. If this insulation is thick and effective, it will be so hot in the attic that you can’t stay there unless the attic is also ventilated.

Attics hold heat that is absorbed by the roof in the summer. This is hard on the roof, and it also makes the house hotter. Ventilation helps this. Look for visible light where the attic floor meets the roof edge in the attic. That is a soffit vent. Vents around the attic perimeter allow air to rise into the attic. Along with soffit vents, there needs to be a way for the warmer air to flow out. Look for a ridge vent (at the peak of the roof) or gable vents (openings cut into the side walls near the ceiling) or mushroom or box vents (openings in the roof surface that are protected from wetness by metal boxes above.) Sometimes you will see a fan attached to a gable or box vent which further helps the hot air out of the attic. Also note if there are screens on these vents. Openings will invite bees and birds into your attic.

Attics that hold HVAC systems frequently have insulation blown on the interior roofing surface to retard the heat from getting into the attic.

Floors:
Watch out for finished porches with no foundation and rooms over garages. They are prone to cold floors. Even in the spring and summer, the floor may feel cooler. Look for insulation and be prepared to add more to those areas.

General:
In spring and summer, if one part of the house is much hotter than the rest of the house, chances are, it will be much colder in winter, too. Notice where there are hot and cold spots that can’t be accounted for by fans or AC, or open windows.

According the Environmental Protection Agency, the average home pollutes twice as much as the average car. Homeowners can mitigate this by insulating, ventilating and using their heating and cooling systems effectively.

Homeowners, what modification have been energy and cost effective for you? What surprises did you find, energy-wise during the first winter in your house?

This blog is not written or edited by Boston.com or the Boston Globe.
The author is solely responsible for the content.

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About boston real estate now
Scott Van Voorhis is a freelance writer who specializes in real estate and business issues.

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