Think green when remodeling

Adding insulation is a way to make any home more energy efficient. Indiana Spray Foam worker Justin McMullen prepares to line a basement ceiling with insulation.

Remodeled bathrooms and kitchens definitely have their appeal, but more and more, homes with energy efficient and environmentally friendly features are becoming a priority for prospective buyers.

According to the National Association of REALTORS® (NAR) 2012 Profile of Home Buyers and Sellers, nearly nine out of 10 recent home buyers said that heating and cooling costs were somewhat or very important when considering a home for purchase.

“Realtors® build communities and know that consumer demand for greener homes and features has grown considerably over the past several years. Going green has proven to be more than a trend; many people now seek out this way of living and want homes and communities that are more resource efficient and sensitive to the environment,” NAR President Gary Thomas said. “As energy savings and green building features are becoming more important to buyers, sellers and businesses, it comes as no surprise that consumers are placing a higher value on properties with those features.”

It’s easy to understand why homebuyers tend to favor “green” houses. Simple math shows how a higher energy efficiency rating offers homeowners the opportunity to save more money in heating and cooling costs alone.

NAR data shows how features directly affecting monthly energy costs are important to buyers. Thirty-nine percent of survey respondents reported that a home’s heating and cooling costs were very important when considering a home for purchase, followed by energy-efficient appliances and lighting, each at 24 percent. Landscaping for energy conservation and environmentally friendly community features were less important but were still a factor in the minds of homebuyers with nearly half of buyers finding these features very or somewhat important.

Regionally, buyers in the north and south placed a greater importance on heating and cooling costs, most likely due to the more extreme temperatures in these areas of the country. The survey also found that buyers who purchased more recently built homes placed greater importance on environmentally friendly features than buyers who purchased older homes. Nearly 60 percent of buyers who bought homes built in 2011 said heating and cooling costs were very important, compared to less than 30 percent of buyers whose homes were built before 1910.

As energy costs continue to rise, look for those numbers to increase right along with them.

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Beyond saving money (conservation measures reduce energy and water consumption), green homes offer homeowners a number of desirable benefits:

• Increased comfort - green homes utilize the whole house approach, providing even temperatures throughout the home, with less draft and better humidity control.

• Enhanced durability and less maintenance- green homes incorporate materials and building products that increase the life of individual components, thus the whole house. Longer lasting materials require fewer resources, but also reduce maintenance and repair costs.

• Improved environmental quality - green building guidelines require builders to pay extra close attention to details that control moisture, choose materials that have fewer chemicals, and design air exchange and filtration systems that contribute to higher indoor air quality.

• Increased value - the durability and energy/water savings of a home lead to higher appraised values as well as higher resale value.

While new construction features like lot design, preparation and development are fairly set in stone in an existing home, there are many options when it comes to energy efficiency (improvements that will make the home less expensive to operate and more comfortable to live in), water efficiency (improvements in water delivery to reduce use indoors and out) and indoor air quality (even small changes can lead to health benefits).

While replacing HVAC or a water heater upgrade or adding insulation may not be on the same level as a new kitchen or bathroom when it comes to appearances, they are definitely a smart way to your remodeling budget. Not only will energy-efficient improvements start paying you back immediately, they will also make your home more comfortable no matter what season it is.

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