Buying a "Green" Home

By Lee Cameron Published 08/11/2011 | Real Estate

Though it has become less and less of a trend in the tough economy, buying "green" - environmentally friendly products - is still very popular with many people. A house, with its high use of natural resources and energy costs, can leave a large carbon footprint. If you're environmentally conscious (or if you simply like the idea of saving some money on your energy bills) you might be considering buying a "green" home. But do you know what to ask?

- Size matters

Easily, the factor that contributes the most to a home's energy efficiency is its size. A bigger home takes more energy to heat and cool. The smaller the home, the more energy efficient it will be. According to the U.S. Green Building Council, the "neutral size" for a one-bedroom home is 900 square feet. For a two-bedroom home, it's 1,400 and it's 1.900 for a three-bedroom home. Those high ceilings might be a nice luxury but they come with an energy cost.

- Facing the sun

Here's one that nobody ever thinks about. Did you know that the direction your house faces can make a difference in your cooling bills? In the Northern Hemisphere, our hot summer sun is actually in the Southern sky. That means if you're house has big windows that are facing south, you'll be letting in a great deal of extra light and heat into your home every day. To counter this, either look for homes that face North or find a home that has plenty of shade on its Southern side to help block out all of that warm sunlight.

- Insulate yourself

Good insulation is also important in a "green" home. If there are air flow leaks in your home, you're A/C is not being as efficient as it could be and some of that cool air is escaping indoors (and warm air is likely coming in). Make sure that your home is properly insulated and that all cracks and holes are sealed. 

- The roof color

Believe it or not, it also makes a difference what color your roof is. A dark colored roof will absorb the heat from the sun and transfer it down into your home. A light colored roof will reflect much of the light and heat that hits it. 

There are plenty of other things you can look at to make sure your home is environmentally friendly and energy efficient. Make sure that the house has properly working electrical and plumbing systems. Have the air tested for toxins. Find out if the home was built using recycled materials. You can even get the U.S. Green Building Council or the EPA to certify your home. Educate yourself before you go house hunting and you'll find a home that's good for you and the rest of the planet as well.