Increase Home Value By Lowering Energy Costs
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Increase Home Value By Lowering Energy Costs

Smart home sellers can increase a home's value by reducing it's heating and cooling costs.

A depressed real estate market has many homeowners going to extreme lengths to increase the value of their home. Some will do room additions, complete kitchen or bath renovations; others will invest small fortunes in sod, lawn maintenance and restructured landscaping. The first options lend interior appeal to the home; the last, give more curb appeal to the home's lot and exterior.

These may be worthy expenditures in many cases but, more often than not, the investment is never recouped when the home is sold. There are other ways to make a home more appealing to buyers that are not so obvious or so expensive.

Current trends in heating and air conditioning have increased efficiency in HVAC systems. Existing homes with old furnaces that used propane, oil or natural gas may have an AFUE (Annualized Fuel Efficiency Rating) of only 65-75. That means an older furnace only utilizes 65-75% of the fuel used. Waste going out the flue, vent or chimney accounts for the other 25-35% New, efficient furnaces have an AFUE of up to 95, with only a 5% fuel waste.

If a homeowner can explain how cheaply the home uses fuel or utilities for heating and air, that often becomes a better selling point than a remodeled bathroom. It is an unseen advantage of the home. Current gasoline prices make higher mpg vehicles a great seller. Even though the vehicle may not have many "bells and whistles", it is often the lower expense of operation that seals the sale of an automobile.

There are thousands of homes sitting with old heat pumps, less than adequate insulation, inefficient furnaces, leaky ducting and poorly-calibrated thermostats. If these homes were brought up-to-date in energy efficiency, their upgrade can be a serious draw for a completely different type of home shopper.

Yes, there are those who want a modern kitchen, a luxurious bath and even great landscaping. However, with fuel and energy prices going through the roof, an efficient home that is heated and cooled cheaply adds another dimension to attract home buyers. Getting a car that has high miles-per-gallon draws buyers--why not a home that has low electric and fuel bills? The concept of lower operating costs is the same in each case.

A home with three simple improvements to their energy efficiency can make the difference in a sale. Consider these:

Leaky Ducts--It is estimated that 20% of average homes have leaks in the ducting. HVAC experts can seal those and reduce home energy costs from 10 to 30%.

Programable Thermostats--A home that can reduce heating and cooling costs while the home is unoccupied is saving money. A programmable thermostat can be set to automatically cut back heating and cooling needs while the occupants are away. Industry studies show a 3% energy savings for each degree of setback. Reducing cooling needs from 70 degrees (occupied) to 76 degrees (unoccupied) results in an 18% savings during the unoccupied period.

Insulation Upgrades--HVAC specialists refer to the walls and attic of a home as the "envelope". When that envelope is properly insulated, hot and cold air pentration is reduced. As hot and cold air comes in contact with a home, insulation slows the process of outside temperatures radiating into the home's interior. Simply increasing the level of attic insulation increases that barrier and can greatly reduce energy costs.

Just taking these three steps to increase energy savings is, more often that not, less expensive than a bathroom remodel.

Energy efficiency is going to become a big draw to home buyers. Those conscious of "green" issues will be more keenly aware of energy consumption but, as prices climb, the general buyer is also going to come on board. Smart sellers and real estate agents will add this "unseen" home improvement to their list of a home's amenities.

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