BUYER BASICS: Vetting Properties for Energy Savings 

If you’re just starting your home search and energy savings and green features top your priority list, use this checklist to vet potential properties. 

It will help you to quickly eliminate houses that totally miss the mark.  

And once you pick your top contenders, you’ll be able to make better apples-to-apples comparisons among them and work with your real estate practitioner to identify the upgrades that will make a house fit your needs. 

  • Green MLS. Ask your real estate practitioner if the local MLS lists homes’ green features. If yes, start the elimination process by searching for properties with green features and green home labels, such as LEED for Homes or Energy Star.   
  • Energy bills. Ask to review homes’ recent energy bills to see just what you’ll be shelling out to power, heat, and cool a house. 
  • Kitchen appliances. Look for Energy Star labels. Those more efficient appliances can reduce your monthly bills. 

    $$$: A dishwasher made before 1994 could add $35 a year on your utility bills compared to using a new Energy Star-certified model.

  • Outdoors. Do you see broad lawns (read high maintenance and a need for lots of water and possibly chemicals) or water-friendly native plants? Is there already a vegetable garden, rain barrels, and a spot for composting?  
  • Windows. Look for dual- or triple-pane windows and labels indicating that they’re certified as energy efficient. Look at window treatments too. Awnings, blinds, shades, and shutters can reduce heat loss and heat gain. 

    $$$: Energy Star-certified windows can cut your energy bills by up to 15 percent.

  • HVAC. Ask about the age of the HVAC equipment. If it’s more than 10 years old, it could waste money and it may not keep you as comfortable as you’d like.

    $$$: Depending on where you live, heating and cooling equipment with the Energy Star label could save you $115 a year your energy bill. 

  • Water heating.  Is the water heater an old-school storage tank with a standby system or a tankless system? 

    $$$ A typical family could save more than $80 per year by using an Energy Star-certified tankless water heater, which heats water only when you need it. Learn more at

  • Water. Look for WaterSense labels on all faucets. 

    $$$: The average household could save about $170 per year by installing WaterSense-labeled products. Just one labeled toilet, for example, could save a family of four $90 per year on water bills. 

  • Thermostat. See if the house has a programmable thermostat that lets you pre-program settings, which automatically reduce heating and cooling when you’re out or asleep. 

    $$$: Save about $180 a year by properly setting programmable thermostats and maintaining those settings.

Where energy money is spent

Here’s a quick breakdown from the U.S. Department of Energy that shows where energy dollars are typically spent in a house. 

Article courtesy of April 2015 Edition of The Resource | Dennis L Hubbard is a proud member of the Green Resource Council.