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5 Questions to ask your home inspector

By Miranda Boutelle

5 Questions to ask your home inspector

Many factors go into buying a home. For most people, energy efficiency does not top the list, and unfortunately, houses don’t typically come with energy efficiency ratings. It can be difficult for a buyer to know how efficient a home is when viewing the listing online or taking a tour. But your home inspector can help you identify potential energy costs and energy-efficiency upgrades. Some homes may already be efficient, while other homes may need improvements. There’s nothing wrong with buying an inefficient home, but you will want to know what you’re getting into and that you can afford the energy costs once you get the keys. 

What is the condition of the electrical panel and wiring throughout the home?

A panel upgrade or rewiring can be a costly endeavor. An older panel and wiring aren’t inefficient, but it can delay or make some energy-efficiency projects more expensive. In several homes I have worked on, older wiring had to be replaced before insulation could be added. Make sure the panel can accommodate any new appliances you might want to add, such as air conditioning or an electric vehicle charger. 

How old is the HVAC system, and how efficient is it? Has it been maintained?

The typical lifespan of an HVAC system is 15 to 25 years. As the largest energy user and often the most expensive equipment in the home, you will want to know the energy, maintenance and replacement costs. If the HVAC system is old, consider the cost for a replacement. 

How old is the water heater?

The lifespan of a storage water heater is about 10 years. The cost to replace a water heater ranges from $400 to $3,600, depending on the unit type and installation costs. If an older water heater is in a finished space or on a second floor, replace it before it fails and potentially causes water damage. 

What are the levels and conditions of insulation in the attic, walls, and floor?

Insulation is one of the easiest and most beneficial energy-efficiency upgrades you can make. It isn’t as pretty as new countertops, but it can make a home more comfortable, waste less energy, and reduce outdoor noise. To cut down on drafts and make insulation more effective, air seal before insulating. Seal cracks, gaps or holes in the walls, floors, ceiling and framing between heated and unheated spaces. If your new home needs insulation and air sealing, make this your efficiency priority. The sooner you do it, the more energy you will save over time. 

Are there any extras in this home that will increase my utility bills?

Any motors in the home or on the property should be assesed, including pumps for wells and septic systems. When it comes to extras, remember life luxuries aren’t free. You will want to be able to afford the cost of operating amenities, such as pools, hot tubs, and saunas. 

 

Miranda Boutelle is the director of operations and customer engagement at Efficiency Services Group in Oregon, a cooperatively owned energy efficiency company. 

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