When people typically think about the important traits of a new home, they often focus on the foundation, or the layout, or even the colour. But how many people ask themselves, “How much will it cost to heat this house?” Given that most Albertans pay a rather hefty sum for natural gas during the winter—the average household in Calgary pays more than $100 per month—the heating bill should be as much of a concern as the amount of your monthly mortgage payment. With that in mind, here are some tips for prospective homeowners that could save you thousands of dollars in just the first few years of homeownership.
Before you sign on the dotted line, hire a home inspector
Many people know that it’s wise to have an inspector check a home’s foundation and overall construction quality. But it’s important to make sure that the inspector carefully checks that the home’s walls, ceilings, and floor are properly insulated. Have them also take a look at windows, doorframes, and the condition and age of the house’s heating system.
Make sure it’s all sealed up tight
Well-sealed windows and doorframes make a big difference. Also, make a point of thoroughly checking over the heating ductwork. Poor quality or badly sealed ductwork can raise energy costs considerably.
Not all window glass is created equal
New, high-quality windows—the most expensive and energy efficient of which are triple-paned these days—have a variety of features available, including special coatings and improved frames and seals. These windows greatly reduce the amount of heat that is lost to due to conduction through the glass, as well as due to drafts resulting from poor seals. Look for windows that are labeled as having a high solar heat gain coefficient (SHGC). Ratings of over 0.6 are considered to be very good, and will allow for the greatest amount of heat absorption from the sun during daylight hours
Simple on-off light switches are sooooo passé
Energy conscientious builders often install lighting systems that come with dimmers or even motion sensors. The latter are activated when somebody walks into a room, and automatically shut off when no movement is detected for more than a few minutes. While lightbulbs based off of newer technology, such as CFLs and LEDs, are much more efficient than their incandescent forbears, minimizing the use of artificial lighting can shave a great deal of money off of your energy bills
A modern water heater is a cheap to run water heater
Ideally, your water heater should be less than ten years old. Older models are much more inefficient, and can waste up to half of the heat they produce. Also, make sure that a blanket has been properly installed on the heater and piping, to ensure that heat isn’t escaping into a chilly basement or garage.
Look for LEED certifications and ENERGY STAR equipment
Some new homes, while extremely attractive, are actually quite poorly built when it comes to energy efficiency. If a house is LEED-certified, it can be as much as twice as energy-efficient as a typical home. And inside the house, look to see if fixtures and appliances that come with the home—furnaces, fans, lighting fixtures, dishwashers, etc.—are ENERGY STAR-certified.