Improve your Home's Value by Investing in Energy and Air Quality Upgrades
Are you planning on listing your home in the near future? If so, you’ve probably already given some thought to making home upgrades to boost the value of your property, such as installing new countertops and cabinets in the kitchen, adding fresh landscaping to the front yard, or laying tile throughout the home.
However, there are two other projects you should think about tackling before listing: improving your home’s energy-efficiency and indoor air quality. In this article, we’ll review how to go about doing both, as well as things you should consider if you want to add the most-possible value to your home.
Start by determining your home's energy rating
The Home Energy Rating System (HERS) is a standard way of grading a home’s overall efficiency. The lower your HERS score, the more efficient your home. Most non-upgraded, older homes score between 130 and 150 in the HERS system, while new builds score around 100. A home that is 50% more energy-efficient than the average new build would have a score of 50, while a home that is 30% less energy-efficient than that same new build would be graded as a 130.
So, how do you determine your home’s HERS grade? Start by calling a home energy usage specialist in your area to schedule a home energy audit. Many HVAC companies now have professional energy auditors on their team who offer this service.
A professional energy audit will calculate your home’s overall efficiency by measuring the cumulative energy waste of exterior wall insulation, attic insulation, air ducts, cooling and heating systems, windows, and more. With a HERS rating, your home has a starting point for becoming more energy efficient.
Invest in your home's present (and future) with energy-efficiency upgrades
When planning home improvements or a remodel, home energy upgrades are often near the bottom of the to-do list—if they’re on the list at all. Most homeowners prioritize projects such as kitchen, bathroom, and backyard renovations.
After all, the results of your investment in those areas are tangible: you get to see and enjoy the new space every single day. Sealing leaking air ducts, adding attic insulation, or switching to a more-efficient air conditioner is far less appealing for many homeowners.
However, there is a strong case to be made for home efficiency upgrades. Not only can investing in this area of your home yield immediate benefits, but it can also make your home more attractive to homebuyers.
See an immediate return on your investment
One of the things that sets energy-efficiency upgrades apart from other home remodeling projects—such as a kitchen or bathroom renovation—is that homeowners don’t have to wait until they close to see a return on their investment.
Making your home more efficient and lowering your monthly energy bills is something you can benefit from right away. Just one of the many reasons investing in energy and air quality upgrades is a smart choice for homeowners!
Prepare your home for tomorrow’s homebuyers
Today, millennials make up the single-largest (36%) group of prospective homebuyers in the United States. This generation has different home-buying priorities than their parents.
As a recent Consumer Insights Survey found, millennials prize function over size; unlike many baby boomers, millenials will happily buy a smaller home than the one they may have grown up in, so long as it meets their needs. They also find open kitchens, added storage, and livable outdoor spaces highly desirable.
But, there’s another item at the top of their home shopping list: energy-efficiency. This is no doubt rooted in a generational desire for more environmentally sustainable communities, but it also reflects a real dollars-and-cents concern.
After all, millenials have lived their entire lives in an age of relatively expensive electricity and gas, at least compared to the 1980s and prior. They understand the value of an energy-efficient home and—according to several surveys—are willing to pay a premium for it when buying one.
What this means for you is that the return-on-investment for many home energy-efficiency upgrades is only going to continue to increase in the coming years as millennials buy their first, second, or third homes.
While it’s impossible to forecast the future behaviors or attitudes of such a broad generation—today’s “millennials” can be anywhere from 23-38 years old, after all!—it doesn’t take a real estate expert to see that Americans will continue to value more efficient homes.
Focus on improving your cooling and heating efficiency
In most homes, a majority of household energy is spent cooling and heating the home. This means that improving your cooling and heating efficiency can have a significant impact on your energy costs. Here are some of the most effective ways to do just that:
Upgrade to new HVAC systems
If your home has an older air conditioner, heat pump, or furnace, it could be costing you money every single month. As HVAC systems age, they generally become less efficient than when they were new.
In addition—due to an increased emphasis on efficient design and new federal efficiency mandates—systems manufactured 10, 15, or 20 years ago are less efficient than those manufactured today. All of this adds up to one conclusion: if your home is just getting by with an aging cooling or heating system, now might be the time to upgrade.
Seal your air ducts
Your home’s air ducts transport the cooled and heated air produced by your HVAC systems to the living spaces of your home. However, a good percentage (upwards of 30-40%) of this cooling and heating is actually lost into the attic prior to getting to the vents and registers. If your home’s air ducts have small cracks, fissures, or pinholes, that energy loss percentage is probably even higher.
As a result, your air conditioner or furnace has to work harder to make your home comfortable, meaning more energy used and increased wear-and-tear on your home's HVAC system. The remedy for this situation? Have a local HVAC professional seal your home’s air ducts and add attic insulation.
Poor IAQ can hurt your home’s value
Very few homeowners give much thought to their home’s indoor air quality (IAQ). For most, “air quality” refers to smog, pollution, and the air outside of their home.
However, given the amount of time we all spend inside, indoor air quality is actually very important to your health and—in many ways—your home’s value. Accordingly, improving your home’s IAQ can have a positive impact on both the air you breathe and on your home’s appeal to prospective buyers.
What are the causes (and consequences) of poor indoor air quality?
There are several potential causes of degraded indoor air quality. These range from dirty air ducts and poor ventilation to serious health risks, such as the presence of mold, mildew, or radon gas.
Poor indoor air quality can lead to aggravated allergies—often the result of pollen and pet dander trapped in the home’s air supply—foul odors, and increased sickness.
What is the best way to address ongoing IAQ issues?
Schedule an indoor air quality audit with a trusted HVAC or air quality specialist in your area. A professional-grade audit should include taking samples of air from around your home to test for various air quality triggers, such as dust, pollen, pet dander, mold particles, and more. In the completed audit, you should receive a diagnosis of what’s in your home’s air and the best ways to start addressing any problems.
Some potential methods of improving indoor air quality include adding ventilation, air filters, UV filters, or having your air ducts professionally cleaned.
Improve your home’s energy rating—one upgrade at a time
If you’re planning on listing your home in the near future, now is the time to start making energy and air quality upgrades. Talk to your real estate agent about what home upgrades make sense in your neighborhood.
Your agent can provide you with guidance for what other nearby homeowners are doing to prepare their homes for sale. Listen to their advice but always do your own homework so you understand all of your options and choices.
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