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There is plenty to think about when you are buying a home — but little is more important than finding a home you can afford. Among the characteristics recent homebuyers are looking for in a home, energy efficiency is becoming increasingly important. So how do you know if the home you are buying is green enough for you? Check out the following ways to ensure your home will save money and help save the planet.

1. Get Copies of Past Utility Bills

If you are looking at a resale home, one of the most prudent ways to check on a home’s efficiency is asking the current owners for copies of their monthly utility bills from the past year. These can give you a rough idea of how the house operates. Then you can consider ways to reduce these bills if you buy the home.

2. Take It All In

While you are looking around potential new homes, check carefully for these features: Energy Star appliances, energy-efficient windows and doors, air leaks, low-flow fixtures and toilets, digital thermostat controls, proper insulation, low-energy lighting systems, tankless water heaters and low-energy heating and cooling systems. The more they have, the more green your new home is and the more you can save right off the bat.

3. The Extra Mile

Beyond the basics, homes may advertise LEED certification, which means the building meets specific environmental standards established by the U.S. Green Building Council. You can also look for energy- or water-efficient landscaping plans, solar panels, wind turbines or other alternative energy sources. With these features, you should ask for maintenance records, and find out about any possible local or state tax credits.

4. Consider Size Carefully

When it comes to energy efficiency, the trend toward oversized homes is being reversed. Smaller homes are usually cheaper, cost less to heat and cool, are easier to maintain and clean and encourage you to cut back on material items you don’t need. When looking at homes, it’s a good idea to assess whether you will use all the rooms in the house and whether they are appropriately sized for your needs.

5. Invest in an Energy Audit

For a more accurate picture of a home, consider hiring a licensed professional to conduct an energy audit. For a couple of hundred dollars, an inspector can measure a home’s air leakage, investigate the insulation and identify problem areas. This will not only give you a better understanding of the house, but also help you determine how much money you will need to put in to increase the efficiency once you own it.

6. Start Anew With Eco-Friendly Construction

If you are buying new, be on the lookout for eco-conscious building companies that use sustainable materials. These companies will be more likely to help you find eco-friendly flooring and carpet made from recycled or sustainable materials, low- or no-VOC paint and additional insulation.

Buying an energy-efficient home can be a smart investment that can pay off each month in energy bills. It’s important to ask the right questions and look for the above features so you get a home that meets your energy requirements.

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