Finding a place to live in Dallas is not easy. Your choices are endless: luxury apartments, numerous townhouses, old brick homes, modern style homes and a variety more. Finding a home that also has environmentally friendly features while maintaining your must-haves can be even harder. Many apartment complexes and builders advertise their green efforts in hopes of attracting eco-conscious tenants or buyers. The problem is, they aren’t always honest in their claims.
Here is some general information and questions to ask to determine and investigate just how environmentally friendly your new home may be.
Ask if the building or home is energy certified and if it has a HERS rating.
This is always my first question about any building that claims to be eco-friendly. It’s an easy way to judge the company’s knowledge base right from the start. The three major certifications to be aware of are:
1. LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) certified is a green building certification program that offers four levels focused on reducing the environmental impact using unique building strategies and practices. From lowest to highest, Certified, Silver, Gold and Platinum certifications are given to individual projects based on categories including materials and resources, innovation and design, water efficiency and more.
2. Energy Star (energystar.gov) certified homes must meet strict guidelines for energy efficiency set by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and third party verification. A home is required to meet energy efficient standards in insulation, heating and cooling, water management, and lighting and appliances.
3. HERS (Home Energy Rating System) Index is a measurement of a home’s energy efficiency based on variables including exterior walls, attics, ceilings and roofs, air leakage of the home and more. The lower the number, the more energy efficient the home is. The typical home scores about a 130 on the HERS index while a home built to the 2004 International Energy Conservation Code is awarded a rating of 100 (U.S. Department of Energy). Learn more at hersindex.com.
What are the ways they aim to reduce their environmental impact onsite? Although the certification question may give you a general idea of energy efficiency, dig for more specifics. If you have something you value high, make sure to ask. What kind of lighting do they use? Do they use low flow water fixtures? What type of insulation was used in construction? Ask politely to see a utility bill. Knowing the utility history of the home can give you a general portrayal of the energy use.
Look for yourself. Determine the environmental impacts based on what you see. If you are in an apartment complex, are there are a lot of recycle bins around? If you are in a home, look at the front door and windows. Is there a tight seal between the door and the outside? Are there many sliding glass doors? Sliding glass doors are notoriously leaky and lead to higher energy costs. What direction is the home facing? North or south is more energy efficient than east or west.
Enlist a professional. Find an EcoBroker or a realtor that is Green certified. Pam Daniel (PamDaniel.Ebby.com), an EcoBroker in the Dallas area, is passionate about water conservation and incredibly knowledgeable on the many aspects of finding an environmentally friendly home. Daniel said, “On the multiple listings today we’ve added all the different energy efficient features such as insulation, radiant barrier, attic ventilation, but many agents don’t even know what those things are, so it’s not mandatory to fill them out.” Daniel emphasizes the importance of investigating all aspects of the house from water fixtures, sprinkler systems, landscaping, window and door integrity, attic circulation and more. An EcoBroker can save you time searching through listings and help you narrow your search.
Be a curious informed customer and ask questions to base your decisions on solid information. Take the time to read through sustainability packages and look for specifics and not generalities. The more research you do now, the happier you’ll be in your new environmentally friendly home.
As seen in the Katy Trail Weekly.