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Improving Your Home's Energy Rating and IAQ to Boost its Value

Millennials are the single-largest group of home buyers in the United States today. This generation - ranging from 23 to 38 years old - still evaluates homes based on many of the traditional metrics their parents did: neighborhood, amenities, upgrades, location, build year, nearby schools, crime rate, and more. However, younger buyers also have new criteria, including two new ways of thinking about homes: energy-efficiency and indoor air quality.

Today’s prospective buyers understand that both can have a long-term impact on their budget and their happiness in their newly built homes. Accordingly, they prioritize homes with efficiency upgrades and air quality improvements. 


How do you determine your home’s energy rating?

Every home, from a new build to a historic home, can be graded using the Home Energy Rating System (HERS) model. In essence, the lower a home’s HERS score is, the more energy-efficient it is. 100 serves as the average baseline, and every 10 points on the HERS model represents a 10% swing in efficiency. So, a home that is 10% more efficient than average would score 90, while a home that is 50% less efficient than average would score a 150. Most new builds score around 100, while older, non-upgraded homes are typically scored around 130-150.


Of course, every home is different. The best way to get your home’s HERS score is by connecting with a local energy specialist in your area to schedule a home energy audit. This audit will calculate your home’s overall efficiency with a thorough evaluation of your insulation (both wall and attic), the airflow in your air ducts, your HVAC systems, your water heater, your windows, and more. 


In addition to the score you get at the end, this audit will also provide you with a list of the best improvements to make, ranked by how they impact your home’s efficiency as a whole. In most cases, older homes are going to have a more extensive list than new builds, but to a certain extent, almost every home can benefit from some level of upgrades.




What are the best ways to improve your HERS score?

Nearly half of all the energy used in your home is spent keeping it cool in the summer and warm in the winter. As a homeowner, you see this in your energy bills. If you want to make your home more efficient as a whole, you’ll need to take steps to maximize the efficiency of your air conditioner and furnace. Here are some ways of doing just that:


  • Schedule Seasonal Maintenance: Your cooling and heating systems require annual tune-ups to keep them running efficiently. Have a professional HVAC technician in your area inspect and maintain your system in the season ahead of it being extensively used.
  • Add Insulation & Seal Ducts: In a forced-air HVAC system, much of the cooled and heated air is lost through the attic before it even reaches the living spaces of your home. You can cut down on these losses by putting in additional attic insulation and sealing leaky air ducts.
  • Upgrade Your Thermostat: You can program a smart thermostat to lower the temperature during the day when you’re away from home. This is not only convenient but also cuts down on your energy usage and reduces the wear-and-tear put on your HVAC system.
  • Clean Your Air Filters: By keeping up with the regular cleaning or replacement of your home’s air filter, you can ensure that your HVAC system has regular air intake and that it continues to operate efficiently.

Energy-efficiency and better air quality go hand-in-hand

As multiple studies have shown, an energy-efficient home is a healthy home. Many of the efficiency improvements reviewed above come with the added benefit of improving your home’s indoor air quality. For example, better ventilation means that indoor contaminants like mold particles and dust are being regularly flushed out of the home in exchange for fresh air. Added insulation helps your home maintain a more consistent humidity rate without major swings toward overly dry or humid indoor air.


Both indoor air quality and home efficiency impact your comfort in your home. They also can impact its value. More and more homeowners are looking for homes that are a healthy place for their family and pets. Among younger buyers—which now make up the largest piece of the homebuyer pie—a premium is placed on homes with efficiency and IAQ upgrades. For them, a healthier home is worth paying for, which can have a direct impact on what you get out of it when you list.


When it comes to the impact that indoor air quality has on your home’s value, don’t discount the in-person tour. Anyone who is planning on buying your home is going to want to see it in-person and tour it. You’d be amazed at the subtle impact a clean, great-smelling home can have on a prospective buyer.


Take the next steps toward a better home

Whether you’re planning on selling or building your home in the near future, making energy efficiency and IAQ upgrades is worth the time and investment. 


Lisa Davis is the senior content creator at ABC Cooling, Heating and Plumbing, a professional HVAC service company in Hayward, CA. Lisa has a Bachelor’s degree in Construction Management and has been working within the home services industry for more than 20 years.


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