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Five questions for your home inspector

Unfortunately, houses don’t come with energy efficiency ratings, but your home inspector can help. Here are five questions to ask that professional:

What is the condition of the electrical panel and wiring throughout the home? 

A panel upgrade or rewiring can be costly and can delay or make some energy-efficiency projects more expensive. 

Make sure the panel can accommodate any new appliances you might want to add, such as air conditioning or an electric vehicle charger. 

How old is the HVAC system, and how efficient and well-maintained is it? 

The typical lifespan of a heating, ventilation and air conditioning system is 15 to 25 years. Since it’s both expensive and the largest energy user, determine its energy, maintenance and replacement costs. If the HVAC system is old, factor in the replacement cost. 

How old is the water heater? 

The lifespan of a storage water heater is about 10 years. Replacement costs range from $400 to $3,600, depending on the unit type and installation costs. If an older water heater is in a finished space or on a second floor, replace it before it fails and causes water damage. 

What are the levels and conditions of insulation in the attic, walls and floor? 

Insulation is one of the easiest and most beneficial energy efficiency upgrades you can do. If your new home needs insulation and air sealing, make this your efficiency priority. Get information about insulation and air sealing at

Are there any extras in this home that will increase my utility bills? 

Check any motors in the home or on the property, including pumps for wells and septic systems. If there are pools, hot tubs or saunas, be sure you can afford to operate them.

MIRANDA BOUTELLE writes on energy efficiency for the National Rural Electric Cooperative Association.

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