Buying an Energy Hog; Can You Afford Utilities Bills In New Home?

Q. I’ve just had an energy audit of my suburban home and plan to make substantial improvements based on the results. I wonder why, when we buy a home, we test for radon, inspect for termites, and get home inspections, but never test for energy usage or comfort. Why aren’t energy audits done during the buying and selling process, since horror stories abound about brand-new homes with frozen pipes?


Metuchen, N.J.


A. Well, there are horror stories and then there are horror stories. If the house you are about to buy has a chimney that is shot, a foundation that is cracked or electrical wiring prone to a fire, you need to know these things. But if the house is chilly in the winter and leaks air like a sieve, that information, although unfortunate, probably won’t kill the sale.


“You should be concerned with the defects,” said Robert Tirado, owner of Villa Home Inspections, which inspects homes in New York and New Jersey. “The major things, like is the roof leaking? Are there electrical violations? Those things can kill you.”

An energy audit can reveal many things. It can tell you if the boiler is inefficient, if the house is drafty or if the insulation is poor, but it cannot tell you if the pipes in the walls are at risk of freezing, said Scott T. Fischer, a managing member of Ciel Power, which specializes in home energy assessments. (An inspector, however, might be able to point out construction defects that can lead to frozen pipes.)

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