Reading Corner

Frequently Asked Questions

Green is a hot color these days and home buyers are increasingly interested in sustainability and high-performing homes with green features for several reasons. One is the 'green' of the earth -- people are paying attention to what's better for future generations and want to do what they can.  Second, the 'green' of the dollar; millennials and younger buyers know that sustainable living works, and they see no reason in wasting money. Sustainable living also makes for a healthier home for its occupants, by virtue of clean energy and better indoor air quality.

What is a green home?


A green home has two main goals: to increase the efficiency of the home and to protect human health and the environment. There are numerous ways to accomplish these, ranging from how a home’s foundation is poured to how how much insulatin is palced between walls to what ceiling fans are placed in the home. Most people can agree on this: A green home is built and operated to minimize the environmental footprint of the home during construciton and/or ongoing operation of the home. Although many people associate a green home with a formal green certification or designation at construciton, a green home can also be an existing home that has been upgraded to included featrues like low-e windows, Energy Start appliances, smart home features, a tankless water heater, and so many more.




What is a smart home?


A smart home uses automation to control and monitor certain home attributes like security, lighting, electrical outlets, HVAC, audio, and appliances. The system connects all devices to a central hub, which is connected to the internet and can be operated by the homeowner and other occupants via smart phone. Users can remotely control connected home systems whether they are home or away which allows for efficient energy and electric usage and ensuring your home is secure. Smart home technology contributes to health and well-being enhancement and supplements a green home’s goal of better living and minimal environmental impact. Even so, many homeowners like a smart home because of the ease of operating devices from one place and the convenience of operating and monitoring the home while away. Smart home technology can save anywhere from 5% to 15% of a home's energy consumption if properly "tuned." An average cost for a smart home system is $1,000 to $2,000. But a smart thermostat can save $150/yr. Oh, and bye-bye house sitting - maybe a $1,000/yr savings.




How much do green features save, on average?


Here are some average savings from common green home features:

High performance windows: $250/yr link here

High performance HVAC system: $100-$300/yr link here

LED light bulbs: $50-75$/yr link here

Energy Star appliances: $100/yr link here

Extra attic insulation: $200/yr link here

Smart home technology: $900/yr link here




What are the most common green certifications a home can achieve?


In Tennessee, the most common green home certifications are Energy Star and LEED.

An Energy Star Home is designed and built to minimize greenhouse gas emissions (emissions that trap heat, are detrimental to the environment, and cause breathing problems) by saving energy consumption. An independent third party must verify Energy Star construction techniques and issue the certification, which is typically found on a home’s breaker panel door. An Energy Star home must be built at least 10% more energy efficient than traditional homes, however it is common for Energy Stary homes to be 25% or more efficient. The certification lasts for one year, so to truly market a 3 year old Energy Star home the home must be tested/verified again by the third party.

LEED is an internationally recognized green building certification system, providing third-party verification that a building or community was designed and built using strategies aimed at improving performance across all the metrics that matter most: energy savings, water efficiency, carbon dioxide emissions reduction, improved indoor environmental quality, and stewardship of resources and sensitivity to their impacts. LEED homes are generally more expensive than Energy Star homes and focus more on sustainable raw material composition, minimal environmental footprint during construction, and a more wholistic approach; it does not necessarily focus on operational energy savings.

More info.




What is an Energy Star home?


Energy Star certified homes and apartments are at least 10% more efficient than homes built to code and achieve a 20% improvement on average. Homes and apartments achieve this level of performance through a complete package of building science measures, including considerations for the thermal enclosure, high efficiency HVAC systems, light and appliance energy efficiency, and water management. To ensure that a home or apartment meets Energy Star program requirements, third−party verification by an Energy Rating Company (i.e., home energy rater or rating provider) is required. An Energy Rating Company works closely with the builder or developer throughout the construction process to help determine the needed energy−saving equipment and construction techniques and conduct required on−site diagnostic testing and inspections to document that the home or apartment is eligible to earn the ENERGY STAR label. The third-party verification last for 12 months and for a home that was certified as an Energy Star five years ago must have if verified again to sell it as a certified Energy Star home now. So, just because a home or apartment was certified at construction does not mean it is currently an Energy Star home.




Does it really matter if a home is green certified?


Actually, a non-certified home can be more energy efficient than a green-certified home. What really matters are the green features installed. For example, to be a certified Energy Star home, the home must be built to exceed other homes’ energy efficiency by only 10%. But what if a 30-year-old home has installed a high-SEER HVAC system, a modest solar panel system, Energy Star appliances, LED bulbs throughout, and high-performance windows, the home will likely exceed the 10% requirement. A home that is LEED-certified is likely more marketable than an Energy Star home, because the LEED certification does not expire but an Energy Star rating must be renewed annually, which most homeowners do not do.




Can a home be “green” without being certified?


Absolutely. Green certifications are nice for selling new homes, but for existing homes, what really matters are the green features installed. Any home can be “greened” by adding green features. It may be a stretch to call a home a green home by installing just a programmable thermostat, but the more green features installed, the more green it will be, actually and perceived.




Do I really need a Realtor “knowledgeable in green” to buy a green home?


If green home features interest you, it is highly recommended to use a real estate agent who is knowledgeable in green home features. Sometimes a home may be incorrectly marketed as being green certified, while only having a programmable thermostat or a tankless water heater. The right Realtor can quickly find the home that has your green feature wish list because Realtors have access to more information than the public version of the MLS or other major real estate websites. Is the home really an Energy Star home (if it’s not new, it’s rare that a home has a current Energy Star certification)? Are those really low-E windows? What does a LEED home mean ad what are the different ratings? What savings can I expect from the home’s green features? How can I tell if the HVAC is really a high-efficiency unit?

These are all questions a Realtor who is competent in green home technology can answer. If you rely on the listing or the listing agent to educate you on a home’s green features, you may not receive unbiased information.




Are there any incentives for buying a green home?


The FHA’s long-running Energy Efficient Mortgage (EEM) bundles the cost of energy-efficient home improvements into a new purchase, refinance, or 203k rehabilitation loan and insures the entire amount. The portion of the loan earmarked for the improvements does not factor into the lender’s underwriting calculations.

For example, a borrower who would normally qualify for a loan no larger than $150,000 could get a $155,000 EEM if $5,000 of the loan’s principal went to cover approved energy-efficient improvements. Under FHA guidelines, borrowers can put as little as 3.5% of the purchase price down, though they’re required to pay mortgage insurance premiums until they reach 80% loan-to-value.

Before applying for an EEM, homeowners and buyers must get a home energy assessment from a qualified professional certified by Building Performance Institute or Residential Energy Services Network. They must then use the results of the assessment to identify realistic opportunities for efficient upgrades and improvements.

For more info on EEMs, click here.




Are green homes more expensive than similar, non-green homes?


New construction green homes are generally more expensive than traditional homes because of several factors: they are built with superior building products and more expensive systems are installed. But this, along with utility savings, is also why green homes typically retain their resale value better than non-green homes and sell quicker. Just like flat screen TVs, green home features are gradually coming down in price due to increased competition, availability, and demand.New construction green homes are generally more expensive than traditional homes because of several factors: they are built with superior building products and more expensive systems are installed. But this, along with utility savings, is also why green homes typically retain their resale value better than non-green homes and sell quicker. Just like flat screen TVs, green home features are gradually coming down in price due to increased competition, availability, and demand.




Is a smart home considered a green home?


A home that has no other special features other than smart home technology is typically not considered a green home. Since a green home normally includes multiple green features, a smart home is only one of those features. But a smart home, when supplemented with other green features like low-E windows, extra insulation, low-flow water fixtures, and Energy Star appliances, would be considered a green home.




What areas does Home Sense serve?


Home Sense is based out of Nashville but we serve all of Tennessee. For the home buyers and home sellers located out of the middle Tennessee area, we partner with other professionals with the highest qualifications available, including being green certified, having a college degree, having 8+ years’ experience, and having high online reviews





SELLER FAQs

What is a green home?


A green home has two main goals: to increase the efficiency of the home and to protect human health and the environment. There are numerous ways to accomplish these, ranging from how a home’s foundation is poured to how how much insulatin is palced between walls to what ceiling fans are placed in the home. Most people can agree on this: A green home is built and operated to minimize the environmental footprint of the home during construciton and/or ongoing operation of the home. Although many people associate a green home with a formal green certification or designation at construciton, a green home can also be an existing home that has been upgraded to included featrues like low-e windows, Energy Start appliances, smart home features, a tankless water heater, and so many more.




What is a smart home?


A smart home uses automation to control and monitor certain home attributes like security, lighting, electrical outlets, HVAC, audio, and appliances. The system connects all devices to a central hub, which is connected to the internet and can be operated by the homeowner and other occupants via smart phone. Users can remotely control connected home systems whether they are home or away which allows for efficient energy and electric usage and ensuring your home is secure. Smart home technology contributes to health and well-being enhancement and supplements a green home’s goal of better living and minimal environmental impact. Even so, many homeowners like a smart home because of the ease of operating devices from one place and the convenience of operating and monitoring the home while away. Smart home technology can save anywhere from 5% to 15% of a home's energy consumption if properly "tuned." An average cost for a smart home system is $1,000 to $2,000. But a smart thermostat can save $150/yr. Oh, and bye-bye house sitting - maybe a $1,000/yr savings.




How much do green features save, on average?


Here are some average savings from common green home features:

High performance windows: $250/yr link here

High performance HVAC system: $100-$300/yr link here

LED light bulbs: $50-75$/yr link here

Energy Star appliances: $100/yr link here

Extra attic insulation: $200/yr link here

Smart home technology: $900/yr link here




What are the most common green certifications a home can achieve?


In Tennessee, the most common green home certifications are Energy Star and LEED.

An Energy Star Home is designed and built to minimize greenhouse gas emissions (emissions that trap heat, are detrimental to the environment, and cause breathing problems) by saving energy consumption. An independent third party must verify Energy Star construction techniques and issue the certification, which is typically found on a home’s breaker panel door. An Energy Star home must be built at least 10% more energy efficient than traditional homes, however it is common for Energy Stary homes to be 25% or more efficient. The certification lasts for one year, so to truly market a 3 year old Energy Star home the home must be tested/verified again by the third party.

LEED is an internationally recognized green building certification system, providing third-party verification that a building or community was designed and built using strategies aimed at improving performance across all the metrics that matter most: energy savings, water efficiency, carbon dioxide emissions reduction, improved indoor environmental quality, and stewardship of resources and sensitivity to their impacts. LEED homes are generally more expensive than Energy Star homes and focus more on sustainable raw material composition, minimal environmental footprint during construction, and a more wholistic approach; it does not necessarily focus on operational energy savings.

More info.




What is an Energy Star home?


Energy Star certified homes and apartments are at least 10% more efficient than homes built to code and achieve a 20% improvement on average. Homes and apartments achieve this level of performance through a complete package of building science measures, including considerations for the thermal enclosure, high efficiency HVAC systems, light and appliance energy efficiency, and water management. To ensure that a home or apartment meets Energy Star program requirements, third−party verification by an Energy Rating Company (i.e., home energy rater or rating provider) is required. An Energy Rating Company works closely with the builder or developer throughout the construction process to help determine the needed energy−saving equipment and construction techniques and conduct required on−site diagnostic testing and inspections to document that the home or apartment is eligible to earn the ENERGY STAR label. The third-party verification last for 12 months and for a home that was certified as an Energy Star five years ago must have if verified again to sell it as a certified Energy Star home now. So, just because a home or apartment was certified at construction does not mean it is currently an Energy Star home.




Does it really matter if a home is green certified?


Actually, a non-certified home can be more energy efficient than a green-certified home. What really matters are the green features installed. For example, to be a certified Energy Star home, the home must be built to exceed other homes’ energy efficiency by only 10%. But what if a 30-year-old home has installed a high-SEER HVAC system, a modest solar panel system, Energy Star appliances, LED bulbs throughout, and high-performance windows, the home will likely exceed the 10% requirement. A home that is LEED-certified is likely more marketable than an Energy Star home, because the LEED certification does not expire but an Energy Star rating must be renewed annually, which most homeowners do not do.




Can a home be “green” without being certified?


Absolutely. Green certifications are nice for selling new homes, but for existing homes, what really matters are the green features installed. Any home can be “greened” by adding green features. It may be a stretch to call a home a green home by installing just a programmable thermostat, but the more green features installed, the more green it will be, actually and perceived.




Do I really need a Realtor “knowledgeable in green” to buy a green home?


If green home features interest you, it is highly recommended to use a real estate agent who is knowledgeable in green home features. Sometimes a home may be incorrectly marketed as being green certified, while only having a programmable thermostat or a tankless water heater. The right Realtor can quickly find the home that has your green feature wish list because Realtors have access to more information than the public version of the MLS or other major real estate websites. Is the home really an Energy Star home (if it’s not new, it’s rare that a home has a current Energy Star certification)? Are those really low-E windows? What does a LEED home mean ad what are the different ratings? What savings can I expect from the home’s green features? How can I tell if the HVAC is really a high-efficiency unit?

These are all questions a Realtor who is competent in green home technology can answer. If you rely on the listing or the listing agent to educate you on a home’s green features, you may not receive unbiased information.




Are there any incentives for buying a green home?


The FHA’s long-running Energy Efficient Mortgage (EEM) bundles the cost of energy-efficient home improvements into a new purchase, refinance, or 203k rehabilitation loan and insures the entire amount. The portion of the loan earmarked for the improvements does not factor into the lender’s underwriting calculations.

For example, a borrower who would normally qualify for a loan no larger than $150,000 could get a $155,000 EEM if $5,000 of the loan’s principal went to cover approved energy-efficient improvements. Under FHA guidelines, borrowers can put as little as 3.5% of the purchase price down, though they’re required to pay mortgage insurance premiums until they reach 80% loan-to-value.

Before applying for an EEM, homeowners and buyers must get a home energy assessment from a qualified professional certified by Building Performance Institute or Residential Energy Services Network. They must then use the results of the assessment to identify realistic opportunities for efficient upgrades and improvements.

For more info on EEMs, click here.




Are green homes more expensive than similar, non-green homes?


New construction green homes are generally more expensive than traditional homes because of several factors: they are built with superior building products and more expensive systems are installed. But this, along with utility savings, is also why green homes typically retain their resale value better than non-green homes and sell quicker. Just like flat screen TVs, green home features are gradually coming down in price due to increased competition, availability, and demand.New construction green homes are generally more expensive than traditional homes because of several factors: they are built with superior building products and more expensive systems are installed. But this, along with utility savings, is also why green homes typically retain their resale value better than non-green homes and sell quicker. Just like flat screen TVs, green home features are gradually coming down in price due to increased competition, availability, and demand.




Is a smart home considered a green home?


A home that has no other special features other than smart home technology is typically not considered a green home. Since a green home normally includes multiple green features, a smart home is only one of those features. But a smart home, when supplemented with other green features like low-E windows, extra insulation, low-flow water fixtures, and Energy Star appliances, would be considered a green home.




What areas does Home Sense serve?


Home Sense is based out of Nashville but we serve all of Tennessee. For the home buyers and home sellers located out of the middle Tennessee area, we partner with other professionals with the highest qualifications available, including being green certified, having a college degree, having 8+ years’ experience, and having high online reviews





BUYER FAQs

Sell or buy with Home Sense and we'll donate 5% of our fees to the non-profit environmental cause of your choice.

Find out more.

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