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The typical U.S. household spends about $2,150 on residential energy bills every year, according to the U.S. Green Building Council. However, LEED-certified homes are designed to use between 30 and 60 percent less energy than traditional houses. Homeowners can save thousands of dollars over the course of several years with a LEED-certified home and also reduce exposure to unhealthy indoor environments.

But how do you really know that a home meets green standards before you buy it? And how do you know if your current green home is up to standard? There are green inspections that go over your energy use and ensure the building materials are environmentally friendly. Here’s what you need to know before you get started:

Ask for Certification

Not all home inspections are created equally. Ensure you’re getting a green-focused inspection by asking for the right certifications upfront. A reputable green home inspection company should use InterNACHI Standards of Practice. Look for information on their website, and ask for more information about their qualifications.

Remember that certifications extend to other crucial areas of the home, such as pest control. Orkin holds a variety of industry certifications, such as the GreenPro certification from the National Pest Management Association (NPMA). Orkin uses Integrated Pest Management (IPM) programs to take a holistic approach to pest management and eco-friendly techniques, such as fly lights, sanitation and insect growth regulators.

Confirm the Use of Green Materials

How do you really know if a home is made from sustainable materials like a seller claims? A green home inspection can determine the validity and quality of sustainable materials and practices. Green homes should be made from low-energy materials, which indicates that the production and delivery of the materials took less energy. These materials could include fast-growing trees that are harvested for green construction. A green home inspector also can confirm if a home has photovoltaic systems and VOC-emitting materials.

Ask for an Energy Audit

Lowering your energy bills is just one advantage to living in an energy-efficient home. A green inspection can check on the HVAC equipment, indoor air quality and humidity levels, all of which contribute to the home's environmental friendliness. An audit determines how all the systems of the house work together and how you can improve its energy usage.

If you're purchasing an Energy Star-rated home, a Home Energy Rater can complete a final site inspection to ensure all the requirements have been met and the home is properly certified. The inspection includes energy efficiency and proper use of energy-efficient materials.

Look Behind the Walls

There's more going on with your home than what meets the eye. An inspector with a Certified Level Thermographers can use thermal cameras to view wall cavity insulation, ceiling insulation and any issues with moisture and air leakage. Catching issues behind walls helps prevent future costly repairs and further determines the validity of green practices.

Consider Energy Enhancements

Once a green inspection is complete, the inspector may have other energy enhancement suggestions. One common recommendation is to plant trees because they help with air quality and reduce exposure to direct sunlight that can overheat your home. Furthermore, according to the North Carolina Urban Forest Council, if every family planted one tree, CO2 in the atmosphere would be reduced by one billion pounds annually.

At the end of the day, ensuring the quality of a green home isn't just about saving money. It's about impacting the world around you in a positive way and keeping the planet healthy.

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