For the uninitiated, house hunting in a cooler climate requires extra points to mull over in addition to the usual buyer’s checklist. Sure, you’ll want ample space to store skis and a snowmobile, have a place to shed frozen boots and clothes, plus a few cozy corners for sipping hot cocoa, but what else? Here are 5 things to consider when shopping for cold climate real estate.
Home’s Orientation – The ideal place for a cold weather dwelling to face is towards the sun. This allows the structure to absorb solar heat, whether there are any solar panels or not. Of course, maximizing the sun’s energy with solar panels is an excellent idea. Also check the number of windows that will not be getting any sunlight. Too many can make the home cold and increase your heating bill.
Have a look at where your cars will be parked and ask these questions:
- Will this area be treacherous to navigate in icy or snowy conditions?
- Who is responsible for road maintenance and snow removal?
- How would an emergency vehicle access the home?
Heating Options– In addition to making your home sweet home warm and cozy, the heating system should be foolproof in case of power outages. That is why so many homeowners in cold climates have 2 different heating systems. Whether the main system is fueled by gas, oil, coal, solar, or electric, a back-up system is a must. Wood stoves and fireplaces are almost a necessity and if they have blowers installed into the home’s main ductwork they can be very efficient.
Doors and Windows – If you are looking at older homes, you’ll want to check into installing EnergyStar rated doors and windows. Defective windows and doors not only effect the monthly heating bill, they can also make life just plain uncomfortable. New installations can reduce a home’s heat loss by up to half, and the good news is, there are tax credits available for EnergyStar replacements.
Insulation – A great heating system is useless when the insulation is inferior. Whether the home has fiberglass, cellulose, spray foam, wool, or even recycled denim insulation, find out its R-value. The insulation’s ability to resist heat flow is given a score, known as its R-value. The higher the value, the more efficient it is. Also be aware, that replacing insulation could net you a tax credit!
Roof Angle – Aside from shingles, tiles, or metal, the angle or pitch of a home’s roof is a serious consideration in areas with heavy snowfall. If the roof is too flat, the home’s structural integrity could be at risk. Consult a roofing contractor to inspect any home you are serious about. It is typical for many counties in states such as Maine, New Hampshire, Minnesota, Wyoming, and Wisconsin to have set building codes and snow load numbers for roofs.