With the housing market still flat, sellers are looking for ways to improve the resale value of their homes and still recoup their expenses. Adding some energy-efficient updates may help but don’t be stingy, says the Market Ready column in the New York Times. “If you do just one thing, it’s probably not going to add value,” said Jeffrey Schleider, managing director of Miron Properties, a real estate company specializing in green properties. “If you do five or six things as a package, it really makes your property more appealing.”
Schleider recommends a number of easy low-cost changes that target energy savings, clean water and clean air. These are factors that Consumer Reports considers in its testing. For example, Schleider suggests installing Energy Star appliances, dual-flush toilets, low-flow showerheads and undersink water filters, all products that we’ve tested. He also said that a good coat of low VOC paint will impress buyers. Even if the improvements aren’t immediately obvious you can brag about them in the property listing. Here are some of the good green performers from our tests.
Undersink water filters
Undersink water filters appeal to buyers for two reasons, says Schleider. “It stops the use of bottled water, but it’s also a convenience to have clean water at your tap.” Consumer Reports has tested 13 undersink water filters that range in price from $80 to $450. The three we recommend cost $130 or less including the Whirlpool Gold WHED20 sold at Lowe’s, which was excellent at removing lead and chloroform.
Low VOC paint
Volatile organic compounds (VOCs) are the noxious chemicals that make paint smell like paint. VOCs can cause headaches and dizziness, and are linked to pollution, smog and respiratory problems. In response to stricter federal standards, manufacturers are reducing the amount of VOCs in their paints (you'll find the VOC level listed on the can). Some low VOC paints have done well in Consumer Reports paint tests including brands sold at Home Depot and Lowe’s.
Dual flush toilets
You can replace your old toilet with a water-saving model for roughly $300 to $400. The two that we recommend in our tests use 1.6 gallons for a full flush and 1.1 for a partial flush. At $400, the Gerber Ultra Dual-Flush and the Mansfield EcoQuantum were both excellent at solid waste removal but the Mansfield was better at liquid waste removal.
For $50, not including the plumber visit, you can replace your showerhead with a low-flow model such as the American Standard FloWise Dual Function Water Saving model we recommend. With three settings, it was easy to use and produced a good-feeling spray. And you’ll feel even better when you see how much money you save on your utility and water bills.
Energy Star appliances
While some homeowners like the look of pro-style appliances, a good selling point is to let prospective buyers know about your energy-saving Energy Star appliances. After all, refrigerators run 24/7 and washing machines and dishwashers need both water and heat to get the job done. Our Ratings charts indicate which appliances have earned an Energy Star and measure energy use. We also tell you how much it costs to run your refrigerator for a year. For example, a few energy hogs in our refrigerator tests cost three times as much to run as models we recommend.
—Mary H.J. Farrell