Environmental sustainability is a hot topic today and REALTOR® studies show more buyers are looking for environmental upgrades when searching for a home.

A National Association of REALTORS® (NAR) survey found 68 percent of buyers thought energy efficient appliances were somewhat or very important and 67 percent of homebuyers thought energy efficient lighting was somewhat or very important. According to the California Association of REALTOR®S (C.A.R.), 94 percent of buyers were looking for Energy Star rated appliances; 91 percent wanted an Energy Star rating for the whole home; and 89 percent responded they wanted to see Energy Star rated windows. Energy Star is a standard for energy efficient consumer products created by the Environmental Protection Agency and the Department of Energy.

Green homes sell for more and save the owner money. A study conducted by economists at the University of California Berkeley and UCLA found certified green homes sold for 9 percent more than comparable, non-labeled homes.

According to the California Homebuilding Foundation, landscaping accounts for 57 percent of the water usage for an average home. If a home has a low water yard, the dramatic difference in water usage between that yard and a traditional lawn.

Energy upgrades help the resale value of a home. Homeowners will see the financial savings from the beginning. Well-designed, energy efficient landscaping can pay for itself in eight years. An energy efficient washing machine uses 35 percent less water and energy than a regular one. Replacing five light fixtures with high efficiency models can save up to $75 per year on lighting. An Energy Star heat pump water heater can save a family up to $670 annually. A homeowner who goes through the process of sealing the gaps at vents, ducts, and electrical wires can save on average $200 per year. A home with significant environmental upgrades can see utility bill savings of 20 percent or more. On larger homes, this can add up to hundreds of dollars per year.

There are also a variety of government programs to help pay for the upgrades. Below is a list of government programs available in this area to help homeowners green their homes:
FHA – FHA’s Energy Efficient Mortgage program helps homebuyers or homeowners save money on utility bills by enabling them to finance the cost of adding energy efficient features to new or existing houses as part of their FHA insured home purchase or refinancing mortgage.

Energy Upgrade California – Provides up to $4,500 in rebates for energy-efficient heating and air-conditioning, energy efficient windows, sealing and insulation, and solar or tank-less water heaters.

PG&E – Offers rebates for energy efficiency and free energy efficient upgrades to income-qualified homeowners and renters.

Bay Area Water Supply and Conservation Agency – BAWSCA offers rebates to individuals who replace their lawns with water-efficient landscaping, as well as rebates for replacing toilets and washing machines with water efficient models.

Menlo Park – A $300 rebate for energy assessments is available, and if the homeowner completes the improvements, the City will rebate the full cost of the assessment.

Palo Alto – Palo Alto has a variety of programs. Residents can participate in PaloAltoGreen, where all of their energy will come from sustainable sources. Residents can receive $4 per square foot of removed lawn. The City also provides rebates for purchasing energy efficient appliances.

Los Altos Hills – The Town promotes a High Energy Homes program, where residents can get an online assessment of their home energy use through High Energy Analytics, Inc., a Los Altos Hills based company.

Mountain View – Mountain View offers residents no-cost home energy assessments and monthly energy usage alerts. Available for check out at the city library are devices that measure energy usage of small appliances.

Cupertino – The City provides grants for making energy upgrades as well as a free tree to any interested resident.

Sunnyvale – In Sunnyvale, matching funds are available to qualified low-income residents to do energy efficient upgrades.

Santa Clara County – Acterra Green@Home provides additional energy saving programs to residents of Santa Clara County.

Santa Clara Valley Water District – Has a variety of rebate programs including financial incentives to replace lawns, replace energy inefficient clothes washers, and more.