At last there is increasing awareness and concern about environmental issues pertaining to homes. Although most homes do not pose environmental risks, there are still a number of potential home environmental issues that buyers should be aware of prior to purchase of new home construction, purchasing a resale, or when considering home renovation:
Possible Health Hazards:
- Water quality is an important concern and if water is provided by a well, it should be tested and, if found to be unsafe, should be remediated by the seller prior to purchase. Typically, a basic water quality test will check pH, water hardness, the presence of fluoride, sodium, iron and manganese, plus bacteria such as E-coli. Another issue could be that water may be tested for the presence of lead or arsenic.
- In homes built before 1978, lead based paint may still be present. Generally, if the lead based paint has been contained by repainting that is in good condition, e.g, not cracking or peeling, there is no longer a hazard. If the condition is hazardous, the paint will either need to be removed or sealed in such a manner as to eliminate the hazard.
- Another common environmental concern with the home is radon. Radon is a radioactive gas that comes from the natural decay of uranium in the soil.Most homes have some radon present, a radon test at the time of home inspection can determine if the level present is higher than what is considered safe. If the level is too high, a radon reduction system will need to be installed.
- In older homes built more than 30 years ago, asbestos was used in many types of insulation and other building materials. If the asbestos is releasing fibers into the air, it needs to be removed or repaired by a professional contractor who specializes in asbestos cleanup. But, if the asbestos material is in good repair, and not releasing fibers, it poses no hazard and can be left alone
Energy-Saving and Environmental Preservation Features:
- EnergyStar appliances will keep your gas and electric bills as low as possible and contribute to a healthier planet
- Well-insulated homes will keep you cozy in winter and cooler in summer at a reduced cost while you use less energy for HVAC
- A wide selection of water-saving but effective toilets are now available at a reasonable cost
- Caulking cracks around doors and windows to eliminate drafts and loss of heating and air conditioning is important.
- Light switches that are motion activated so that lights are only on as needed
- Rain barrels to collect water for outdoor gardening
- Charlottesville is home to a prototype non-profit organization that will evaluate and make recommendations for increasing home energy efficiency: https://leap-va.org/
Universal Design for Aging in Place:
- Features for ADA (Americans with Disabilities) accessibility and safety are an advantage for those who are physically challenged and also contribute to the possibility of long-term home ownership for those who desire aging in place.
- Helpful universal design features include: wide doorways, attractive grab bars in the bathroom, high-seat toilets, sufficient turn-around space for wheel chairs in all rooms, zero-entry showers, built=in bench in shower, light switches at a height that can be reached from a wheel chair, a kitchen counter that a wheel chair can pull under, etc
- Such features will enable you to age in place and will increase the value of your home for resale