embracing solarAbout two years ago, Maryland became the first state in America to require new homes to adhere to the 2012 International Energy Conservation Code, effectively boosting the construction of highly energy-efficient new custom homes for sale. Other states soon followed. Now, new homes builders across the United States — everywhere from Alaska to Oklahoma — are investing their resources into building homes that consume around 30% less energy than a typical home did about a decade ago. And that trend isn’t just limited to the U.S., either. Canadian custom design homes have also begun to fall in line.

So what separates a home that’s been optimized for less energy consumption from one that hasn’t? For starters, there’s a heavy emphasis on keeping the home free from excessive electricity use right from the early conceptualization and planning stages. Once the actual structure goes up, it’s all about finding the right energy-smart flourishes. New homes that use less energy most often focus on:

Advanced Modern Insulation

When the temperatures drop in the winter months, your first temptation is to reach for the thermostat to crank up the heat. In the summer, it’s the same, only with air conditioning. However, constantly running A/C and heating units tend to use loads and loads of energy over time, and the bad habit of turning up your thermostat can end up costing you hundreds more in bills. Modern insulation seeks to keep your home warmer in the winter and cooler in the summer through natural means. The name of the game for energy-saving insulation is heat flow resistance.

Embracing Solar Technologies

The most innovative new homes for sale are often decked out with solar panels from roof to front steps. In fact, some dwellings have even become completely dependent on solar energy for operating their water heaters and electricity needs. Not every home is this advanced, of course, but even adding a few panels to the roof can greatly reduce the need for you to rely on regular power and electricity. And when you use less electricity, the planet can stay that much cooler for longer.

Energy-Saving Appliances

By now, most new refrigerators, dishwashers and dryers feature standard energy-saving options right out of the factory. But you can do plenty more outside of just the kitchen and the laundry room to use less energy. Low-flow toilets and automatic shower heads prevent you from using too much water. Unplugging electrical appliances (cell phone chargers, TVs, stereos) can help cut down on power drains. Most supermarkets offer plenty of energy-efficient light bulbs now, too.

When you’re looking at brand new homes for sale, energy-efficiency should be priority number one. Always ask your real estate agent or the seller for more information. In this day and age, you really can’t afford not to.