If you’ve never lived in a colder climate, buying a house may present some challenges you’re not fully aware of. Not only do you have to contend with lower temperatures, but there’s usually a lot more snow and ice, as well as a greater number of dreary, overcast – and much shorter – days during the winter. So if you don’t choose a house wisely, you could wind up paying huge utility bills to keep your house warm (not to mention the possible plumber’s bill when waterlines freeze). To help you out, then, we want to make you aware of these 5 things to watch out for when buying in a colder climate such as Baltimore.
Obviously, in a colder climate, the heating system in a home will be a major concern. Besides having a primary heating system that can adequately handle the job, you should also have a backup system in case of power outages. “Whether the main system is fueled by gas, oil, coal, solar, or electric,” the experts say, “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.”
A good heating option for colder climates is radiant heating. Using electricity and radiation to provide the warmth, radiant heating “can be installed beneath flooring or even hung on the wall as a panel to provide heating. While other options such as forced air can result in overheating, which results in heat loss (of air you paid to heat!) radiant heating keeps areas warm longer and more consistently, saving energy and enhancing comfort.” When deep winter hits in colder climates and temperatures remain consistently frigid, the benefits of radiant heating become readily apparent.
2. Doors and Windows
Another important consideration when buying in a colder climate such as Baltimore is keeping the heat in. And good, well sealed doors and windows play an important role here. But let’s concentrate on windows because a house has so many more of them than doors.
According to the Department of Energy, leaky and non-energy-efficient windows that let heat out of your home can be blamed for 10% to 15% of your heating bill. So when buying in a colder climate such as Baltimore make sure the house you’re considering has at least double-pane and preferably triple-pane windows.
And then you need to be on the lookout for caulking and weatherstripping. If those windows aren’t sealed properly, it won’t matter how many panes they have – you’ll still lose heat, and cold air will come in.
Similarly, you also need plenty of insulation to keep all that heat you paid for inside your house. Without adequate insulation, especially in the attic, it really won’t matter how good the heating system is. The house likely won’t be comfortably warm, and the utility bills will be high.
Regardless of the kind of insulation – spray foam, fiberglass, or cellulose – what you want to pay attention to is the “R-value,” which is the rating of the insulation’s ability to resist heat flow. Look for a high R-value because a higher R-value indicates better, more efficient insulation. And then, especially in the attic, there should be enough of the insulation with respect to thickness or depth.
4. Roof and Entry Areas
Because colder climates usually come with plenty of snow, another thing to watch out for when buying in a colder climate such as Baltimore is the shape/style of the roof. Most desirable is a roof that does not tend to have snow accumulation, a gable roof, for example.
“A gable is a roof design that features two sloping sides, forming a ‘triangle’ of sorts. The steep roof allows gravity to drag snow to the ground.” You should also make sure that there are no other roof features, such as dormer windows, that could collect ice and snow.
In addition to the roof, you need to take a close look at the entry areas when buying in a colder climate such as Baltimore and for similar reasons. All the entrances should be covered and lighted – unless, of course, you enjoy getting snow down your neck while juggling groceries and trying to unlock the door.
A final thing to watch our for (one that many buyers don’t know about or simply overlook) when buying in a colder climate such as Baltimore is the directional orientation of the house. Ideally, the side of the house with the most area and most windows should face the sun, typically a southerly direction. This will allow more solar heat to build up in the house during the winter daylight hours, which can help reduce heating bills.
It should be obvious, then, that there’s a lot more to consider when buying in a colder climate such as Baltimore. And there’s much more than we’ve touched on here. Your best bet is to hire a local real estate agent to help you choose wisely when making a cold-climate purchase.