Home buyers love the idea of energy-efficient homes and the money they'll save on utility bills by living in one. Most buyers will even pay a premium for a green home. But as Washington Post real estate columnist Kenneth R. Harney warns, buyers should be wary of "greenwashing". Greenwashing means that a house is being marketed as environmentally friendly or energy saving when it's really not.

Harney provides an example from a green industry professional who has seen greenwashing in listings firsthand:

Allison A. Bailes III, founder and president of Energy Vanguard, a home energy rating and consulting company based in Decatur, Ga., says, “Absolutely, [greenwashing] happens all the time. A lot of [builders] are doing things that are just standard” but they’re marketing them as green. He says he saw one company aggressively advertising its purportedly green homes, but most of the details didn’t amount to much. It was hype: Insulation R-values that met but did not exceed minimum local building code requirements; code-minimum HVAC systems; digital thermostats, which are commonplace; Energy Star appliances; and a long list of other unremarkable features.

Harney also points out a few ways to show that your home is a legitimate green building:

  • Energy efficiency throughout, including high-performance HVAC, lighting, insulation and appliances.
  • Exceptional interior air quality through the use of advanced air filtration and exchange systems.
  • Extensive use of nontoxic building materials.
  • Water conservation efficiencies, such as water-saving toilets and shower fixtures and possibly some reuse of waste water.
  • Ease of long-term operation and management.
Read more >