Top 5 Things to Consider When Buying a Home in Phoenix

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••• Programmable Thermostat. Tom Grill / Getty

Whether you are considering buying a resale home or building a new home (or even renting an apartment) in Phoenix, you'll want to consider these five things first. If the home you are in love with takes care of these 5 items, you will be able to save considerable money on your electric bill during those hot summer months.

1. Exposure

What is the exposure of the home? Does the front of the house face either east/west or is it a north/south exposure? Generally, the preferred exposure is either north or south. Frankly, the most important aspect of the position of the house relative to the sun is determining which part of the house faces west. The western afternoon sun is the hottest. If you sleep in the afternoon because you work the graveyard shift, you don't want your bedroom on the west side of the house! Likewise, the room that your family uses the most should probably not be on the west side of the house, since that side heats up the most, and will require the most energy to keep it cool.

2. Windows

Where are the windows in the house, and how large or small are they? The more windows you have, and the larger they are, the more energy you'll use keeping your house cool, especially if they are west- facing windows.

3. Window coverings

In the Arizona desert, it is important that you have tinting or screens on your windows (there's a difference between shade screens and bug screens). Window coverings--shades, blinds, drapes, shutters--can be very expensive, but they are part of the consideration in keeping your energy costs down. In the summer, make sure that the windows are covered before you go off to work.

4. Ceiling Fans

Just the movement of the air inside the house in the summer may be enough to lower that thermostat for a couple of degrees and save you money on those summertime electric bills. That means that the ceiling fans could easily pay for themselves over just one or two summers in hot climates.

Ceiling fans don't lower the temperature in the room, they just provide a breeze that can make you feel at least 5° cooler. Make sure the ceiling fan blades are rotating counter-clockwise for a cooling effect. That's the direction most ceiling fans need to move to get a downdraft. To make sure the blades are moving in the correct direction, stand under the fan. If you are not feeling the downdraft, reverse the direction of the blades.

If you are having a new home built, don't forget to order the wiring for the ceiling fans in all the rooms where you may want one, even if you don't install them right away. It is much cheaper to have the rooms wired for ceiling fans at the outset, rather than pay an electrician to wire your home later on. Put ceiling fans in all the rooms where your family spends a lot of time. The kitchen, the family room, the den, and the bedrooms are obvious choices. Some people have fans in all the rooms, and even on the patio and in the workshop or garage.

Fans should be between 7 and 9 feet from the floor. If you have vaulted ceilings, you can get extenders to lower the fan. If you don't have vaulted ceilings, your fan shouldn't be closer to the ceiling than 10 inches. If you put the fan right next to the ceiling, you won't get the anticipated energy efficiency, because there's no room for the air to flow around the fan blades. Makes sure the fan blades are at least 18 inches from the walls. Go with the largest fan you can. Larger fans don't really cost more to operate, and you'll be able to have more speed settings and cover larger areas.

If you have a large room like a great room, have two fans installed.

Here's the beauty of it all: a ceiling fan has almost no maintenance. Dust the blades now and then, and if your fan has a light kit, you'll have to change the bulbs when they burn out.

Be aware—ceiling fans won't keep your home cool if you leave them on when you aren't home. They don't cool the air; they just provide a breeze that makes your skin feel cooler. If you leave the ceiling fans on all the time, even when you aren't there, you are using energy, not saving it.

5. Programmable Thermostats

Raise the thermostat setting as much as you can without sacrificing comfort. For every degree you raise the setting, you can cut cooling bills by as much as 5 percent. In summer, turning the thermostat up to 78 will keep the cost down. I use a programmable thermostat to set the temperature up a degree or two at night and when we are all out of the house for long periods of time during the week. For maximum A/C efficiency, don't vary temperatures more than about 3 degrees.

So, let's get back to that home that you fell in love with. You say it has a southern exposure, and the entire western side of the house is the garage? You say that all the windows have shade screens on them, and the sunnier ones even have awnings? The seller is leaving the drapes and blinds that block out every bit of sun when closed, but allow for plenty of light and sun in the mornings and in the winter? There are ceiling fans in every room? Your dream home just became that much more perfect, and you've saved thousands of dollars in purchases and electric bills by selecting this home.

Congratulations!