Monique and Johnnie Turner eyed the partial brick construction of the model homes in the Saratoga subdivision in Southern Fairfax County. "Well," Mrs. Turner said finally, "we'd like a whole brick home."
"It roasts you in the winter and keeps you cool in the summer," added her husband.
New home buyers in Fairfax County, who once favored cathedral ceilings and acres of windows, are demanding - and getting - heavy insulation and storm window. Realtors and Salesman say. It is all part of a new concern over energy conservation that has prompted home builders to give serious thought to incorporating energy saving devices in new homes.
"Schools used to be the top priority" when prospective home buyers questioned her, said Barbara Yager, salesperson for the Locust Hills subdivision in Great Falls. "Now energy has come up to join it."
While none of the other prospective home-buyers queried this weekend immediately thought of brick as the best home-energy saver, all of them said energy-saving features were high on their priorities list when considering a new home.
Christine R. Mackmin said conservation items like insulation and storm windows were definitely on her priority list. "We expected them (in our new home)," she said.
"Before we'd buy a new home, we'd ask questions about what is going into it (to save energy)," said John Jarboe, who with his wife, Karyn, will soon be moving into a new brick-and-block townhouse that has insulation and a heat pump as standard items.
Real estate agents confirm their customers are much more-conscious about energy-saving devices such as heat pumps (a machine which sucks cold air out of the home in winter and hot air out in the summer), up-graded insulation (conserves more heat than the standard insulating material) and storm windows, than they were one or two years ago.
"The majority are very energy conscious," said Saratoga salesman Richard McDonagh.
"They ask me how much their monthly utility bill will be," said Louis R. Jefferson at the "The Representative" condominiums in Arlington.
Those who are shopping say that the home sellers also are more conscious of energy advantages that they can use to sell a home.
"They're really pushing those that pumps," said Karen Kilday of Alexandria.
Yager concedes, "I do think it's necessary to install a heat pump to sell an all-electric home." Yager tells her customers they will save between 30 per cent and 40 per cent on their utility bills with a heat pump as long as the outside temperature ranges between 32 degrees and 75 degrees.
Advertisements in the real estate sections of newspapers also reflect this new concern. Along with "ideal location" and "low down-payment," the ads frequently offer such attractions as "R-30 insulation," "6-inch batted insulation in ceilings" and "microwave ovens which save up to 70 per cent of cooking energy" in new homes.
Some builders are making these energy-conserving devices standard equipment, labeling them as an "energy package" or calling the new home a "thermatized" home.
When these features are not standard items on new homes, owners frequently consider installing them themselves. Telephone repairman Robert Hickerson and his fiancee, Laurie Williamson for instance, are buying a $73,000 home in the Briarwood housing development.
"They're not building with storm windows," Hickerson said. "But once we move in, I plan to install them. And before they put the fireplace in, I had them install wiring, so I can put in a heat-o-lator. The fireplace loses 90 per cent of its heat and the heat-o-lator will save maybe 60 per cent of it."
Maj. Al Goodbarg said he is moving out of his four-bedroom Kings Park West detached home into a three-bedroom townhouse in the same subdivision in hopes of conserving heat and saving money.
"The townhouse gives you a better break. For one, we're sharing heat with the other wall [of the next-door occupant]," Goodbarg explained.
"Everybody used to want an end unit" in a row of townhouses, said Bette Austin, a salesperson at Kings Park West. "Now they're looking for interior units because it saves energy."
Allyne Angel, a sales agent at Briarwood development, said, "People are frightened. They are concerned about the shortage of oil. If the oil is going up, they don't want to be stuck with high bills."
"There's been so much waste," Monique Turner reflected. "I've always asked myself 'how long will fuel last?'" added her husband.
Yet, the fuel, which seems everlasting - the sun - elicits few or no inquiries from prospective buyers, agents report. "I never had an inquiry on solar," said McDonagh. "I think the buyers realize the cost would be prohibitive," said Joseph S. Dana, a salesman at the Pinewood Glen sub-division.
For some buyers, the location of their new home is their greatest energy-saver. "It's really energy consciousness that made us buy this home," said Christine Mackmin who will soon move from Dale City in Prince William County to be nearer the Fairfax County elementary school where she teaches.
"My gas bill is already $90 a month," she said, "and when I see gas going up to $1 a gallon . . ."