Can good things come with (very) small houses?

Her home has been mistaken for a wood house, a shed and even a dog house, but in this age of gaudy, luxurious properties, Dee Williams does not mind the strange looks her 84 square-foot home gets from passers-by – her lowered energy bills are well worth it.

Williams, who founded a home construction company, could be at the forefront of a new movement toward homes in America that are dwarfed by their more customary counterparts, which average about 2,400 square feet.

Smaller properties also usually qualify as energy-efficient homes, due to the fact that they use about 10,300 fewer gallons of water and 936 less kWh per year in electricity. The difficulty for energy-conscious consumers is to determine whether they are willing to commit to such homes.

"I do think the bigger nugget to crack is how you spend your money, how you behave as a consumer and how you connect to other people in your community and environment," Williams told Northwestern University's Medill Reports. "…I get people who drive down the alley, look at my house and say: 'Is it a dog house? A shed? A wood house?'" 

While an 84 square-foot home may not be appropriate for most consumers, especially families, buyers who are willing to live in more confined quarters could save themselves substantially in energy costs. Heating is the most expensive home energy cost, so with less space to heat, HVAC systems do not have to run as often.

Smaller homes also provide fewer opportunities for windows and doors to leak, which can be one of the reasons a household's energy costs can soar. Any time consumers are interested in unlocking hidden sources of energy waste, they should hire a Washington, D.C. home inspector to conduct an energy audit. This thorough analysis of a home will ultimately save a consumer more than the cost of home inspection.