High Country Conservation Center pushes for energy-efficient homes
If you own or rent a home in Summit County, how much of a factor was the property’s energy use in your choice?
Local real estate agents say it’s not a high priority for most consumers, and the Frisco-based nonprofit High Contry Conservation Center (HC3) wants to change that.
HC3 energy programs coordinator Marty James said builders, real estate agents and people buying or selling homes in Summit should consider factors like insulation, efficient appliances and energy ratings when trying to market and understand the value of properties.
Residential energy use forms a large portion of energy use in the U.S. as a whole, and most of that energy comes from non-renewable sources like coal and natural gas, she said. So the less energy people use at home, the less they will contribute to global warming and climate change.
The push is part of a larger movement in Colorado in recent years, said Matt Wright, an HC3 board member who runs Deeper Green Consulting.
“Ultimately, we’re trying to reduce energy use in the county and drive down greenhouse gas emissions,” he said. “Codes are advancing. Summit County as a community should be advancing along with it.”
In September, HC3r recognized local company Travis Construction with a green builder award for its home at 180 Game Trail in Silverthorne that was featured in the annual Summit County Builder’s Association Parade of Homes.
This month, HC3 will begin a series of free trainings for real estate agents, builders and others interested in home energy ratings. The first will be at Backcountry Brewery on Wednesday, Oct. 28, from 5:30 p.m. to 7 p.m. and will include drinks and hors d’oeuvres.
AN UNDERUSED TOOL
Todd Gamboa, president of Building Trust, will lead the training. He has worked in the home building industry for 30 years and will talk about recent changes in building codes, construction methods and efficiency ratings including the Home Energy Rating System (HERS) Index.
HERS is the standard, nationally-recognized measurement for inspecting and calculating a home’s energy performance. A lower score means a more efficient home, and the score can be used to qualify for thousands of dollars in mortgage incentives, rebates and other programs.
“Unfortunately, it is a way-underutilized resource,” Gamboa said. “Most Realtors have never heard of a HERS rating.”
HERS is also not well known yet among consumers, who understand a similar rating for cars — miles per gallon — and how it will affect their bank accounts.
“Most consumers have no idea what they’re paying per kilowatt-hour” to power and heat their homes, he said. “That’s a big bill in Summit County: utility costs.”
Plus, energy efficiency is just one reason to value a home constructed to exceed building codes, he said. Other benefits are a more comfortable living environment, reduced maintenance costs, healthier indoor air quality and water conservation.
Brian Wray, owner of Frisco-based Mountain Log Homes of Colorado, said a home’s HERS score is now required to be placed inside the breaker box.
“We go to a lot of trouble and expense to make that happen,” he said. “It’s definitely a tool for the Realtors to use.”
The Summit County planning, building and engineering departments have been proactive about efficient construction, but the real estate market hasn’t caught up, he said.
Kathy Christina, a real estate agent with Breckenridge Real Estate Kompany, said those shifts take time especially in a community like Summit, where 36 percent of home buyers are from the Front Range and 30 percent are from out-of-state.
The majority of those people are considering a second or third home or investment property and not thinking about energy efficiency as a selling point.
“That’s not one of the top 10 questions we’re asked,” she said. “The ski area, obviously, that’s a priority.”
Christina, the Summit Association of Realtors Multiple Listing Service (MLS) chair, said the online MLS, like most in the state, has included a space for home efficiency details for the last couple of years.
HC3 energy programs manager Cody James said the nonprofit also would love to see the county property assessment database include energy ratings, so people can better compare properties.
“Buyers and sellers are asking more questions,” he said. “Realtors (who) don’t know about this are going to be left behind.”
Wright, with Deeper Green Consulting, said future HC3 trainings will focus on how to take advantage of energy efficiency incentives when purchasing an existing home.
The whole industry is moving toward quantifying and promoting efficient construction, he said. “More and more homes in the future are going to be valued on more than just marble countertops.”
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