Ask Eartha: Make your home hum along with green building techniques
I’m a Realtor here in Summit County and I would like to understand energy efficiency better so I can convey this knowledge to prospective homebuyers. Can you give me a quick overview? — Meredith, Frisco
Thank you for the question Meredith, and timely too! More homebuyers are starting to consider energy efficiency when they purchase a home. People not only want to save money on their utility bills but they want to be more comfortable. Last year, Summit County adopted the 2012 IECC (International Energy Conservation Code) requiring more stringent guidelines when it comes to energy efficiency. Builders are now required to better air seal and add more insulation when constructing a home. What is air sealing, you say? Air sealing means just that, sealing up areas where air might leak through, usually with caulk or foam. These penetrations can easily be seen with an infrared camera.
Another thing to consider is whether or not the home has any certifications such as Energy Star or HERS (Home Energy Rating System). Energy Star qualified homes are independently verified to meet rigorous guidelines for energy efficiency set by the U.S. EPA. With Energy Star, you get all the features you expect, plus a quieter, more comfortable home and lower utility bills. At the same time, a homeowner who purchases an Energy Star home will be helping to reduce greenhouse gases that contribute to global climate change.
HERS is a recognized tool in the mortgage industry and involves an analysis of a home’s construction and onsite inspections. If the project is in the planning stage, the rater can help steer construction so that the home is more efficient. The Home Energy Rater uses an energy efficiency software package to perform an energy analysis of the home’s design. Upon completion of the plan review, the HERS rater will work with the builder to identify cost effective strategies to implement energy efficiency measures.
So how are homes rated through HERS? HERS is like a miles per gallon for your home but unlike miles per gallon, the lower the score, the better the rating. A home that rates 0 is a “net-zero home.” A home that rates 100 is an “average” home, built to code. 1 point corresponds to one percentage in energy efficiency. For example, a home that rates a score of 80, is about 20% more efficient than a home that rates a 100.
Other than a more comfortable and efficient home, there are other advantages. Mortgage discounts are available for Energy Star homes. Currently, the Colorado Energy Office is offering mortgage incentives for high efficient homes with tiered incentives based on the HERS Index. What’s more, if a homeowner buys a home and wants to improve its energy efficiency, the home improvement loan can be rolled into the mortgage. In addition, there are rebates available for these types of upgrades through HC3’s Energy Smart Colorado program and Xcel Energy.
Meredith, the other thing to look for is whether or not the house is an Energy Smart Colorado home. This means, the previous homeowner signed up for Energy Smart Colorado through HC3, had an audit done, and completed an energy retrofit. These retrofits often involve general air sealing, improving the crawlspace and attic insulation, or mechanical system upgrades.
If the home does not have any of these features, a good idea would be to encourage the homeowner to get a home energy audit. Pretty soon, home energy auditors will be providing a HES or Home Energy Score for every home audited. This too, will soon be a recognized tool in the mortgage industry.
If you would like more information on how to sell high-performance homes, consider attending a free training next week put on by the High Country Conservation Center. This training will give you a brief introduction to the benefits of “green” construction and strengthen your knowledge of energy efficiency in homes. The training will be held on Wednesday, October 28 at The Backcountry Brewery in Frisco from 5:30 p.m. to 7 p.m. Free drinks and hors d’oeuvres will be available. Meredith, as a realtor, it’s really important to understand these concepts and you’re wise in seeking out this information. This is where the mortgage industry is headed so those who don’t jump on board will get left behind.
Ask Eartha Steward is written by the staff at the High Country Conservation Center, a nonprofit organization dedicated to waste reduction and resource conservation. Submit questions to Eartha at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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