When you buy a new or used car, do you wonder what kind of mileage it gets? You compare the MPG sticker on new cars when you are buying right? How come we don’t do this when we purchase a home. A home is a much larger monthly expense than a car, yet we seem to be fine with buying a home without any knowledge of the efficiency. This trend is starting to change as energy prices rise and buyers are becoming more knowledgeable before purchasing a home. Don’t get stuck in a home that will cost you thousands and thousands of dollars more than you planned. There are ways to avoid this.
Having been involved in many real estate transactions, the main way that a buyer will find out the so called efficiency of a home is by asking for the current home owner for past energy bills. Getting past energy bills is better than nothing, but they can be very misleading and cause you to make a bad decision. First off, the chances of you having the same habits as the previous owner is not likely. Second, many homeowners won’t have or want to show you the past bills, which then gives you nothing to compare. In some cases you will get one or two bills and then you can’t separate the seasonal loads from the base loads and so on.
In the case of building or buying a new home, there are no past energy bills, so you are then taking the builders word for how efficient that home actually is. Just because the home is new doesn’t mean it is energy efficient. Sure, it’s efficient compared to a home build 30 years ago, but how do you compare from builder to builder? The typical home in West Michigan can range up to 40% or more in the amount of annual energy consumed. That is a large difference. Some day you will see energy ratings on all homes the way we see them on all cars. Until that day, you as a home buyer, need to make sure you are informed.
How can I find out a homes energy rating?
The RESNET HERS Index Rating is the best way to find out how efficient a home is compared to another. This process can be done on new and existing homes. It is a very detailed process, performed by a HERS Rater, which models each component of the home into advanced software. The rater will also perform a blower door test and in many cases a duct leakage test. Once all that info is complied, the software will generate a HERS Index (It will also generate many different reports that dig deep into the how that number was calculated) . Most existing homes will range anywhere from a 90 to 130+ and new homes will typically be in the range of 50 to 90. A index of zero is called a Zero Energy Home (a home that produces as much energy as it consumes). Every point over zero equals 1% more energy used. For example a home with a HERS Index of 65, is using 65% more energy than a Zero Energy Home. This process also allows you and the builder to make adjustments prior to the home being built. You can way the cost verses savings on beefing up the insulation verses more efficient windows and so on.
At this point, in most cities, there is no energy reporting requirements when you sell a new or existing home. I am not a gambling man, but if I were, I would bet that some day (sooner than later) it will be mandatory throughout the U.S. Homeowners should be able to compare the energy usage between two homes, especially new homes. For example say, your looking at two new homes from different builders and one had a HERS Index of 55 and the other had a 70. The first home will be roughly 15% more energy efficient. That is quite a difference and not uncommon between new homes.
Everyday more and more builders are starting to utilize the HERS Index. If you are thinking of building a home, make sure you ask the builder if they are using this process. If they don’t, you might want to find a builder who does. We have the resources readily available to make better buying decisions that can save you thousands over the years. If you are interested in more information on the HERS Index Rating or need help finding a builder who uses this process, please call or email us. We would love to help. For more information on the services were offer….click here.