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A New Shade of 'Green'

Today’s Standards for Home Efficiency

Chad Stearns
President, Greater Montgomery Home Builders Association

 

Anyone who’s been car shopping in recent years knows that modern cars come with a seemingly endless list of options and features to consider. But if there’s one characteristic that most car shoppers rank as high as price, performance and style—it’s fuel efficiency.

 

Much like car shoppers compare miles-per-gallon (mpg) estimates, an increasing number of home buyers compare the energy-efficiency ratings of new homes. A nationally recognized system for measuring a home’s energy performance is called the Home Energy Rating System (HERS) Index which can determine a home’s overall efficiency with a score between 0 and 150.

 

A score of “100” indicates the home meets the industry standard of energy efficiency. The closer a score is to “0” the better, as a “0” ranking would mean the home produces as much energy through renewable resources, such as solar panels, as it consumes (also known as “net zero”). 

 

The energy efficiency of homes has dramatically changed in recent years with new developments in a wide array of green building techniques, materials and products.  And as demand for these products has grown, new standards of energy efficiency have evolved.

 

For instance, the days of new homes that have incandescent lights are almost completely gone. Today’s homes predominantly feature either LED or CFL lights which are much more efficient.

Other examples of features you’re more likely to find in a new home include:

 

  • Double-pane windows – Having two layers of protection in your home’s windows provides a noticeably stronger barrier to help prevent outside temperatures (and noises) from affecting the inside of your home, resulting in significant energy savings.

  • Water-saving features – Low-flow bathroom faucets can have a big impact on conserving water, but not quite as big as low-flow commodes. Conventional toilets use 5-7 gallons per flush, which really adds up over time. But low-flow toilets typically use as little as 1.6 gallons per flush.

  • Energy-efficient appliances – More than 30 percent of a home’s energy consumption can be attributed to the kitchen appliances, and that number swells for homes with appliances that are more than 10 or 15 years old. Having newer appliances inside and outside the kitchen with Energy Star ratings can have a noticeable impact on your monthly utility bills.

  • Spray foam insulation – Traditional fiberglass insulation is still used in the majority of homes, however, spray foam is becoming increasingly popular because it provides a tighter seal, lasts longer and protects better against pests and mold.

  • Hard-surface flooring – Less than 20 years ago, it was common for new homes to have carpet covering 80 percent or more of the floor space. These days, carpet is typically reserved for bedrooms (if it’s used at all). The wide variety of hard-surface flooring—shown to improve energy efficiency and air quality—has become much more appealing to the large majority of consumers.

The status quo is changing as consumers are becoming increasingly educated about the benefits of green building products like these. Home owners recognize that energy-efficient features are more than simply methods of cutting down on utility costs; they are investments in the home’s long-term value and overall comfort. 

 

 To learn more about specific green building techniques and to locate skilled home builders in your area, contact the Greater Montgomery Home Builders Association at (334) 277-7766.