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Why would you not build "Energy Star?".

The most common misconception a new homeowner can make is that all new homes are efficient because all of the products are new. All homes are not created equal. Whether you're building a $150,000 home or a $1 million home, you have the ability to create an efficient, healthy home without spending a lot of extra money in the process by doing things right the first time. In fact, many people actually spend less money as a result of focusing on home performance.

As home buyers focus more on energy efficiency, indoor environmental quality, and green building, "home performance" becomes an area of great importance during construction. With the many complex systems installed in a home, it is all too common to see an imbalance that leads to problems in comfort, health, durability, and efficiency. The EPA's Energy Star program is a voluntary homebuilding program that requires the home to meet certain standards of construction. There are two parts to the program. The first part requires that all of the specified components that make up your house meet a certain level of efficiency. The second part is that all of these components are installed properly. The assembly of these components is the most critical step in ensuring proper home performance, and you only get one shot. Once the home is completed, it can become quite expensive to correct these problems. It doesn't matter how efficient your heat pump is if the ductwork isn't sealed correctly. It doesn't matter how much insulation you install flit isn't insulating anything. It doesn't matter how tight your windows are if there are invisible holes that equate to having a door open all year long.

How do you know that these things are done correctly in an Energy Star home? The EPA requires a third party inspector to review the building plans and visit the home during the construction process. Throughout the building process, the home performance professional will work with the builder, ensuring that all of the critical details have been considered, often making recommendations on types of insulation, mechanical equipment, fresh-air ventilation, and framing techniques. This well-trained third party has experience in analyzing the house as a system. Just as the local government requires inspectors to visit homes in search of fire and structural hazards, the home performance inspector is there to look for details that affect the health, comfort, durability, and efficiency of the home.

An Energy Star home uses thirty-percent less energy than the average house. If we consider the energy savings alone, this program makes financial sense. If we add in the improved comfort, indoor air quality, and building durability, it quickly becomes a no-brainer.

Investing in upgrades that result in greater performance is one of the smartest investments a home buyer can make. Most people only think about the up-front costs of building a home. The amount of money that will be required to operate the home after construction is rarely considered as part of the financial investment. What would happen to the value of the home if you could reduce the utility bills by thirty to fifty-percent? Needless to say, the value would rise considerably.

According to Darty Appraisal Service, located in Melrose, Florida, a savings of $1 per year adds roughly $20 to the appraised value of a home. The energy rating software used to certify Energy Star homes has a built in feature that quantifies this additional value. The software is also recognized by the mortgage industry as a valid way to project the utility savings and may qualify them for an Energy Efficient Mortgage.

When you build or buy an Energy Star home, you have access to special financing options, allowing you to qualify for additional money to pay for performance related upgrades, such as non-toxic paints and finishes, sealed crawl spaces, upgraded cabinetry and countertops, whole house HEPA filters, and heat recovery ventilation machines that supply fresh air into the home. This means you get more bang for your buck!

By building an Energy Star home, you will not only receive a home that is more comfortable, healthier, and more durable, but you will also be purchasing a better investment. How much added value is possible? We've seen up to $16,000 added to the value of homes, simply by having them certified as Energy Star.

Issac Savage is president of Home Energy Partners, Inc., in Asheville, NC. For more information, call 877-511-0117.
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Author:Savage, Isaac
Publication:New Life Journal
Geographic Code:1USA
Date:Apr 1, 2004
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