|Homebuyers and sellers of over 22,000 single-family homes in Austin have more information than ever before to increase the value of the home and reduce the energy costs for one of the most important investments they’ll make.
Thanks to a City of Austin ordinance approved by the Austin City Council, the energy features of a house are now as much a part of the negotiation process of buying and selling a home as are new carpets and marble countertops.
“Conversations about reducing energy use and protecting the environment start at home,” said Mayor Pro Tem Kathie Tovo. “The energy audit ordinance is changing how we view the buildings in which we live and work.”
The Energy Conservation Audit & Disclosure (ECAD) ordinance was passed by the City Council in 2008 as a component of the Austin Climate Protection Plan – Austin’s local effort to combat climate change.
As a result of the ordinance, the City of Austin was the first in the country to require energy audits or energy benchmarking for all three building sectors: single-family homes, multifamily residences and commercial buildings.
The ordinance requires energy audits for single-family homes that are for sale in the City of Austin and are more than 10 years old. Certain exemptions apply. The energy audit conducted by a certified energy auditor provides an in-depth analysis of the energy efficiency of the home, including testing for duct leakage, insulation levels, air conditioning and heating system efficiency, water efficiency and other features.
Compliance with the ordinance by home sellers, with the help from their real estate professional, is increasing steadily. Savvy real estate agents use the results of the energy audit to help market the house. In 2014, a total of 5,174 single-family homes on the market or 62 percent received energy audits. This was up from the 4,344 homes or 52 percent that received audits the year before. Results for 2015 will be tallied next year.
“Energy audit results help to increase the value of a home that is already energy efficient,” said Jessica Galloway, Project Manager at Austin Energy, which manages and implements the ordinance. “Home sellers and buyers can also use the results to make improvements that increase the overall efficiency, health, comfort and value of the house.”
Austin Energy works cooperatively with the Austin Board of REALTORS® (ABoR) – which has more than 10,000 members involved in the real estate industry – to help home sellers comply with the ordinance. Austin Energy staff members deliver training and information to real estate agents at ABoR workshops and networking events, provide information to title companies and lending institutions and teach classes at real estate schools.
On Wednesday, Oct. 14, Austin Energy is participating in ABoR’s annual Realty Round Up at the Palmer Events Center. At a 10:30 a.m. workshop during the event, Galloway will teach a session on the benefits of the ordinance. Austin Energy also will staff a booth in the exhibit hall to provide information about energy audits and energy efficiency to attendees.
While the ordinance does not require energy efficiency upgrades for single-family buildings, energy efficiency improvements can exempt a home from the required energy audit or help the home achieve a higher energy rating. Austin Energy provides comprehensive rebates to assist customers with energy audit results who choose to make their homes more energy efficient.
“Because Austin Energy is owned by the City of Austin, it is more interested in keeping electric use affordable for customers than in increasing electricity sales,” said Larry Weis, Austin Energy general manager.
Overall awareness about energy efficiency is increasing and homes are becoming more efficient. In the 1980s, for example, the average-size single-family home in Austin was 1,871 square-feet and averaged 8.8 kilowatt-hours of electricity per square foot. In the 2000s, based on 2010 data, the average-size home was 2,501 square feet and averaged 7.4 kilowatt-hours of use per square foot.
“The energy audit ordinance and the Austin Climate Protection Plan have had a direct, positive effect on how we use and think about energy in our community,” Mayor Steve Adler said.
For more information about the ECAD ordinance and energy audits, visit www.austinenergy.com/go/ecad or call 512-482-5346.
Green Zone Home is now inspecting, testing and verifying houses that fall under the City of San Antonio’s 2015 International Energy Conservation Code (IECC) requirements.
The 2015 code is very similar to the 2012 code which the City of Austin is under. One difference is that the 2015 code allows for what is called the Energy Rating Index or ERI. As it stands the RESNET Home Energy Rating System (HERS) ratings are the only way of meeting the ERI. Interestingly the ICC in the IECC sets the rating threshold to hit or be under at 52 in climate zone 2. San Antonio adopted a threshold of 59. The State of Texas is setting it at 65 for when it comes into adoption. We’ve found so far though that most homes will meet the codes prescriptively or using the traditional performance paths (RESCheck, IC3) with HERS ratings higher than the thresholds that have been set.
With the 2012 and 2015 codes though the building standards are really reaching the point to where going beyond them is usually going to require significant increased cost. This is a big step in home energy efficiency. For a home to show differentiation in being significantly more efficient than the codes now a big effort in efficiency or solar is likely to going to be made.
As with your car its important to get your HVAC system serviced regularly. In central Texas where most systems perform both heating and cooling functions this should be twice a year in the Fall and Spring.
HVAC Filter Replacement
Its important to use the proper size and type of air filter with your HVAC system. Also, timely and regular replacement of the filter is important. Find out from your HVAC professional which type of filter your system should use and how often it should be replaced.
Do you need to have any solar screens changed out for the season?
Are there leaves in the gutters that need to be removed?
Has the furnace been checked and serviced?
Is all weather stripping still in place and working effectively?
Is it time to consider an attic access tent or cover?
Does the attic have adequate insulation?