Why dont MLS listings include Energy Ratings?

Iam not very familiar with MLS listings so maybe there is already an area for this. Perhaps its currently just added to the "other" category. It certainly seems like there should be a dedicated line item to a home's Energy Rating in the MLS.

This question and discussion applies mainly to new homes. It would be great is someone could provide some nationwide numbers on how many homes are getting third party certification. Here in Asheville NC, where we have a thriving green building market, I would guess that close to 50% of new homes are third party certified but this is purely a guess and would love to have a Realtor fact check me on this.

An Energy Rating like HERS is a very accurate prediction of Monthly, Energy Costs and would be a very valuable metric for a buyer to compare homes and be used in financing calculations.

HERS Rating Image       (having trouble inserting pics with zillow editor)

There is a growing movement of "greening" MLS listings. Ive done limited research on them but it seems like most of these fall short of providing an actual Energy Rating. I think its important to realize that while an Energy Rating offers the most insight into how green a home really is, it should be kept separate from any Green feature addendum.

All people want to pay less on Monthly, Energy Bills. Home Energy Costs is increasingly a variable in the calculation of how much home a person can afford especially with Energy Efficient Mortgages. Much as property taxes are included, an Energy Rating can be a very accurate prediction to the monthly costs associated with affording and financing a home. 

Continued...
  • September 19 2011 - Asheville
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Answers (39)

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Comparing the Temperature range of Pasadena CA to Asheville NC:

California Climate Zone 9 Temperature:

web address for full sized image:
http://photos1.zillow.com/is/image/i0/i9/i4147/IS1trb9lrz48m8z.jpg

And average by the hour:

web address:
http://photos2.zillow.com/is/image/i0/i9/i4147/IS4bdqwp1zjdlv.jpg

And for Asheville:


web address:
http://photos2.zillow.com/is/image/i0/i9/i4147/IS1trb9lzv8ou5f.jpg

and average by the hour:


web address:
http://photos2.zillow.com/is/image/i0/i9/i4147/IS4bdqwd7sv1r7.jpg
  • October 01 2011
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Sorry, a copying error just observed on that last post...

427 cooling degree days for Brian's area at 18°C.
  • September 30 2011
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So, if we set the thermostats to 10°C heating (50°F) and 18°C cooling (64½°F), which is more energy efficient, Brian's area, or my area?

My area: 2 heating degree days per year
            575 cooling degree days per year

Brian's area: 832 heating degree days per year
                   747 cooling degree days per year.

---> my area is more energy efficient.
(and no one in their right mind is going to cool to 64½°F)

How about 27°C  (80½°F)
125 cooling degree days per year for my area, 32 cooling degree days for Brian's area.

How about 23°C  (73½°F)
334 cooling degree days for my area, 156 cooling degree days for Brian's area.

Now, one might think that you just add the degree days to find out total energy needed?  Absolutely not!  It always takes more energy to cool than it does to heat!

So it may be a wash?  You don't need to cool if you have natural cooling every day, and if you have means for maintaining temperature without use of mechanical devices, such as shading, insulation, and heat sinks (thermal mass).

But even if you double the cooling degree days and add it to the heating degree days, my area still comes out more energy efficient regardless what you chose to set the thermostats at.
  • September 30 2011
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And the same data from the California Climate Zone-9 file:
(I'm not sure which weather station is used for this data; I think it is one in Pasadena though; I thought Siera Madre or North Lake, but possible JPL even though JPL is technically in LaCanada.  I'll have to check).

     hdd10°C hdd18°C cdd10°C cdd18°C cdh20°C cdh23°C cdh27°C
Jan      1         154        95            0        134        19            0
Feb     0          121      107            4        259        80            7
Mar     1          116      133            0        357      122           14
Apr     0            68      179            6        649      298            68
May    0            26      246          23        980       446         113
Jun     0              1      303          64      1699       957          344
Jul      0              0      401        153      3024     1892          770
Aug    0              0      390        142      2718     1721          758
Sep    0              0      360        120      2418     1449          631
Oct     0            18      290         60       1574      839          307
Nov     0            96      147           3        463       192            38
Dec     0          154       94           0         203        35              0
total:   2          754    2745        575   14,478     8050        3050

Still stating that cooling is need; which I still say isn't true.
But it is stating that fewer heating days are needed, which is true.
  • September 30 2011
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Here is the same data for the Bob Hope Airport in Burbank CA:

     hdd10°C hdd18°C cdd10°C cdd18°C cdh20°C cdh23°C cdh27°C
Jan      4        59        95            1            187         35           0
Feb      1      158        67            0              60          1           0
Mar      0      117      138            7            275        114        21
Apr      0        58      224           43            975        561      262
May     0        19      286           57          1268        633      204
Jun      0         3       303           66          1402        650      137
Jul       0         0       397         149          2716      1469      453
Aug     0         0       419          171         3067      1763      686
Sep     0         0       473          233         4282      2635    1189
Oct     0        43       217           13           478        155        25
Nov     0        81       162            4            439        153        20
Dec    5       169        87             3            273        101         7
total: 10      807     2868         747        15,422      8270    3004

And I can tell you for certain that I don't cool anywhere close to 3000 hours per year, and the temperatures rarely reach 27°C.

It maybe the proximity to the mountains; but both Pasadena and Bob Hope Airport are in California Climate Zone 9.

I'm convinced it is more related to 1) trees, 2) attic space, 3) building orientation, and 3) careful use of blinds and windows.

  • September 30 2011
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Those summary data files are really helpful; but take a while to get used to the format and the metric units.

Here is the degree heating and cooling days, and degree cooling hours for Brian's area, from the file:

       hdd10°C hdd18°C cdd10°C cdd18°C cdh20°C cdh23°C cdh27°C
Jan     270       516          2            0            0           0             0
Feb    160       376          8            0            0           0              0
Mar      79       296        30            0          40           1              0
Apr        6       132      120             7        313        111            16
May       0        56       211           19        742        251            14
Jun        0         0        333           93      1692        728            86
Jul         0         1        387         140      2497      1336           402
Aug       0         0        379         131      2144      1029           236
Sep       0       19        257          36         765       255             22
Oct     15      173          91            1         206        38               0
Nov     98      312          26            0          42          1               0
Dec   204     449            3            0            0          0               0
Total: 832   2330      1847        427       8441     3750            776

Obviously, for reasonable energy savings, heat to 10°C, cool to 27°C
  • September 30 2011
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List of weather Data Files for the U.S. (down loadable)

Definitely much more detailed than the U.S. climate zone map!
(22 climate/weather locations offered for North Carolina).

Asheville NC Energy Plus Weather Data

Asheville NC Data Summary Report
  • September 30 2011
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Thats very interesting for CA. Yet more proof that it really is its own country.
  • September 30 2011
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Well, California models Zone-16 to Mt Shasta climate data, which is in Zone-5 on the national map; so probably not good for modeling Brian's area.

But on the U.S.  energy.gov website, I found the climate zone data files for use in Energy Plus Energy Simulation Software...

California climate data files

So, I imagine that other data files for other parts of the country are also available on that website.
  • September 30 2011
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According to the National map, Brian's area is Climate Zone-4; which is more similar to climate-Zone 16 in California than anything else.
  • September 30 2011
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Wow!  I just noticed that Climate Zone-16 for California Title-24 has four separate climate Zones on the national map; climate zones 3, 4, 5 and 6.

Apparently California doesn't care as much about Zone-16 due to the relatively few people.  So, for those areas, the national zones may be of more use?

I'm not sure I have enough experience or knowledge of any of those areas in California Climate Zone-16 to have a specific opinion yet.

Mono County would be interesting to look at, since it is Zone-6 (colder) on the national map while Zone-16 on the State map.
  • September 30 2011
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From the U.S. Department of Energy, Pacific North West Labs website...
"Building Energy Codes Resource Center":

The U.S. climate map by county, for compliance with Energy Star, IECC, ASHRAE...



Definitely not as detailed nor as useful as California's Climate Zone map as required for complying with Title 24.


If you don't know the climate; you can't tailor the building design to the specific climate needs.
  • September 30 2011
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Yes, most certainly the biggest cause of heat loss in the winter is windows and doors that don't seal properly, and utility piping entries that were not caulked.  And similarly for air conditioning inefficiencies in the summer.

But all that is just foolishness.  Even for an existing home, door seals are inexpensive and easy to install, and weather stripping for windows and doors is inexpensive and easy to install, and caulk is inexpensive and easy to install.

The bigger issue is design with overhangs on the southern and western faces of the building, shading with trees, deciduous where appropriate for colder climate areas, appropriate U-values for window glazing, appropriate insulation where needed, and management of sunshine, both for lighting and temperature control.  Some use automatic blinds or draperies; but really it is not hard to manually operate drapes and windows.

Other issues are whether you optimize for use of mechanical temperature control (smaller volume buildings), or you optimize for natural ventilation in warmer climates (high ceilings and high cross ventilated attic spaces).

If one doesn't know the climate zone, and doesn't know how the occupants will operate the space, one is still choosing the wrong designs and the wrong products.
  • September 29 2011
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We are wasteful and we should all try to do better. 

Tight building envelopes are THE most cost effective path to Energy Efficiency and not being so wasteful. Surely you've all heard  "Build tight, ventilate right".

ERV/HRV                   

Buildings need to breathe, but we want to control; where, when and how. Creating high-performance building envelopes with proper, healthy ventilation is one of the main reasons building new can be more desirable than choosing existing homes.
  • September 29 2011
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Some projects I worked on had building pressurization requirements for controlling dust; as well as seamed membrane roof for durability, reduced maintenance, and water-tightness.  But on some of these, insufficient consideration was paid to air changes and air balance, and the building pressurization blew the roof up like a big bubble separating the membrane from the actual roof since it was so air tight.  This often became an issue when HVAC units would automatically switch to economizer mode taking in more outside air.

In all cases it was necessary to retrofit the roofs with pressure relief dampers to protect the roof membranes.

And of course there are always minimum air change requirements for # of occupants and for uses such as restrooms...

And then there are the potential mold issues for where moist air condenses, without having sufficient ventilation.   This has often become an issue in attic spaces in damper climates.  Sometimes the mitigation requires completely replacing all the insulation, as well as putting in the missing (or covered) attic vents.

Although sealing a building really tight sometimes helps energy efficiency; buildings still need to breath.

Which also reminds me of some of the problems with newer portable classroom buildings.  Sometimes some of the adhesives (especially for wall and furniture finishes and floor carpeting) will outgas formaldehyde or  similar toxic products.  And after construction, the doors are just left closed (sealed).  This has created some "sick building syndromes".

Sometimes we look so closely at one area and forget the bigger picture.

Personally, I'm not a fan of forced air heating nor cooling and prefer natural ventilation.  But then that doesn't work well in all climates with all construction types.

On the other hand, there were some very effective net-zero energy buildings in the 1600 (some monasteries for example) that would never meet building pressurization standards nor present building codes.  But the thermal mass of the buildings was very effective at regulating temperature.

I still prefer the use of a thermal infrared camera to look for compromises in a building envelope and piping/duct work insulation... rather than a building pressurization test.  But those cameras are still a bit out of my budget.  But of course, we will comply with the codes and exceed them when possible as required.

Although California energy codes are reasonably strict and change every 3 years; they never demand something that can't be readily met by standard reasonably priced products on the market.

But it still seems there are often competing existing code requirements.  For example, if one installs waterless urinals, the local building departments still insist that water is piped to those locations for expected future standard urinals, just because it is in the code.  Why?

And then there is that whole environmental and cleanliness argument about paper towel dispensers verses electric hand dryers in restrooms.  And most of those motion sensor paper towel dispensers run on batteries, which can't be very good for the environment nor operating costs.  But I guess they help minimize spread of viruses and bacteria...
Perhaps if the paper was composted instead of trashed?
(We are a very wasteful country).
  • September 29 2011
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Still here Pasa, thanks for posting the HERS info! Seems like there is lots of change currently underway that really affects this thread. Iam still figuring out the new IRC energy codes and I really like what Iam seeing. I dont think most builders would agree and I know that even the HERS raters are not happy with some of the new changes being made in version 3. 

For the most part Ive been building past these requirements so they dont really matter to me other than its going to create more competition ;)

Most of the country is not enforcing the current energy code very well and Iam sure that will continue. I know you Californians are way ahead of the rest of the country as far as that goes!

Perhaps the most meaningful change thats coming is Blower Door Testing requirements. According to the new IRC, all new homes will be required to be Blower Door Tested (and meet some pretty crappy criteria). Its a huge step in the right direction though. I would equate this with the first building code requiring insulation only much more meaningful.

If we cant get Energy Ratings added to the MLS then I think the Blower Door Test would be the next best thing maybe even better..
  • September 28 2011
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What happened to Brian?

He seems to have stopped posting after I posted regarding the California Home Energy Rating program...
  • September 28 2011
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Thanks for the link to the booklets Pasa. They're keepers!
  • September 25 2011
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such a great thread with some really wonderful information.
  • September 25 2011
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HERS Rating Certificate in California:


Web address for full sized image:
http://photos3.zillow.com/is/image/i0/i9/i2475/IS1t7oimefeqzz7.jpg

Home Energy Rating Booklet (By the California Energy Commission)
("What is your Energy Rating?")

CALIFORNIA CIVIL CODE SECTION 2079.10
  (a) If the informational booklet published pursuant to Section 25402.9 of the Public Resources
Code, concerning the statewide home energy rating program adopted pursuant to Section
25942 of the Public Resources Code, is delivered to a transferee in connection with the transfer
of real property, including, but not limited to, property specified in Section 1102, manufactured
homes as defined in Section 18007 of the Health and Safety Code, and property subject to
Chapter 7.5 (commencing with Section 2621) of Division 2 of the Public Resources Code, the
seller or broker is not required to provide information additional to that contained in the
booklet concerning home energy ratings, and the information in the booklet shall be deemed to
be adequate to inform the transferee about the existence of a statewide home energy rating
program.
 
   (b) Notwithstanding subdivision (a), nothing in this section alters any existing duty of the
seller or broker under any other law including, but not limited to, the duties of a seller or broker
under this article, Article 1.5 (commencing with Section 1102) of Chapter 2 of Title 4 of Part 4 of
Division 2 of the Civil Code, or Chapter 7.5 (commencing with Section 2621) of Division 2 of the
Public Resources Code, to disclose information concerning the existence of a home energy
rating program affecting the real property.
 
   (c) If the informational booklet or materials described in Section 375.5 of the Water Code
concerning water conservation and water conservation programs are delivered to a transferee
in connection with the transfer of real property, including property described in subdivision (a),
the seller or broker is not required to provide information concerning water conservation and
water conservation programs that is additional to that contained in the booklet or materials,
and the information in the booklet or materials shall be deemed to be adequate to inform the
transferee about water conservation and water conservation programs.
  • September 20 2011
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HERS (Home Energy Rating System) in California:
energy.ca.gov/HERS/

Don't forget to download the 24 page "regulations" PDF document and the HERS technical manual (106 page PDF document).

Also read about HERS phase II.  (Rule changes still in process).
  • September 20 2011
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MLS listings do include the ratings in ours and many MLS. Also included are green features and many handicapped features. These fields and many more are not searchable and are not even available in many non MLS internet sites that use some of the data that Realtors and MLS provide to them.
  • September 20 2011
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Actually, newer homes are not always less expensive to maintain... in many cases, the maintenance costs for a 15 year period after purchase is higher for a new home than for existing.  Many of the "problems" on existing homes were already found and corrected.  Any settling that was to occur due to soil compaction... already occurred.  And many older homes used more durable quality materials, such as heart redwood.

Yes, most people should be looking at life cycle costs; not just upfront costs.  But utility bills are as much determined by living patterns as they are by house and appliance efficiencies.  The reason lenders don't consider them is it is already factored into the allowable debt to income ratio.  And many people are already paying gas, water, electricity and trash payments anyway.  Of course one also needs to factor in yard work, cleaning and maintenance... and periodic capital replacements (such as water heaters and roofs).

Even with the absolutely oldest most in-efficient houses available, people can get their utility bills down to less than $20 per month if they "choose" to do so.  People don't "need" televisions, computers, lights, refrigerators, air-conditioning, microwaves,.... nor do they "need" to be throwing away 60 gallons of "stuff" every week.  As far as "heating"; has no one heard of blankets and sweaters and ski clothing?

And "climate" of an area, and "trees" properly located on a site are much more important to energy consumption than any energy efficiency rating of a building.

The data is all available for those that want it.  There is no need to put it on the MLS as the agents have absolutely no clue how to interpret it, and those that are searching for energy efficiency have other methods to do that and little direct access to the MLS in the first place.

And still, even with an energy rating, they will not tell you the specific insulation used.  But some of that is on the Title-24 Building Envelope Calculation forms that are required for new-construction and remodel in California, and those are at the local building department.  And if what you need to know is not on the form, the licensed person that filled out the form has their name on the document, and that person can be looked up from the license, and can be contacted for more information.

  • September 20 2011
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Ok.. so two main reasons emerge: 1. Not enough volume of Energy Ratings which I suspected. 2. Buyers dont care.

Obviously monthly energy costs are low on the list compared to location and schools. The main purchasing decision however is price. Most people finance, changing purchase price into a monthly payment. Energy costs are also a monthly payment that in many cases is bigger than taxes. Why ignore such a big variable in this equation?

Dan is in the small minority of people that are more interested in less house than they can afford yet he wants it to cost less to operate as well. New, houses require less maintenance (woops couldnt help it). Energy Costs are very important in this type of purchasing decision and an Energy Rating on the MLS could prove very useful to this type of buyer.

As an aside, ICFs (poured concrete forms) certainly have some advantages but cost effective, energy efficiency is not one of them. For those people interested in R-value and insulation types, Energy Ratings are far more valuable than this information. 

I agree that most people could care less about montly, energy costs but this is a result of being unaware and this is beginning to change. For the MLS to stay relevant in these changing times, Energy Ratings and Average Monthly Energy Costs would be an obvious improvement to the system. 
  • September 20 2011
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Profile picture for the_country_hick
Brian, I do not want a more expensive house. I want a house that both costs less to buy AND costs less to live in. I have considered the foam block concrete house for efficiency reasons. It being quieter and very weather resistant is a big plus.

The biggest reason I do not want to go this way with a house is that used is a lot cheaper than new. Finding this kind of construction used is not easy. That probably means it would have to be built new. On the other hand having much lower utility costs would be a permanent savings for the life of the house.

If I had done this a few years ago at $2.50 a gallon gas with fuel and energy prices today that slight extra cost for a more efficient house then would now be an energy (and money) savings each month. Once the house is paid off the energy savings continue forever.

When looking at a house one of my big questions is what kind of insulation does it have. That is followed by what the monthly energy costs are based not on money but on fuel delivery units. Propane may go up or down in price but the amount of fuel needed to maintain a given temperature will be in the same ballpark given similar useage.

Energy costs are a big issue when buying a house. Not because they will cost $100 a month but because the prices change so quickly and radically that it is impossible to determine what energy will cost for a year or over several years. If gas went to $8 a gallon (and other energy prices also spiked) all income and expenditure projections would be worthless and I could be unable to pay my bills when I should have been easily able to afford them. This idea actually stopped me from making an offer on one house because it was to far from town. Otherwise I probably would have made an offer at $1.25 a gallon gas as it used to be.
  • September 19 2011
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I always advise clients to get information from the local utilities.  Energy ratings are great, but only available on new homes.
  • September 19 2011
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"...why MLS, lenders and Realtors tend to ignore monthly energy costs." -

The MLS only includes what the members of the MLS want... and the agents only include data that is either mandated, or strongly desired by their clients; and frankly, those that care about energy don't need the data in the listings, and those that don't care about the energy will ignore the information anyway.  To them it is location (for work commutes...) first, often schools second, size/bedrooms/floor plan third, appearance 4th, cost 5th, neighbors 6th, local stores/organizations/health-care 7th, climate 8th, property amenities 9th (such as # car garage, swimming pool, horse property, views, water front...), and energy usage/costs fall way down the list after the property taxes.

Since it is so easy to get "free" energy audits from the local utilities, the agents can easily publish this information in the listings if they want.  But they don't simply because the buyers are not demanding that data.

Yes, I want to know the R value of the insulation in all walls and ceiling and attic spaces and the R value of the roof.  And yes I want to know the U value of all windows; but even given an energy rating I likely won't get that information.  And I would also like to know the type of insulation used... polystyrene, fiberglass, asbestos, recycled fire-resistive-treated jeans, wood, .... but I don't think I'm going to get that info, unless my home inspector looks for that and has methods of seeing into concealed spaces.

And just because a space had insulation installed doesn't mean it was done properly.  Houses do need to be properly vented for multiple reasons, which is why it is code required.

  • September 19 2011
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Some great points. Iam still not satisfied that Realtors and Buyers would not benefit from this. 

SunnyB, HERS is used primarily for new homes but existing ones that get a Home Energy Audit can benefit from them as well. Most people dont buy new homes but that doesnt mean we shouldnt be including information about energy use whenever possible. You say spending more on a efficient home is a waste? Small example:

Lower Priced home: Mortgage $750 + Energy Bill $100 = $850
Higher Priced Efficient home: Mortgage $775 + Energy Bill $50 = $825

In this example the more expensive, Efficient home is cheaper to live in from the very first month of occupancy. There is a cost effective approach to Energy Efficiency and HERS raters are invaluable when it comes to sniffing it out. Consumers need to be smarter than simply choosing on purchase price alone.

A new discussion could be opened on which is more sustainable: New or existing? Obviously, older homes need extensive energy improvements to become more sustainable. There is a cost effective approach for this and certainly a point of diminishing returns. Only with new homes is it possible to cost effectively create Net Zero Energy Use and Homes with Half the energy use of typical existing homes. Many climate change and energy efficiency experts look to new construction as one of the many solutions to our problems. I would rather keep this discussion focused on why MLS, lenders and realtors tend to ignore monthly energy costs.

Dan, I probably could have worded that better. People dont want a bigger mortgage but they certainly want to be able to afford a more expensive home.  Including Monthly Energy Costs in MLS and the financing equation would benefit everyone.


  • September 19 2011
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By the way, some just contact the gas and electrical companies for the energy usage patterns for the past 12 months, but for residential, there is a huge difference based on user patterns...  it is not at all uniform.

The local utilities have recently provided a comparison sheet for how one is doing compared to the neighbors with the utility bill.  It is surprising to see how well the older homes do compared to the newer homes, primarily due to not using air conditioning.  Often the consumption is less than 1/5 of the newer homes.  Even the use of one window air conditioner to cool one room substantially out performs central air conditioning with a heat pump for the entire home.
  • September 19 2011
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Brian, If one has lower energy bills, they can afford a bigger Mortgage.

Why would I want a bigger mortgage? That is a negative. I would rather buy a house for about the same price that cost a lot less to live in. As an example a few years ago I saw that if you built a quadlock foam block with concrete poured in the middle house that is exceptionally low every usage you would end up spending maybe $5 more a month after insurance and everything was added in and taken away.

If a more energy efficient house is just a small amount (under $50 a month) more it makes sense to buy it. If that more energy efficient house is a lot more expensive it is uneconomical. There has to be a real payback to make this worthwhile.
  • September 19 2011
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