Monday, November 10, 2008

Energy Concerns Driving Home Purchase Decisions

With the homebuilding industry swooning nationally, perhaps nowhere is the slump seen more acutely in California. Builders are pulling out all the stops trying to move inventory, but an interesting trend is developing where builders invest in energy efficiency and tout it much like car dealers tout mpg for cars.

According to an article in the Atlanta Journal Constitution:

"As builders look for ways to move homes in a lousy market, they’re increasingly taking their cue from automakers and turning toward energy efficiency as a selling tool...

Just like with car buyers, home buyers “don’t want to feel like they’re getting a house that’s like yesterday’s SUV,” said Rick Andreen, president of Shea Homes’ Trilogy division, which sells homes in Deland, Fla., as well as Arizona, California and Washington. “They want to feel like they’re getting a leading-edge, efficient product.”

The piece notes that the primary energy efficiencies in new home construction are:

- Solar: Adding solar panels can cut a typical home’s power bill by 60 percent or more.

Heating and cooling: Furnaces and air conditioners are the single-biggest energy users in a home.

- New energy-efficient models, coupled with programmable thermostats and tightly sealed ductwork, can dramatically reduce costs.

- Insulation and sealants: Extra insulation blown into walls and above ceilings are a big advantage. So are new types of caulks, windows and whole-house wraps that keep cold air out in the winter and cooled air in during the summer.

- Water: Tankless instant water heaters cut down on heating costs. Water-saving plumbing fixtures reduce water usage.

- Building materials: New types of insulated concrete forms, wall panels and flooring help seal a house.

- Appliances and lighting: Government-approved “Energy Star” appliances, reduced lighting and compact fluorescent and LED light bulbs go a long way toward cutting electricity costs.

Energy efficiency drives home building [Atlanta Journal Constitution]