One of the keys to the success of the Efficiency Promise Home is that it is based on extensive experience with both production and custom homebuilders as well as many years of actual field work found in existing homes. This particular program is designed to be flexible and compatible with the purchasing, production and scheduling needs of each builder and their chosen contracting team.
The objective is to work individually with each builder to leverage the areas where they can maximize value for homebuyers while enhancing the quality and improving the thermal performance of the entire building envelope. By incorporating these building product and process enhancements, savings can often be realized in total cost, equipment, thermal performance and result in fewer service callbacks and a more comfortable home. The Efficiency Promise applies the principals of "mass customization" to deliver individual and unique guarantees.
This is how energy efficient and eco-sensible housing is achieved in the most cost-effective fashion for each participating home. The resulting impact is the best possible investment in value - for the combination of upfront and operating costs.
Benefit One: Lower Operating Cost (Smaller Utility Bills)
An Efficiency Promise Home will cost less to operate than the vast majority of existing homes. On a square foot per square foot basis and given the same lifestyle conditions, an Efficiency Promise Home will have significantly lower operating cost. The operating cost comparisons show that these new "energy smart" homes will be 40% to 60% more efficient than homes built in compliance to the 1993 Model Energy Code and 20% to 30% more efficient than homes built to the 2006 International Energy Efficiency Code. The lower cost comes from:
- Tested Performance - Measurement and feedback consistently generates improved performance.
- Improved efficiency of the air conditioning systems. Today,s HVAC systems are required to be significantly more efficient than systems built and installed in recent years. In the recent past, 13 SEER (Seasonal Energy Efficiency Ratio) systems were considered a significant upgrade from the manufactured minimum standard. Today, 13 SEER is the new minimum standard and this minimum provides extreme value for the new homebuyer. In addition, some Efficiency Promise communities have 14, 15 and even 16 SEER ratings as the base offering.
- "Right-Sized" HVAC systems add to the energy efficient unit performance and additional savings that are provided. The "right-sized" systems produce the equivalent amount of space cooling for less energy consumed. In extreme weather conditions, "right-sized" systems have long run times which result in getting the most cooling power and the lowest humidity level for the least electrical cost. This effort results in lower utility bills and usually makes for a more comfortable home.
- High-performance windows are better insulated and more airtight. Both elements are part of lowering the cost of operation for the home. The use of "Low E" glass reflects solar heat and prevents the heat from coming into the home. Reflecting the heat and preventing it from entering is an extremely cost efficient method of controlling utility bills.
- In like fashion, your Energy Smart Homebuilding Team will focus on ensuring that your home is tight - but not too tight. A limited amount of home breathing is healthy. The objective (confirmed by the testing of tightness on every home) is to have just the right range of air infiltration. Also, the goal is to reduce the openings in the thermal envelope that allow air to move into the home and to be cooled in the summer or heated in the winter.
- Low utility bills also mean having an impact on water efficiency. Your home comes equipped with faucets and fixtures that allow for the usage of less water. However, the biggest determinant of water usage is lifestyle and not water saving fixtures. Please see the section on Environmental Impact for water and cost saving suggestions to lower your water utility bill and your water environmental footprint.
Benefit Two: More Comfortable
- Comfort is a combination of temperature, humidity, air movement and is personal in nature. While there is no combination of temperatures that will be considered perfect for all potential occupants, Energy Smart Builders and their HVAC contractors believe that one key to comfort is "right-sizing" of the HVAC systems. The standard comes from years of research and shows that the vast majority of population is comfortable at a temperature range of 75 degrees to 78 degrees and 45% to 55% relative humidity. This temperature and humidity band is referred to as the ideal comfort range for 80% to 85% of the population. These conditions along with the actual home elements and the historical weather data for your specific location make up the key elements of the load calculation.
- As a result, proper sizing of the HVAC systems improves homeowner comfort. The system has longer run times during peak outdoor conditions and better moisture removal (creating lower indoor humidity levels) making warmer temperatures feel more comfortable.
- The longer run times lead to more balanced temperatures throughout the home. Tighter ducts mean more air gets delivered to the home and, along with proper home sealing, improved insulation installation and fewer drafts from gaps in the thermal envelope; means the potential for hot and cold spots are much reduced. Comfort is, as a result, increased.
- Your high-performance windows reduce conductive heat losses and gains resulting in warmer interior surfaces during the winter and cooler interior surfaces during the summer. In homes, approximately 40 percent of our physical comfort is due to the radiant heat exchange between our bodies and the surrounding interior surfaces. Thus, high-performance windows improve comfort by reducing this radiant heat exchange. The improved window frames reduce drafts and provide more consistent temperatures throughout the house.
Benefit Three: Return on Investment
- Efficiency Promise Homes generate immediate returns on the investment. This means that the higher cost to build an "above code" home (like Efficiency Promise Guarantee Homes) has a mortgage cost and a utility bill reduction associated with it.
- The energy savings generated by building to the home designed specifications are (almost) always more than the monthly mortgage costs associated with the improvements. This is good value and means that your home is "cash flow positive" from day one.
Benefit Four: Improved Resale
- Your Efficiency Promise Certificate can provide a "third party verification" that the home has been designed, built, inspected and tested to perform to high standards. Depending on lifestyle, your home has the best chance of producing low energy bills and is certainly 20% to 30% more efficient than homes built to 2006 International Energy Efficiency Code and significantly more efficient than virtually all homes built prior to that time.
- Since it is both difficult and costly to replace windows after a house is built, it is best to install high-performance products during the original construction, and being able to document improved windows can lead to an improved resale position. High-performance windows can provide the many impressive benefits listed above resulting in a more comfortable, quieter, and higher quality home with lower utility bills and fewer condensation and fading problems. These benefits can translate into higher resale value.
- Appraised values are higher for energy-efficient homes. The concept of lower operating cost resulting in higher resale prices for homes is just common sense. There is a growing body of technical evidence showing the linkage between low operating costs and resale value. One new study, "Green Value," reveals a direct link between the market value of real estate and its environmental friendliness. A study, led by the Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors and 10 government and private organizations, finds that green/energy efficient buildings can earn higher rents and prices attracting tenants and buyers more quickly, cut turnover, and cost less to operate and maintain. The October 1998 issue of The Appraisal Journal presented the results of research indicating that market values for energy-efficient homes reflect a rational trade-off between homebuyers' fuel savings and their after-tax mortgage interest costs.
- The results of market analyses are remarkably consistent, indicating that home value increases by about $20 for every $1 reduction in annual utility bills.
- As consumers, realtors and the appraisal community continue to grapple with the rising costs of energy, the importance of envelope efficiency and building performance will continue to grow.
- Your Efficiency Promise Certificate should provide valuable evidence to your appraiser that your home is energy-efficient - especially considered to the great volume of homes built before 1993.
Benefit Five: Quality
- New homes are crafted individually and by hand. This concept remains true even though some plans are built repeatedly and others utilize some prefabricated walls and/or trusses. Energy Smart Homebuilders voluntarily participate in this "Above Code" Program and by participating demonstrate a "top down" commitment to building high performance and durable homes that use less energy and are comfortable to live in. This commitment provides many benefits.
- One of those benefits of the high level commitment shows up in the support for consistent building practice and an awareness of the home as a system and not merely the sum of its parts. Efficiency Promise Homebuilders are aware of the best practices of the industry and implement many of the most cost-effective methods that allow for high performance at the lowest total cost.
- Using cost/benefit trade selection and the regular influence of a third-party independent Home Energy Rating Company, your builder has made significant efforts to find and fix problems early in the process and to design and to provide training and feedback to reduce building issues.
- Many users of this voluntary program do so for all homes constructed in this regional market. This creates a common set of standards and consistency for their field builders and trade contractors. Consistency and standardization improves the likely outcome from repetition. Now, each home is built to a defined Energy Smart standard. Each home gets an Energy Pre-drywall Inspection, an Energy Final Inspection and a performance test on home and duct tightness. Consistency creates less variation and reduced chances of a "problem" beyond the control of the homebuyer or the homebuilder. There are no sure ways to eliminate every problem from building a home. But, having the consistent standards from an "Above Code" Building Program with systematic inspections and testing will provide a strong basis for additional assurance of a well built and energy-efficient home.
Benefit Six: Impact on our Environment
There is a growing body of scientific evidence in support of "Climate Change". Regardless of the causes, it is clear that clean air and clean abundant water are vital for the health of our community, the health of our family and the economic vitality of our region. These issues do not just impact our community, but the far reaching impacts of clean air, available and value-priced utilities and available water that impact our region, our state, our country, and our world and, quite possibly, the future.
- Cleaner outdoor air - Energy Smart Homebuilding is smart for just that purpose. Each participating builder takes the basic building package and offers enhancements and improvements that best fits their style, their strengths, and their purchasing leverage. The combination gives the best energy and environmental value for the amount of money invested.
- It is, in fact, ecological as well as economical - and just plain energy smart. Each element that reduces potential energy use in the home reduces by more than 2 to 1 ratio of the production of electricity at the power plant. Reductions in energy usage in new homes can actually be counted in Kw and KwH and those reductions are translated into actual carbon and nitrogen oxide emissions reductions at the power plant level. Therefore, every single bit of savings helps provide for less emissions and as a direct result, cleaner air in our community.
- Be part of the solution: Homeowners who are interested in the environment and willing to be "part of the solution" can participate by choosing to purchase a home from an Efficiency Promise Homebuilder. Are you aware that the EPA says the average American home pollutes twice as much as the average American car? While there is so much focus on the vehicle pollution there has been relatively little outcry over the impact of electricity and natural gas usage in homes. Buy a home that is energy-efficient from a builder who has an interest in reducing the ecological footprint from the effort.
- Homes last a long time - build it right the first time. One important reason that energy-efficiency homes are of increasing importance is their longevity. In this time of spiraling costs and increasing concern related to the need for reductions in carbon and nitrogen emissions, homes last 50 to 100 years, while most vehicles last from 6 to 10 years. This is an important observation as the impact of this home purchasing decision will have ramifications that last for decades. In addition, for many existing homes, the cost to upgrade the basic energy infrastructure - home sealing, insulation, duct work, HVAC equipment and windows is extremely high. This is all the more reason why new homebuyers should purchase from a builder who has an emphasis on doing the best possible job - the first time.
- Water Resource Efficient - the need for clean and abundant water: Your Texas Energy Smart Home will have 1.5 gallon flush toilets, 2.5 gallons per minute (gpm) water saving faucets in bathrooms and sinks. Each of these fixtures is dramatically different from the past and has been standard in new homes since the early 90's. Improvement in water usage now puts its focus on life style (see "Environmental Impact" section). Your home has the potential for a small and potentially much smaller foot print on the water usage in your community. Given the rate of continued growth projected for our area of the country, and the devastating impacts from drought, it is crucial to begin now to change our life styles to reduce usage and save negative impact on our water in this region.
Your Utility Bills: An Efficiency Promise Certificate is not a guarantee of low utility bills
There are no guarantees with the future of electric utility rates. Rates are near all-time highs in Texas and are expected to rise into the future. However, the Efficiency Promise Homebuilder has done the best possible job of weighing the impact of energy saving measures with the additional cost of adding those measures to the home.
Smart building is a series of tradeoffs - from design, to size, to products, to features. Energy Smart Homebuilders all make choices and tradeoffs to create value at all price points. However, each participating builder has a focus on energy and resource sustainability designed, built, inspected and confirmed testing built into the system. They have performed the best possible and most prudent job of designing and investing in affordable and durable - yet beautiful homes where people can afford to buy and live.
In addition, lifestyle decisions dramatically impact the utility costs in a home. For example, the thermostat setting has an outsized impact on electricity usage in peak summer months. Essentially, for every degree the thermostat is set less than 78 degrees Fahrenheit, that one degree will add an approximately 10% to the electrical power required to keep the home at the selected temperature. Other lifestyle considerations have significant impact on electrical usage. See Environmental Impact on Electricity Usage.
All in all, many factors impact the final utility bill. But, the Efficiency Promise Home objectives (good windows, good insulation, efficient air conditioning, tight homes, tight ducts, efficient water fixtures, etc...) and homeowner education are what the builder can do to give the homeowner the best chance for reasonable utility bills.
With the Efficiency Promise process. Your builder has invested in substantial effort to design, build, inspect and test a home for delivered energy efficiency. We work with your builder to issue an Efficiency Promise limited guarantee certificate.
Efficiency Promise will pay 100% of the difference if the guarantee amount is exceeded in either of the two first years of occupancy.