We chose to build our first home last year, and as we were meeting with the builder, he told us that our house, along with the rest of those in our neighboorhood, were being built to Energy Star standards. For those of you who aren’t familiar with Energy Star, it is a program of standards given by the Department of Energy for building energy consuming items (TVs, laptops, etc.) After seven months in our new home, we have grown to greatly appreciate the benefits of our home being built to this standard. I will explain a few of the many benefits to you below.
1) Less dramatic shifts in heat and cold
One major facet of our home being built to the Energy Star standard was the amount of insulation packed into the walls of the house. Insulation alone is enough to save a ton on your electricity bill.
We found this out when we got our first electric bill after heavy usage this summer. The bill was a whopping $90! This is far more reasonable, given that at our former apartment, about half the size of our apartment, the electric bill routinely ran $120-130 a month. Another example of the less dramatic shift in cold happened several weeks ago, when one of our pipes froze up and the heater shut down. Our house was so well insulated, we didn’t even notice the heat was out for nearly 10 hours, as the temperature of our house only fell 3 degrees in that time span.
2) Substantial cost savings
I already touched on this with the electric bill, but this also showed up in our natural gas bills. We have never had a bill over $100, and it was not out of the ordinary to have bills below $30 in the summer months (one bill was for $12!). If you took the energy savings alone and stretched them out over 15 or 30 years, it can result in tens or hundreds of thousands of dollars in saved energy alone over the life of the home.
3) Low cost to build to compliance
Our 1200 square foot home cost $108,000 to build, and is well in line with most of the new homes in the area. While I cannot give you an exact total of the costs to become compliant, my estimation is that they are not very high. The big improvements come in the insulation, the construction, and the electrical system. These costs are mitigated by a $1,000 tax credit given to homebuilders for building Energy Star homes.