Before You Sell...Have You Completed Your Energy Audit?
As state level energy efficiency initiatives and legislation crop up throughout the country, and federal energy and climate legislation looms, we are noticing new approaches to ratcheting down demand and scaling up energy efficiency occurring city by city. Effective June 1, 2009, The Austin City Council approved the Energy Conservation Audit and Disclosure (ECAD) ordinance in an effort to improve the energy efficiency of Austin buildings and homes receiving electricity from Austin Energy.
An ECAD includes an evaluation of the attic insulation, percentage of air leakage through the duct system, number of windows with direct sunlight for at least an hour per day, and the energy efficiency rating of the air-conditioning equipment. In addition, suggestions for improving the home's overall energy efficiency will be included in the ECAD audit. Austin, Texas now joins California (San Francisco and Berkeley) as three U.S. cities requiring energy audits, which on average cost owners roughly $200-$300.
With respect to a single family home, this law applies to homes 10 years or older and homes that have not participated in an Austin Energy residential energy efficiency program within 10 years, which will require an ECAD audit before being sold. In light of the current mortgage crisis and recession, many believe that while this effort is moving the ball forward with respect to energy efficiency, this ordinance makes it increasingly more difficult for people to sell their homes as they are now being raised to higher standards, one that goes beyond aesthetics and how closely located they are to a good school -- the energy efficiency of their homes!
As reported by Tom Benning's article in today's Wall Street Journal, Energy Audits Vex Austin's Home Sellers, as municipalities throughout the country forge policies to encourage energy efficiency, homeowners are becoming increasingly dismayed. However, as voluntary energy audits are increasing and many seek to take advantage of the federal stimulus grant of $3.2 billion designated for energy conservation, one can anticipate that as the real estate market is being asked to raise its energy efficiency standards, home buyers will embrace this new standard as they can anticipate reduced utility bills.
Furthermore, these audits are telling a dirty story. Of the more than 300 audits completed, Austin Energy has determined that homes were on average, leaking more than double what was recommended and attic insulation was six inches thinner than what is suggested. One can't negate the impact of yet another expense in these trying financial times. However, the long-term financial trajectory for both homeowners and those seeking to own is more sunny than bleak when taking into account the money saved on homes that make the necessary enhancements to their homes as a result of an energy audit.
One can naturally assume that homeowners who will be required to invest in improving the energy efficiency of their home prior to selling will be astutely more mindful of their next purchase or rental with respect to energy efficiency. As similar ordinances become effective throughout the country, we can anticipate that we will witness a shift in behavior and expectations with respect to real estate and energy. Dare I say that granite countertops and stainless steel kitchen appliances may be secondary to an insulated home with lower utility bills?
Austin Energy has more information on ECAD on its website.
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