Energy Star houses save owners big bucks
Energy Star homes can save homeowners hundreds of dollars a year
April 13, 1999
Web posted at: 1:30 PM EDT
Energy-efficient houses with an EPA-certified Energy Star may save homeowners big bucks on their monthly utility bills, according to scientists at the University of Florida.
The Energy Star certification is awarded by the Environmental Protection Agency to houses that test 30 percent more efficient for heating, cooling and hot water heating than the national Model Energy Code. The certification is based on how the house performs once it is actually built, not whether the builder included a pre-determined list of features. The program is voluntary.
The Energy Star Homes Program is based on the concept that monthly utility bill savings can significantly exceed the small increase in the monthly mortgage payment for extra energy efficiency measures.
After studying two homes with virtually identical floor plans, University of Florida energy specialists found that the energy-saving measures built into one home meant much smaller monthly utility costs.
"Homes that meet federal Energy Star standards don't look any different than other homes, but they can save anywhere from $50 to $200 per month in utility bills," said Pierce Jones, assistant director of the UF Energy Extension Service.
For example, he said, a 1998 Energy Star home averaged $197 a month in energy savings over a virtually identical home built only seven years earlier. The average monthly utility bill on the 1991 home was $320.42 while the monthly utility bill on the 1998 Energy Star home was $123.25. The cost savings were calculated for the period of April to December 1998.
The Energy Star system allows builders to be flexible on their energy saving techniques as long as the end result reaches the optimum efficiency. According to Jones, builders are free to mix and match product upgrades and improved techniques to meet their bottom line and their client's approval. This allows builders around the country to adapt to individual regional requirements, while maintaining the same national standard across the U.S.
Older homes can be upgraded by adding insulation, installing efficient air conditioning and high performance windows, said Jones. However, he added that no matter what you do to improve energy efficiency, you cannot match the efficiency of building these features into a home during initial construction.
"We've always believed that the financial return on an energy-efficient investment was real, but we never had the proof until now," Bobroff said.
Jones, a professor with the UF Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences, is working to help educate builders, developers, real estate agents, and mortgage lenders to see the potential and impact these houses have on their community's economy and environment.
Copyright 1999, Environmental News Network, All Rights Reserved
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University of Florida
Energy Star Homes Program
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