Whenever a Keller Williams The Trembley Group Real Estate Professional begins a conversation with a home seller or a home buyer, they know it will only be a few minutes before they’ll start to hear countless stories about home improvements – completed improvements or improvements still in the planning stage. As a rule, homeowners love to make improvements to their living space. And homebuyers love to imagine all the little changes they can make to a house to make it truly their home.
For the past decade, more and more homeowners are making energy efficiency improvements to their homes. According to the U.S. Department of Energy, homes and commercial buildings consume 40% of the energy used in the United States. Nearly three-quarters of the energy used by households is used to heat and cool living space and heat water. Of the $2,200 the average American spends paying for energy annually, $200 to $500 could be going to waste from drafts, air leaks around openings, and outdated heating and cooling systems. It is not unheard of for energy efficiency home improvements to cut utility bills in half! By reducing wasted energy usage through energy efficiency home improvements, homeowners can save money and be more comfortable in their homes.
Few homeowners truly understand what they are buying when they pay their monthly utility bills. Based on national averages from the U.S. Department of Energy, 44 percent of utility bills resulting from energy usage is heating and cooling the home, 33 percent is due to lighting, cooking and other appliances, 14 percent is water heating, and 9 percent is energy used by the refrigerator alone. Once homeowners realize how they’re using energy, they can begin to make a plan to identify all the places where they can save energy. Assigning energy priorities is the first step to forming a whole-house efficiency plan.
With all the talk of global warming and ever-rising utility costs, more and more homebuyers are interested in making their new purchases more energy efficient. And while kitchen and bathroom makeovers can be fun and the results can be dramatic, enhancing a home’s energy efficiency can be even more enticing, especially after considering the many benefits.
The four most common reasons that homeowners make energy efficiency home improvements are:
Make a home more comfortable.
Improving a home’s resale value.
Reduce a home’s environmental harm.
Brad Emond, a Keller Williams The Trembley Group Real Estate Professional, is an energy efficiency expert. Before joining Keller Williams The Trembley Group, Brad was a partner in Energuy, an energy efficiency evaluation company near Toronto, Canada where he earned the CEA (Certified Energy Advisor) designation.
A Certified Energy Advisor is the equivalent of the American Building Performance Institute’s Energy Analyst (EA) designation. CEAs and EAs specialize in home energy efficiency evaluations. Energy Advisors operate under an umbrella service organization, which requires accreditation from National Resources Canada (NRCan).
An Energy Advisor provides independent, third-party guidance to homeowners interested in improving their home energy efficiency. In addition, an Energy Advisor works with builders to integrate an energy efficiency rating system into new construction.
When it comes to making energy efficiency home improvements, homeowners don’t have to choose between lowering costs, being more comfortable, and doing their part to help the environment, says Brad. “We tend to think there are trade-offs between caring for the environment and caring about our pocketbooks and our convenience. And frequently we have no choice – we have to make economic and environmental compromises. Here, they go together,” Brad says. “Energy efficiency home improvements save us money and simultaneously help the environment. No compromise is needed.”
Even without going to the expense of replacing heating and cooling and water heating systems, Brad Emond recommends some inexpensive and straightforward energy-saving improvements that offer an enormous return on investment.
Brad’s list of energy-saving upgrades include:
Compact fluorescent lightbulbs.
Blankets for older water heaters.
Appliances that use less electricity.
Weatherstripping around doors and windows.
Caulking around utility pipe cut-throughs, chimneys and recessed lighting.
Improved attic or crawl space and in-wall insulation.
Lower Utility Bills
Without a doubt, the greatest benefit of energy-efficiency home improvements is lower electricity and natural gas bills.
“A lot of these improvements make perfect financial sense,” Brad Emond says. “Even though the upfront investment might cost the homeowner a bit, for a lot of the home improvements, the homeowner recoups those costs in just a few years. And then they continue saving, sometimes for years or even decades to come.”
The typical U.S. household spends $2,200 per year for home utility bills, according to the U.S. Department of Energy and the energy-efficiency savings can add up to a few hundred dollars each year for the average household, a sum Brad Emond describes as “not insignificant.”
Make a Home More Comfortable
According to Brad Emond, weather stripping, caulking, and insulation might not have much of a “Wow Factor” but blocking air-leakage is typically the most cost-effective improvement a homeowner can do to make a home more energy-efficient.
“People can actually stay cool in the summer and warm in the winter in every part of their house rather than have an issue with drafts or a room with hot and cold spots,” Brad says. “A few tubes of caulk doesn’t cost much and can make a huge difference in a home’s comfort and its utility bills.”
“Improvements can be made at any time, but the best time might be when you’re making other renovations. When you’ve already torn down a wall of pulled the sheetrock off the wall, it only makes sense to take the opportunity to add a little more insulation and air sealing to make the area more energy efficient and more comfortable at little or no additional cost,” Says Brad Emond.
Raise a Home’s Resale Value
Several studies suggest a home’s energy efficiency matters to prospective homebuyers and that they’ll pay a premium for an energy efficient home.
The 2013 study “What Home Buyers Really Want” by the National Association of Home Builders, included a questionnaire in which respondents ranked more than 120 elements of a home. The top-ranked item, considered “essential” or “desirable” by 94% of the 3,682 respondents, was Energy Star-rated appliances. The 3rd-ranked item, considered “essential” or “desirable” by 91% of the respondents, was an Energy Star rating for the entire home. (The 2nd-ranked item was a laundry room.)
The July 2012 study “The Value of Green Labels in the California Housing Market” by 2 University of California economists, compared 1.6 million homes sold in the state from 2007 to 2012 and found a 9% price premium for those with an Energy Star, LEED for Homes, or GreenPoint Rated labels.
A 2013-2014 analysis of 18,605 homes sold in the Chicago area found that sellers that disclosed natural gas and electricity costs through the brokers’ multiple listing service sold faster were more likely to close, and received a higher percentage of the seller’s asking price. The analysis was performed by Elevate Energy, an organization in Lisle, Illinois, that designs and implements energy-efficiency programs.
“The housing market in Myrtle Beach and along the Grand Strand isn’t much different,” says Brad. “Energy efficiency – low monthly utility bills – is important to Keller Williams The Trembley Group Real Estate clients. They nearly always ask to see a home’s utility receipts, and they always consider the total monthly cost, including utilities, when making an offer.”
Help the Environment
“It isn’t difficult to connect the dots and connect home energy efficiency to the natural Myrtle Beach and Grand Strand environment,” says Brad Emond. “People moving to the South Carolina coast care about its environment. They’re moving here because they like being outdoors – whether it’s playing a round of golf, going offshore fishing, walking in Brookgreen Gardens, or just lounging on the beach.”
“By making their home more energy-efficient, they’re using less power, which means less carbon goes into the air from power plants that burn coal or natural gas,” he says. “Carbon is the main greenhouse gas that’s contributing to climate change. We already see more severe weather patterns — flooding, droughts, heavier storms, stronger hurricanes and tornadoes — and those things are already hurting property owners across the country. The point is that most homebuyers and especially Myrtle Beach and Grand Strand homebuyers, care about the environment. It affects their home value.”
Climate change can also damage public infrastructure, causing inconvenience and higher property taxes to make repairs. The U.S. Department of Energy says most energy supplied to residences comes from burning fossil fuels, which releases pollutants into the atmosphere.
New Homes More Energy Efficient
Brad Emond’s passion for home energy efficiency was one of the factors that led him to partner with fellow Keller Williams Trembley Group Professional Bret French to create Myrtle Beach Custom Homes, a website that specializes in helping homebuyers through the new home construction process. “When comparing energy efficient new construction and existing construction, the monthly utility savings can sometimes only be described as amazing,” Brad says.
Most new homes now come with Energy Star®-rated appliances. They’re designed to consume less energy. Homebuilders realize that energy efficiency is becoming more and more important, and building energy efficiently adds value to their properties. “Energy Star®-rated kitchen appliances, water heaters, air conditioners, and furnaces are just some of the items builders consider when constructing a new home,” Brad says.
Advanced Building Techniques and Materials
Nowadays, house builders use what the building industry calls value engineering to reduce the use of lumber and prevent the accumulation of excess waste when constructing houses made from wood. This construction technique focuses on building wood houses that are more energy-efficient by using single lumber headers and replacing specific wood frames with insulation materials.
New home designs focus on providing better insulation to reduce the use of heating or cooling systems in the home. In some regions, HVAC systems are not required at all due to improved insulation and advanced air sealing designed to reduce leakages. Even in the Myrtle Beach and the Grand Strand climate, these techniques increases energy efficiency and reduces energy costs.
Windows play a crucial role in determining a home’s energy efficiency rating. The energy lost through single-pane windows accounts for a significant portion of a home’s annual energy costs. Most new and modern homes come with double-pane windows. Installing multi-pane vinyl windows will not only save energy but also cut utility costs by up to 50 percent.
Investing in an Energy-Efficient Home
Whether looking to buy a new energy-efficient home, improving an existing home for maximum efficiency, or wondering what energy efficiency home improvements will make a home more competitive in today’s market, contact Brad Emond at Keller Williams The Trembley Group. Whether planning on buying or selling, Brad has vast experience in buying and selling energy-efficient homes. Whether representing a buyer or a seller, his goal is always to do what’s best for his clients.
At Keller Williams The Trembley Group, we pride ourselves on being the experts at more than just selling real estate. We are local residents, some of us have been here for a lifetime. The rest of us will be here until the end of time. We love living, working, and playing in the diverse backyard of Coastal Carolina, and look forward to helping you live and love your dreams soon too. Please reach out to us by phone or email for personalized service and one-on-one advice.