As opposed to our homes, it’s always been intriguing to me how much attention the auto industry receives when it comes to energy efficiency. While certainly the movement towards weaning us off fossil fuels, especially in cars is important, we have a lot of room for improvement in our homes too.

In fact, when you realize the lifetime of a home is 50 to 100 years, the importance of buying a high performance house is even more important than a high performance car.

A NW Energy Star home is 15% more efficient than a similar home built to code of the same year.

A NW Energy Star home is 15% more efficient than a similar home built to code of the same year.

In particularly, in the Northwest we have a massive amount of homes that were built with exceptionally poor insulation. Even in the Northwest where we get a lot of power from hydroelectricity, many are surprised to learn that according to Puget Sound Energy only  about 42 percent of PSE’s energy generation comes from hydro power and 56 percent comes from fossil fuel generation (coal and natural gas).

In the graph above we have five typical winter fuel bills, converted to US dollars at average exchange rates over the last winter.  These costs may include a little energy used for hot water or cooking, but they are mostly about heat. Read more at http://theenergycollective.com/lindsay-wilson/307496/what-average-heating-bill#PzveT8M6SA1sbg7s.99

In the graph above we have five typical winter fuel bills, converted to US dollars at average exchange rates over the last winter. These costs may include a little energy used for hot water or cooking, but they are mostly about heat.
Read more at http://theenergycollective.com/lindsay-wilson/307496/what-average-heating-bill#PzveT8M6SA1sbg7s.99

As Lindsey Wilson from the Energy Collective comments on his post, “Although I pay my heating bill each year to keep my home comfortable, the thing that really costs me is heat loss. If my home was perfectly insulated there would be no heating bill. In fact my body heat and appliances would gradually bake the place.”Read more at http://theenergycollective.com/lindsay-wilson/307496/what-average-heating-bill#PzveT8M6SA1sbg7s.99

So in exchange for high heating bills, we have only slightly comfortable homes that are drafty and incredibly inefficient. I recommend that on a particularly frosty morning you go outside of your home; preferably while it’s still dark outside. Using a bright flashlight, look at the areas of your home that are not covered with frost.  Hopefully your home will be evenly covered with a glistening coat of ice. However if you see spots that are missing frost, you can be assured that your home is experiencing heat loss in these areas. Most of your heat loss will actually be through your windows and that is why they don’t frost over like they do your cars.  You may see some patches on your roof or side-walls, often times these are almost perfect rectangles between the joists where insulation has fallen or settled.

You can see the results above: blue areas show the least heat loss and red and yellow areas show the worst. It looks as if the home is leaking heat at the top of the first floor, the patio windows and the steel beams above the windows.

You can see the results above: blue areas show the least heat loss and red and yellow areas show the worst. It looks as if the home is leaking heat at the top of the first floor, the patio windows and the steel beams above the windows.

If you want to get even fancier, take a thermal image of your home.  With older homes, you may learn that you home was built without insulation or that the insulation has settled over time to create bare spots. If moisture has penetrated the building envelope, that too will compromise your homes ability to retain warmth. To understand more about heat loss and insulation check out my post Insulation R-Value, It’s not what you think.

To summarize: we heat our homes from fossil fuels and then allow most of that heat to simple escape through the walls of our homes. There has to be a better way and fortunately there is, but we need individuals like yourself that care enough about the environment and your power bill to improve these structures as well as purchase new homes that are energy-efficient certified.

I have found myself in a number of debates with property developers and local builders who argue that the increased cost of building a better building envelope is not something that most home buyers see value in and therefore are not willing to pay.  A number of municipalities and regional zoning authorities have tackled this objection by giving preferential zoning to builders and developers willing to build green.  However, the builders make a valid point, why build something the public sees no value in?

This is where education is so important.  If a home buyer understood the energy savings in addition to the added comfort, they would absolutely learn towards a more energy-efficient home.   And many home buyers once they understand the science behind energy-efficient homes are absolutely willing to pay more for unquantifiable qualities such as the smaller carbon footprint.

Imagine if every home come with an energy rating, similar to that of a car’s estimated mileage report.  Imagine if you could compare how well one home performs to another.  Well, good news there too, you can.  Check out my post about Home Energy Rating Scores also known as a HERS rating.

The last point I want to touch on is the lifespan of a typical home.  When we build quality homes, we also build homes that will last and stand the test of time.   When we build or renovate homes to be more energy-efficient, we lower the cost to maintain the home while simultaneously increasing the comfort of the home, and when homeowners can afford to be comfortable in their own homes, they tend to stay in their homes.

I’d love to help you find a home that you too will want to stay in as long as possible. Call me today at 425-8910088.