Energy Efficiency: Pick Upgrades that (Actually) Drive Down Costs
By: Lisa Kaplan Gordon
Published: November 3, 2011
A new study says home owners won’t see their utility bills drop until they’ve conducted four or more energy upgrades. Here are projects that will give you the greatest bang for your energy buck.
I’ve long suspected that saving energy is like saving calories: Small measures add up, until a Thanksgiving pecan pie — or a dazzling holiday light display — wrecks a year’s worth of small though consistent efforts.
Evidently I’m right, according to a new study claiming that doing a couple of small, energy-saving measures actually increase utility bills. And that a home owner must perform at least four energy upgrades before their utility bill drops.
The 450-page study, conducted by the eco-curious Shelton Group, found that energy-efficient home owners think they should replace water heaters and install a higher-efficiency HVAC system, though they actually replace windows and add insulation.
We think they’re half right: Adding insulation, especially in the attic, is a low-cost way to reduce utility bills. But replacing windows requires a huge upfront cost, which you probably won’t live long enough to earn back.
To see net-net savings — in your lifetime — select upgrades that reduce energy consumption by 5% and require modest initial investments. We suggest:
Seal and insulate ductwork through unfinished and unheated areas, such as the attic, garage, and crawl spaces.
Install a programmable thermostat so you don’t overheat your house when you’re away or asleep.
Seal air leaks around windows, doors, attic access, and recessed lights.
How many energy-efficient improvements did you make last year? Did you see a drop or increase in your utility bills?
The market has definitely changed
After the last five or six years of very little to no new construction homes 2012 is set to be the year that new construction starts up again. Since there were virtually no new homes built over the last few years there is some pent up demand for new homes. Most of the homes on the market have been distressed in some way either foreclosed or short sale with deferred maintenance. In the areas that I work (about a 25 mile radius around Canton) whenever a home priced properly and in good shape hits the market there are instantly many showings and in many cases multiple offers. There is definitely demand for homes in move in condition.
There are a couple of savvy local builders that have continued to build homes the last few years because they have adapted their business plan to the market conditions. The entry level new construction homes priced from $160k to $250k up have been moving very quickly. The homes that I have walked through have been very well built but typically don’t have a lot of the details that homes were built with five or six years ago.
There are many advantages for buyers to look toward new construction rather than existing homes. The obvious is that there is a builder warranty and everything is new. So with a new home you don’t have to be worried about replacing a roof or furnace. New construction homes are also a clean slate so a buyer can move in and not have to worry about removing traces of a previous owner. Another huge issue that has been prevalent in existing home sales is the appraisal. Appraisals are typically not in issue with new homes.
Builders that have been on the sidelines for the last five years are testing the market and building one or two homes to get back into the marketplace. I firmly believe that this trend will continue and will ramp up significantly as we get closer to the summer months. Communities like Canton, Northville, Novi and Commerce are already seeing a lot of builder activity.
If you are interested in seeing new home constructions that are currently available check out the New Construction tab at DiscoverGreatHomes.com. This site will give you links to available new construction homes available in various communities. When you are ready to start shopping for a new construction home be sure to have a Realtor with the Accredited Buyers Representative (ABR) professional designation working for you. The ABR will help you look at the purchase objectively and help with details such as site selection, options/upgrade selection, new construction financing and negotiating with the builder.
So let’s see if 2012 really shapes up to be the year of New Construction. I welcome you to leave your thoughts and comments on this subject. Have you been looking at homes? I would love to hear your thoughts on this article and also on the market conditions for new construction in Michigan.
Realtor, ABR, SRES
Coldwell Banker Preferred, Realtors
44644 Ann Arbor Road
Plymouth, MI 48170