Most home buyers understand the energy profile of their home only after a full year of bills have arrived. Sometimes the bills deliver a shock. Since utility bills for most familes are a major part of the household budget, and because household energy costs can vary substantially across different houses, families shopping for a home should be able to estimate their expected energy costs with some reliability. Will energy costs become the driving factor for every home buyer? Of course not, but it will be relevant for homebuyers watching their household budget.
This is why our team at NRDC was pleased to see KB Homes announce their new home energy reportcard, or "Energy Performance Guide" as they describe it -- it's an MPG sticker for houses. KB Homes is one of the largest homebuilders in the country. Their leadership on this subject is commendable and very much appreciated. Ultimately, this is about giving consumers the information needed to make informed choices.
Here's a sample:
A quick note on the reliability of these ratings, because the first reaction of some people is to wonder how anyone could predict the energy use of a family in a new house since surely the total bill will depend on behavior -- number of teenagers taking long showers, number of computers, how they manage thermostat in winter, etc. This is all true, but the fact is that the fixed features of the house will drive the minimum energy use required for basic comfort -- the level of insulation, quality of windows and doors, air sealing of all openings, efficiency level of the air conditioner and heating system. And, perhaps most significiantly, the size of the house -- the number of rooms, simple square footage, and surface area of the house will drive the amount of energy required to heat, cool, and light the house. These are all facts that can be measured and modeled to deliver a guide.
The best way to think about it is this: A home energy rating allows a family to understand the relative energy costs of house 1 versus house 2. Yes, the energy costs for family A will be different than the costs for family B in any house, but the rating measures the energy requirements for different houses.
This is an extremely useful tool for consumers. We hope others in the home industry -- other home builders, mortgage lenders, Realtors (and Boards of Realtors....who run the MLS systems) -- will take note of the leadership of KB Homes and work to deliver to the market more tools that will enable consumers to make better choices.