As more and more homeowners learn the value of energy efficiency in homes, the trend toward efficient building gains speed. Over the last summer, the U.S. hit an important milestone: the Home Energy Ratings System (HERS) evaluated its two millionth home. Similar to the Energy Star program for appliances, HERS evaluations are a labeling option that makes it easier for home buyers to see, at a glance, how energy efficient a home will be.

Major Gains in Sustainable Homes

Under the HERS system, the lower a score is, the more efficient the home. A score of zero means that the home produces as much energy as it uses throughout the course of a year. Points are assigned for factors that include air leakage rates, insulation, and others.

Home buyers are able to compare the energy efficiency of more homes than ever. In 2016, roughly one in five new homes built used the HERS system. Of those, more than half had HERS scores of 62 or better. Energy-efficient advances in homes include:

  • high-efficiency HVAC systems. These were present in about half of homes. Since heating and cooling are responsible for a great deal of a modern home’s energy usage, this is a significant improvement.
  • low air leakage rates. Reducing air leakage means that less energy must be used to keep the home’s temperature comfortable.
  • energy efficient windows. These were present in around two-thirds of rated homes.

Room for Improvement

While we’ve already come so far, many homes still waste a great deal of energy. About 45% of HERS rated homes receive an Index score that is over 62. The higher the score, the less energy efficient the home is considered.

Luckily, there are many improvements that could be made to existing homes that could make them far more efficient. At the current time, only about seven percent of homes use any sort of on-site power production, for instance. A move toward sustainable power created at the site through technologies that include wind, solar and geothermal can improve many existing homes and be a feature of new construction.

The Next Steps

With so far to go, what could help builders make the next steps toward even more efficient homes? Some experts believe that economic incentives could make it more affordable for builders to create houses that are more sustainable. In turn, these incentives could mean home that did not force buyers to choose between efficiency and price. A recent survey indicated that buyers are willing to pay around $7,000 more for a home that saved them $1,000 every year in utility costs. If are considering making changes to your utility suppliers then it might be helpful for you to use a comparison site like Simply Switch. If improvements that make a home more efficient could be kept below that ceiling, home buyers are likely to be far more receptive.

As more home buyers learn about the environmental and financial benefits of sustainable homes, demand will continue to rise. If builders are able to meet this demand while also offering affordable homes, they will gain the interest of not just early adopters but home buyers with a range of preferences and priorities.

Author: Tony Gilbert

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