Energy Efficiency: Beyond an Amenity

As homebuyers demand more energy efficiency and savings, builders need to communicate the benefits and strategies used to build their homes

By TERRY SHUFFLER

Homebuyers are savvier than ever when it comes to knowing what they want in a home. In addition to functional floor plans and new finishes and features, energy efficiency continues to top the list of desired amenities. Builders who understand and can communicate energy-efficient benefits can provide unique added value to the growing number of buyers who, whether they realize it or not, want these features in their homes.

There is a reason that energy-efficient homes are selling well. Not only do they contribute to a healthier environment overall, they also offer a comfortable home and lower monthly utility bills for the buyer. For example, in a competitive housing market like Austin, buyers have simply come to expect these things.

With new home construction, builders can offer a variety of energy-efficient features that start with the foundation and infrastructure of the home and are offered all the way through to the appliances and finishes. Depending on the builder, these features may include insulation, filtration, pre-engineered wood, LED lighting, and more.

Trendmaker’s Living Smart® program, for example, offers buyers a myriad of energy-saving and healthy living options and features that come standard with the cost of the home. HealthSmart® features foster healthy living and cleaner air, EnergySmart® technology leads to less energy usage and lower utility bills, and EarthSmart® components come from recycled and renewable resources. WaterSmart® features and landscape design help conserve water usage, and HomeSmart® technology helps buyers stay comfortable, in control, connected, and able to save energy – from home or anywhere – via a smart phone or tablet.

The technology, materials, and products used in all new Trendmaker homes include water filtration systems, low-VOC (volatile organic compounds) paint, low-formaldehyde carpet pads, low-E3 glazing on windows, low-formaldehyde insulation made with 20 percent recycled materials, and radiant roof barriers. Buyers also benefit from low-water features and efficient amenities including tankless hot-water heaters, Delta Water Sense faucets, water-saving dishwashers, and region-friendly landscaping. These features all contribute to offering better energy solutions as a point of distinction for homebuyers.

The advantages to building a new energy-efficient home are numerous. However, builders need to educate even the most savvy homebuyers on these benefits. What do radiant roof barriers and low-formaldehyde insulation provide and how do they perform? Communicate that they offer increased comfort through temperature control, greater savings through lower utility bills, and healthier communities with lower carbon footprints. Help buyers understand that thermal blocking for conditioned spaces, the use of weather-stripping, and premium insulation help stop moisture and control the humidity in most of the new homes that are built. As for insulation, we use a blown system in the attics and a batt system in the walls to offer high R-values and create a strong thermal envelope, making the home more energy efficient.

Trendmaker even takes it a step further and employs a third-party thermography check to ensure that each home’s building envelope is tight and not inviting additional moisture. As each home is individually tested and rated, the homes are certified using the “Home Energy Rating System” or H.E.R.S. Each individual home is scored and given a rating. The lower the numerical score, the better, as the lower the score, the higher the efficiency of the home.

While the current industry average for H.E.R.S. is about 65, Trendmaker homes average 60, making them efficiently better than the industry average. This third party also checks for electrical shorts, air leaks and missing insulation, and an address-specific certificate is given to the new homeowner after close of escrow.

Most of today’s homebuilders have discovered that building with energy-efficient materials and installing energy-efficient products helps make their homes healthier and less expensive to operate for occupants and can help differentiate a builder in their markets. Trendmaker’s new homes take it a step further and are independently certified to exceed local energy codes based on the belief that efficient homes are better-built homes.

By highlighting the energy-efficient features offered in new homes, builders can illustrate value-add options to their buyers. Because most of the efficiency features offered are built into the overall price of Trendmaker’s new homes, it does not feel like an added cost to the buyer. That is one huge selling point and one that buyers will understand and appreciate.

Terry Shuffler is Vice President and General Manager of Trendmaker Homes’ Austin Division. Trendmaker Homes is a member of the TRI Pointe Group.

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