Do you live in the City of Austin? Do you intend to sell your home after June 1st, 2009? Do you plan to buy a home after June 1st? Would you like to make your home more energy efficient?
If your answer is “yes”, then please read on.
As of June 1, 2009, pursuant to Ordinance No. 20081106-047 –AUSTIN ENERGY CONSERVATION AUDIT or ECAD — the City of Austin requires all sellers of non-exempt residential properties, commercial or multi-family properties that receive electricity from Austin Electric Utility to comply by having an energy audit performed, or a fine of up to $ 2,000 may be incurred. The homeowner must have the audit completed before the point of sale of the house. The homeowner is required to provide a copy of the energy audit to the purchaser. Additionally, the person performing the audit must provide a copy of the energy audit to the City of Austin no later than 30 days after the audit is complete. This means that the findings have to be disclosed to prospective home buyers and will have to be included in the Disclosures prior to the sale.
The energy audits are part of the City´s ongoing Climate Protection Plan to make all single family homes zero-net-energy capable by 2015. Under the ordinance, homeowners will have to contact Austin Energy for an audit on their home energy use and efficiency, including the cost of recommended upgrades and to disclose this information to buyers. The audit is to be performed by a certified Building Home Performance Analyst approved by Austin Energy and should cost between $ 200 to $ 400.
The ordinance at one time included mandatory energy efficiency improvements to be made by the homeowner but this plan was withdrawn after criticism by prospective home sellers.
What does this mean for you, the Seller? The cost of selling your home will very likely increase after June 1st. You may have a more difficult time to sell your home if the energy audit report does not meet the Buyer´s expectations. The advantage is that if you are selling now or later, you will learn how to bring your home to a greater level of energy efficiency.
For the Buyer the energy audit means that you will know prior to closing what energy features the home you intend to buy has and what you may want to negotiate about.
All of us will gain from lower energy usage and a cleaner environment!
Who is exempt from the mandatory energy audits?
Properties in foreclosure or pre-foreclosure.
Properties subject to eminent domain.
Properties involved in transactions between family members, under court order, in probate proceedings, or under decree of legal separation or dissolution of marriage.
Properties less than ten years old.
Manufactured homes without permanent foundation.
Properties owned by participants in designated Austin Energy Electric Utility programs or buyers who agree in writing to participate in these programs within six months. Check this out:http://www.austinenergy.com/Energy%20Efficiency/resIndex.htm
What can you do right now to prepare your home? You can order an energy audit and then decide your priorities. Or you can start doing a number of things that will benefit you – seal and insulate your home, update and improve heating and cooling efficiency, and choose Energy Star appliances.
Here is a more detailed suggestion list – keep in mind that monetary and emotional benefits vary and that some features/upgrades may or may not be required according to an energy audit. Many suggestions were taken from a Texas Realtor April 2009 article and from Today´s Buyer´s Rep March 2009 article.
I have also contacted several companies who are expected to perform these energy audits once the City of Austin has officially rolled out the audit program and the Austin Energy program is ready. Justin Marler of Energy Action (www.energyaction.com) and their website have provided very useful information. Justin says that the energy audit services that his company provides are “actually much more comprehensive than what the ECAD audit will be”. His company will be demonstrating an ECAD audit and duct blasting, a catered event, on May 6th at a home in Central Austin. The public is invited. Go to:
to register. No fee but a donation to a charity would be welcome.
Low cost upgrades and features:
Use CFL or LED light bulbs ( I recently read a caveat about some of these light bulbs – be mindful of the quality you buy).
Install low-flow shower heads, toilets, and faucet aerators.
Add weather stripping and caulk to doors and windows.
Insulate your water heater.
Use paint with low or no VOC paint.
Replace air filters.
Install a programmable thermostat.
Install motion sensors in offices and other common areas to turn off lights when not in use.
Turn the water temperature for your washing machine and dishwasher down to 120 degrees F.
Medium cost upgrades and features:
Tune up your HVAC.
Replace carpet with no-VOC style flooring.
Install a tankless water heater.
Insulate attic and other areas.
Install window shading.
Install ceiling fans.
Install operable sky lights allowing warmer air to escape from a house during warm weather months.
High cost upgrades and features:
Buy Energy Star appliances.
Replace windows with double pane, low-e models.
Install solar photovoltaic panels.
Install a solar water heater.
Use wind turbines to supplement electricity
Recycle and buy recycled products!
Strategically planted trees provide cool shade in Texas summer!
The orientation of a house – reducing exposure to sunlight at different times of the day can make a big difference in your energy consumption!
Know Your Water Heaters
With a traditional tank the storage tank keeps large amounts of hot water readily available – an advantage for heavy use households, a disadvantage for energy conservation.
Tankless water heaters: Hot water is not stored but heated when needed by passing cold water through a heating element. Supply is limited by flow rate and may not meet the needs of a large family. For lower volume households, tankless water heaters can be 8 to 34 percent more efficient.
Solar water heaters: Can be used in most climates but often must be backed up by other systems during sunless weather periods. Solar heaters use solar collectors, usually roof top to generate heat and require a tank to store heated water.
Heat pump water heaters: Move heat from one source to another – they can remove heat from surrounding air, or from the ground in the case of geothermal heat pumps, and use it to heat water. This system is often auxiliary to heat pump-driven air conditioning and heating system.
A conventional tank may cost $ 200-$ 800; cost low to install.
A tankless may cost $ 800 – $ 1,200; cost medium to high to install. May save 10-20 % with electric, and 20-40% with gas, vs. conventional tank. May need a back-up.
Solar: $ 1,000 to $ 5,500; cost high to install. Savings about 60-95%. Needs back-up.
Heat pump: $ 600 to $ 2,000; cost medium to install. Savings of about 60-70%. May need back-up.
Know Your Electricity
Remember that appliances and electronics continue to suck energy even when they are not being used. This includes built-in clocks, microwaves, programmable coffee makers, cable boxes, video recording devices and everything connected to and including your computer. Solution: turn off these sources! A Kill-a-Watt meter can be purchased to determine how much energy is being used by each device; there are several models on the market.
What about grey water?
In a fully integrated system, grey water drains directly from showers and sinks and is then used to irrigate the garden. To do it yourself: put buckets in the shower, collect grey water and use for plants or manually flush toilet.
If you have any questions about the ECAD, call me and I will be glad to help. This is a time to learn and prepare for a new energy world !!!