I ran into a friend the other day who is a home builder. He had been planning to build several homes that would be extra-green, both because he wants to help the environment, and because he figured buyers would want that. After much research he abandoned the extra-green approach because he was assured by people in the know that no one would pay extra for an extra-green home. Buyers look at the location, square footage, kitchens, and all the usual stuff. No one even asks about the energy efficiency or indoor air quality.
The next time you go to buy an existing home, ask the real estate agent about the energy costs over the prior year. The agent will look at you like you have a giant turd on your head. I know because I asked that question the last time I was looking at houses. The agent can rattle off the homeowner association fees, tell you the school district, and an impressive array of other details, but never the energy costs.
Suppose you want to build your own energy efficient home. I’m trying to do that right now. So I look on the Internet to get the best information I can get on green building techniques. My federal government has a website filled with what seems to be useful tips. But on closer inspection it is just a laundry list of options with no quantitative comparison of the costs or benefits.
All I learn about insulation from the site is that higher R-values are better, except when they are unnecessary. Other sites appear to be funded by manufacturers, so I don’t trust them.
I met with an engineer whose job is to calculate whether your new California house will meet the minimum energy efficiency standards required by the state. I asked about our choice of insulation. I wondered how much I should spend on cranking up the R-values. He told me the walls weren’t nearly as important as the windows, because windows are the weakest link. Okay, fine, so how do I get the best windows?
That’s not so easy. It looks as if the big name window manufacturers carry only windows of average to good energy efficiency while the super efficient windows are made by someone named Karl in his woodshed. And my builder doesn’t know Karl.
Your home isn’t green because you can’t get there from here. I blame the government. It shouldn’t be so hard to make energy efficiency information available in a useful form so buyers and builders can make informed choices.
[A reader provided this link, that looks pretty cool if it works: http://www.enertia.com/]