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   ENERGY UPGRADES  Affect House Value
2011 - Volume 1 Issue 1
Casas Bonitas
Article: Bob Skolnick
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An Energy Star home is at least 15 percent more energy efficient than homes built to the 2004 International Residential Code, and is typically 20-30 percent more efficient than standard homes. Factors include tight construction and ducts, effective insulation, efficient heating and cooling equipment, high performance windows and efficient products, such as lighting fixtures, compact fluorescent bulbs, ventilation fans and appliances, washing machines, refrigerators and dishwashers. The home must be independently tested to verify the rating.

    Photo Captions

1.) Solar panels, once an obvious addition to your roof line, can now be less obtrusive with in-roof solar systems.

2.) Use of natural light through skylight tubes in kitchens, bathrooms and laundry area can reduce the illumination requirement and save money.

3.) Testing for electrical integrity ensures a safe home.

4.) Thermal imaging identifies this light switch which is about to fail.

5.) Spray foam insulation delivers a tight house and improves the energy efficiency.

6.) Thermal imaging identifies heat and cooling loss plus water intrusion.

7.) Infrared technology lets you see inside the walls.

8.) Infrared thermal image.
  We hear the term Energy Star. What is the Energy Star Rating?

The Energy Star Rating system is developed for used or new homes, buildings and products. Energy Star is an efficiency rating developed by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency in 1992.
The practical definition is creating the best environment for energy efficient living in your home. This should not be confused with green building, which goes hand in hand with energy efficiency, but also addresses sustainable materials.

At the residential level, solar power is an option that is now more mainstream and more affordable. While still a significant initial investment, it is proven that you can recover your investment through tax credits and energy use savings. The decision to incorporate solar in you home energy plan is a wise choice. Often we believe that you have to go fully solar for a home to improve its energy footprint. There are zoned options such as solar heating just for hot water in bathrooms and kitchens. You can have specifically directed solar heating for an outdoor spa. There is far too much to discuss on solar energy for residences in the space we have allocated in this edition. Our Fall edition of Ventanas will go into energy and particularly solar in much greater detail. As stated earlier, your home may be placed at some time for sale. The energy efficiency rating it achieves will be a factor in its market price and competitive positioning for an educated buyer. As we have advanced in micro-chip technology over the past two decades, energy efficiency will be a very common topic and the public will be educated and expect to find the best practices.

Recently, I interviewed Larry Perea of Solar Smart Living on the subject. He contributed to my education on this issue and will be consulted for the Fall edition. If you want to speak with an expert directly go to

Another excellent energy efficiency resource is El Paso Electric. They have invested heavily in alternative energy sources and providing their customers with quality information on making your home energy efficient. Energy efficient homes are in everyone’s best interests including the energy provider. El Paso Electric has several online tools. They have a Home Energy Suite which offers a full array of evaluation tools at They offer a Home Energy Calculator which allows the consumer to get a quick and accurate view of their home energy consumption and costs. They also provide a Lighting Calculator that allows you to plan your illumination requirements and define the best options through fluorescent and LED lighting on a room by room basis.

Energy Experts - Safety & Testing

We all age and things do not quite work as well as when we were teenagers. This is also true of your home. Repeated use takes a toll and causes degradation of circuit breakers, wiring and electrical receptacles. Many home fires start with a compromised electrical system. If you want to have an energy efficient home, then the system must deliver at an optimum level. Potential and actual failures of an aged electrical system in residences cannot be detected by visual observation. Professional electrical contractors now have at their disposal a testing system called Current Safe. A trained technician will come to your home and will complete a full electrical energy audit covering all circuits, lighting fixtures, outlets and switches. They will also look at major energy user appliances such as water heaters, ovens, etc. A special infrared camera and ultra sonic tool will provide the technician images based on heat profile and arcing. They will be able to see images of each outlet or breaker or light connection tested. You will receive a same-day report identifying problem areas with identified levels of risk and suggested remedies. Before remodeling, it is wise to do this testing. Consult with your remodeling professional and the electrical contractor to schedule the testing and identify “must do” repairs. At the same time you can plan for expanded electrical needs for added or upgraded appliances and heating and cooling systems.

    A “Tight House” is a home where the loss and gain of heated and refrigerated air is controlled and kept to acceptable standards. In an older home there are many points of potential and actual air loss or gain. Improperly installed insulation, windows that are aged and are not low-e or have leakages, doors that do not seat properly, ducting that is not insulated or has openings and loss through ceiling light fixtures into attic crawl space are some of the key items that contribute to inhibiting a tight house. We will address doors in this edition of Ventanas in the Front Exterior article and most of the other considerations such as spray foam insulation, new heating and cooling technology and window upgrades will appear in our Fall edition.
There is a process called Thermal Imaging that can be done to evaluate all of these potential problems. Certain electrical and other contractors have purchased infrared cameras and have trained on the process of using the infrared camera to determine heat and cooling loss and gain. This process can also identify water intrusion and mold development. We recommend this inspection, which typically takes several hours and is reasonably priced. A written report will be provided, which should be reviewed by you and your remodeling professional. This inspection should be done before the remodeling is budgeted and launched. You need to identify problem areas and prioritize the remedy in your overall remodel plan.

What is a HERS rating? A home energy rating is an analysis of a home's projected energy efficiency in comparison to a 'reference home' based on the 2006 International Energy Conservation Code. A home energy rating involves both an analysis of a home’s construction plans, as well as onsite inspections and testing by a certified Home Energy Rater. A Home Energy Rater uses specially-designed software to analyze the expected energy use of the home based on the home’s construction plans. This analysis yields a projected, pre-construction rating score for this home (called a HERS Index). When the rating is being conducted for the purposes of qualifying the home to earn the ENERGY STAR, the rater then works with the homeowner to identify the energy efficiency improvements needed to ensure the house will meet ENERGY STAR performance guidelines. The rater then conducts onsite inspections, typically including a blower door test (to test the leakiness of the house) and a duct test (to test the leakiness of the ducts). Results of these tests, along with data from the software analysis, are used to generate a final HERS Index score for the home.

The lower a home’s HERS Index, the more energy efficient it is. A home built to code scores a HERS Index of 100, while a net zero energy home scores a HERS Index of 0. Each 1-point decrease in the HERS Index corresponds to a 1 percent reduction in energy consumption compared to the HERS Reference Home. Thus a home with a HERS Index of 85 is 15 percent more energy efficient than the reference home and a home with a HERS Index of 80 is 20 percent more energy efficient. ///
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