Factors Driving Residential Energy Efficiency

Created:
Tue, 2014-08-05 07:54

In the U.S., buildings are responsible for the largest share of carbon dioxide emissions. According to the U.S. Department of Energy, the nation’s buildings consume more energy than the transportation or industry sectors, accounting for nearly 40% of total U.S. energy use. Of that 40%, nearly half is consumed by the residential sector, which includes homes and apartments.

House as a system graphicBuilders, designers, and homeowners are searching for ways to reduce environmental impacts and minimize operating costs, while occupants are also demanding healthier, more comfortable, and more durable living spaces. In order to achieve peak performance in all areas, homes must be considered as a whole system. This means evaluating how a single change impacts the rest of the home and the health and comfort of occupants. With so many specialized trades involved in the construction and operation of a home, from plumbers to electricians and HVAC experts, how can efforts be coordinated to reach performance goals? The answer is actually quite simple: begin with an energy audit. A qualified energy auditor can ensure that the interaction of systems within the home is efficient and effective, without creating harmful conditions.

Energy auditors have become a growing sector of the workforce with estimated average growth of 10-19% from 2010-2020 according to the U.S. Department of Labor O*Net Occupation database. This is faster than the overall projected average job growth, and O*Net lists energy auditors as a Green New and Emerging occupation with a bright job outlook. An energy auditor may also be referred to as a Home Performance Contractor, Building Analyst, or Home Energy Rater.

What is driving the growth and demand for energy auditors?

The answer to that is really 3-fold.

  • First, there are environmental concerns. With the tremendous impact that the built environment has on energy consumption and carbon emissions, combined with scarcity of natural resources, the pressure is on to lower carbon footprints. Stricter building codes, proposed legislation, incentives, and specific sustainability goals set by companies, cities, and states illustrate broader changes. The focus on improvements, innovations, and retrofits are driving designers, builders, and owners to look closely at energy consumption and efficiency.
  • Economics factor in as well. Energy bills are rising, and homeowners and the construction industry alike are searching for ways to operate homes more efficiently. Especially considering federal, state, and local financial incentives to support energy efficiency efforts, evaluation of home performance and possible upgrades make good economic sense. In a 2012 study by NAHB, 89% of respondents said they would prefer “a highly energy efficient home with lower utility bills over the life of the home” versus just 11% who said they would choose a home without energy efficiency features if it costs 2-3% less. This preference toward low utility costs indicates a homebuyer’s willingness to pay more on the front end to protect themselves against unpredictable, yet inevitable, increases in energy costs down the road. The Department of Energy estimates that upgrading the energy efficiency of a home can save homeowners 5-30% on energy bills.
  • Finally, health and comfort remain a driving force behind energy efficiency upgrades. Occupants want healthy, comfortable environments in which to live. Complaints of uncomfortable room temperatures, drafts, moisture on windows, or musty smells often prompt the first call to an energy auditor. An energy audit is a simple way to evaluate building performance, taking into account the interaction of all systems, to improve health and comfort by way of improving efficiency.

Because of the demand for more efficient, lower cost, healthier, and more comfortable spaces, occupations such as HVAC technicians, engineers, general contractors, builders, architects, designers, and home inspectors are just a few of the employment sectors that are enhancing traditional lines of business by offering expanded services to include energy auditing. The energy auditing field has also created green job opportunities for those looking to change careers or start their own business.

For more information about residential energy auditing, please call us at 1-800-460-2575 or visit our Energy Auditor Overview page.

By Lesley Cowie