Better Building Codes Empower Utah Homebuyers to Look for Energy Efficiency

Posted by Kevin Emerson on August 17, 2016
Better Building Codes Empower Utah Homebuyers to Look for Energy Efficiency
Like new car fuel efficiency ratings, new homes in Utah may provide energy use ratings.

Until Aug. 13, many prospective home buyers in Utah were touring new homes during the Salt Lake Parade of Homes and pondering which might be best for them. One important question many were asking is, “What would my energy bills be in this new home versus that one?”

Luckily, when shopping for a new home, Utah consumers can now check energy ratings to understand a home’s estimated energy use. That’s because, as part of updated construction standards for energy conservation, new homes in Utah may now include an energy rating score that empowers homebuyers to look for energy efficiency.

An energy efficient home will save homeowners money every month. That’s why Utah Clean Energy and the Southwest Energy Efficiency Project advocated at the Utah Legislature for the new energy rating index to become part of Utah’s updated energy code. Now buyers will know what kind of energy use to expect, like considering the fuel economy label on a new car.

Knowing that a new home won’t waste energy and have higher-than-necessary utility bills is increasingly important as Utahns make decisions about which home to purchase. Utah is now among only 10 states allowing the energy ratings as part of the updated building code, thanks to legislation adopted in March 2016, which took effect on July 1, 2016.

The state’s largest homebuilder is embracing energy efficiency because it’s good for the environment and business.

“We were already moving on these better building codes,” said James Jonsson of Ivory Homes, “because we want to build the best home possible for our consumers. Energy efficiency is a selling feature.”

“Owning a home is about a lot more than a mortgage. Energy efficient homes will be affordable for years to come due to low energy costs, and they’re more comfortable” states Steve Baden, Executive Director for RESNET, a national non-profit organization committed to helping make homes more energy efficient. “People expect new homes to be built to a high standard, including using energy wisely. The new energy rating index is an important tool the help Utah families understand the expected energy cost of a new home.”

The building code’s new “energy rating index” is based on a scale that ranks the home’s energy efficiency. A lower score means the home is more energy efficient. With Utah’s improved building codes, new homes can pass the code with an energy rating of no higher than 65-69, depending on which “Climate Zone” it’s located in within the state. The nation’s most common energy rating program is the “Home Energy Rating System,” better known as the HERS Index.

“Utah is a national leader in building energy efficient homes and was one of the first states/ to adopt the energy rating index option for their energy code” Baden continued. “In 2015 alone 1,498 new homes built in Utah received a HERS Index rating with an average rating of 61. This represents a home being 39% more efficient than a home built as recently as 2006 and 69% more efficient than a home built in the 1970’s.”

More efficient homes will protect air quality as well as consumers’ pocketbooks. Emissions from homes are a recognized contributor to local air pollution that contribute to poor air quality along Utah’s Wasatch Front. Which means that efficient new homes will help everyone to breathe easier—when paying utility bills or playing in the back yard.


Kevin Emerson is a Senior Policy and Regulatory Associate for the Utah Clean Energy and Southwest Energy Efficiency Project.


More information:

Utah Clean Energy focuses on making energy efficiency a priority in Utah, with innovative programs and policies that make it easier for Utah families and businesses to invest in efficiency improvements, to save money, and to start reaping the benefits of energy efficiency today.

Ivory Homes builds efficient homes to save energy, money and the environment. Going above and beyond in the efficiency arena, from windows and light bulbs, to appliances and insulation, Ivory prides itself in being Utah’s most efficient homebuilder.

The Home Energy Rating System (HERS) Index is the nation’s most common energy rating program for new homes developed by RESNET, the Residential Energy Services Network. Beginning on July 1, 2016 Utah home builders could start using the HERS Index to meet Utah’s updated energy code using the “Energy Rating Index” compliance method.

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