Energy-efficiency pays off for homeowners

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Great advantage: Homes being sold that have energy-efficiency ratings — such as this one in Griffith built by Komark, Ltd. — give customers confidence that the claims of energy efficiency are accurate. | Supplied photo

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The builder you choose when having a new home constructed can make a big difference in future energy costs, according to NIPSCO.

Pauline Katsouros, manager of the Residential Energy Efficiency Programs for Merrillville-based Northern Indiana Public Service Co., advises customers looking for a new home to seek out a builder that has its homes rated by a certified Home Energy Rater.

Katsouros said the rater is a third party who rates the home under the nationally recognized scoring system called HERS (Home Energy Rating System).

“The HERS score can be described as a sort of miles-per-gallon sticker for homes. It gives prospective buyers and homeowners insight as to how the home ranks in terms of energy efficiency,” Katsouros said.

She said the rating is performed throughout the construction process, from design to completion, in order to thoroughly evaluate the energy efficiency of a home.

“The lower the number the more energy efficient the home, which can translate to lower utility bills,” Katsouros said.

The U.S. Department of Energy has determined that a typical resale house scores 130 on the HERS Index and that a typical new home will score a rating of 100. A home with a HERS Index score of 70, which is a NIPSCO Silver Star home, is 30 percent more energy efficient than a standard new home, Katsouros said.

NIPSCO has Silver Star, Gold Star and Platinum Star standards based on the home’s HERS score.

Chris Kovich, of Komark Builders, said initially buyers aren’t aware of the HERS index score; but once it’s explained, they become very interested.

Kovich said benefits of having a low score include lower utility bills, increased sound proofing, better resale value and peace of mind that you are doing your part to help the environment.

“Homes that have energy efficiency ratings give customers a high level of confidence that claims of energy efficiency are accurate. Recent studies have suggested that homes that have energy efficiency ratings (not just HERS) typically sell for more,” he said.

A home with a low HERS score also can signal a more comfortable home, he said.

Kovich said the homebuilding industry follows consumer demand. The more the buyer is aware of the advantages of energy efficiency, the more the public demands it. Consequently, higher-rated insulation, “smart” thermostats and more efficient furnaces, air conditioning, water heaters and windows are the norm rather than upgrades in new home construction these days, he said.

Building energy-efficient homes can also be financially rewarding for builders, under a NIPSCO program.

Katsouros said builders and developers can receive rebates ranging from $240 to $1,000 per home for energy-efficient new construction projects under its Residential New Construction Program.

Information on the program can be found at NIPSCO.com/NewConstruction. Homeowners can find a local Residential Energy Services Network professional by visiting www.resnet.us and utilizing the RESNET search tool.

For existing homes looking to be more efficient, NIPSCO offers a number of rebates and tips at NIPSCO.com/SaveEnergy.