Brian Bosgraaf Guest Column in Grand Rapids Business Journal
As a builder of more than 800 homes in the West Michigan area over the last 20 plus years, I have been required by new homeowners to justify the cost of incorporating energy efficient and sustainable technologies based on a Return On Investment (ROI). The cost of highly efficient systems, additional insulation, and upgraded features must, in the eyes of most buyers, offer an equal reduction in home heating and cooling costs or increased in resale value. This ROI approach to reducing home energy consumption must be replaced by forward thinking Reduced Carbon Footprint (RCF).
While the growing number of new homes built to Green Built and LEED standards is a welcome improvement, it has little impact on overall energy consumption of the housing stock. The energy savings produced by these new “tight” homes pale in comparison to what is wasted by existing neighboring dwellings. Conservative estimates place average home energy loss at 30%, which means the billions of dollars we are investing in alternative energy will continue to be wasted if we do not correct the 100 million plus “average” American homes.
We must place a greater emphasis on RCF by auditing and repairing existing residential dwellings. Even those homes built within the past few years have an average combined air leakage equal to a 2′ x 2′ hole, through vents, recessed lighting, insulation gaps, and construction defects. Every house can be made more energy efficient, more comfortable and a healthier living environment by conducting a Performance Energy Audit and making the suggested improvements.
There is an emergence of companies with both audit and repair capabilities (Dwelltech Solutions was founded last year). This burgeoning industry coincides with utility mandates to offer their customers financial incentives to make their homes more energy efficient and with state and federal government programs that help finance such improvements.
After all, doesn’t it make sense to stop “wasting energy” before we spend billions seeking new alternative energy sources? It is time we move from ROI thinking to RCF.