November 2016 Build Smart Newsletter

Welcome to the fifth edition of the Build Smart newsletter, brought to you by the Nicor Gas and ComEd® Residential New Construction Service. This communication is designed to update our builder partners on current services, provide insight into the new construction energy efficiency industry, and serve as a resource to assist you in achieving above-code levels of efficiency for your homes.

Program Summary

The Nicor Gas and ComEd Residential New Construction Service program year ended on May 31. It was another successful year for the program thanks to your efforts in building energy-efficient homes!

Program highlights included:

  • 54 homebuilders and 9 HERS rating companies participated - completing 895 houses that were at least 20% more energy efficient than the state code requirements
  • The resulting annual natural gas and electricity saved was 314,237 gross annual therms and 539,419 gross annual kWh. This is equivalent to:
    • The annual CO2 emissions from 216 houses
    • The CO2 emissions from burning 2,182,397 pounds of coal
    • Planting 53,003 tree seedlings and letting them grow for 10 years!
    • $534,650 in incentives were issued to participating homebuilders and HERS raters

And as we near the halfway mark for this year’s program we are well on the way with over 300 homes being submitted by 30 builders working with 8 different raters, so please keep those home submissions coming in!

Training - How to "Sell" Energy Efficiency to Homebuyers

In November, 2015, the program began offering free training to participating homebuilders on how to “sell” energy efficiency to homebuyers. Instructor Todd Gamboa of Building Trust, LLC led classes in November, 2015, as well as in March and June, 2016. Many of you attended one or more of these sessions, and we received a lot of great feedback. Below are several key takeaways from these trainings:
  • Consumers care – 94% of consumers believe that each of us has to be responsible in our energy use and that they can make a difference*
  • Consumers see the value – 91% of homebuyers want higher levels of energy efficiency if it will save them money on utility bills**
  • There are many advantages of new construction vs. resale homes, including improved comfort, indoor air quality, acoustics, durability and lower maintenance and energy costs
  • Cost per square foot to OWN is more important than price per square foot to BUY!
  • While upfront costs of energy efficiency may be higher, high performance homes often offset these costs (and more!) through lower energy bills!
As a builder of energy-efficient new homes, you’ve already made the decision for the homebuyer on energy efficiency. The Residential New Construction program will equip you and your sales staff with strategies to leverage the benefits of enhanced energy efficiency and convert more prospective buyers into sales. We hope to see you and your sales staff at one of our future “Selling High Performance Homes” trainings!  Please contact Program Management if you are interested in hosting this free training for your staff.

Improving Duct Leakage

Properlysealed ductwork has many benefits, including improved indoor air quality and ensuring comfort throughout the house, which can lead to meeting and exceeding code requirements.  Here are some simple yet effective strategies for sealing ductwork.

Many building science experts agree that the most durable and airtight method of sealing ductwork is sealing with mastic. Mastic remains pliable with age and resists degradation after repeated heating/cooling cycles. Best practices for duct sealing with mastic can be found in this article from Building Science Corporation. It is widely known that cloth-backed rubber adhesive duct tape is not an effective method of duct sealing. However, certain tapes provide effective alternatives to mastic for duct sealing. This article from Green Building Advisor describes the advantages and disadvantages of mastic and various kinds of tape for duct sealing. Whatever method of duct sealing you choose, it is important that the duct surfaces are clean and dust-free prior to sealant being applied and that all gaps and cracks are adequately sealed.

Energy Efficient Strategies of a Net Zero Energy Home

Net Zero Energy homes are designed with energy efficiency top-of-mind, which includes renewable energy systems that generate at least as much energy as the home consumes. While you may not build Net Zero homes, the advanced approaches to energy efficiency may be of interest.

Net Zero Energy homes tend to be extremely energy efficient, since homes that are more energy efficient to begin with require less renewable energy to achieve Net Zero status. Less renewable energy significantly reduces construction cost. Net Zero Energy may not be the end goal, but a very energy efficient house that delivers high levels of comfort and indoor air quality is still desired by most homebuyers today. This article from Green Building Advisor describes the components of a Net Zero Energy home built in Denver, CO. This particular house achieved a HERS index of 38 prior to the addition of solar panels, thanks in large part to the double 2x4 wall construction, highly efficient heat pump heating and cooling system and tankless water heater. More pedestrian measures include advanced framing (24” on center stud spacing, 2-stud corners, insulated headers, ladder blocking, and 14” raised-heel trusses), advanced air sealing, 100% ENERGY STAR-certified lighting, double-pane windows rated at a U-factor of 0.27 and passive design features such as large roof overhangs to reduce cooling loads during summer.

Nicor Gas and ComEd look forward to working with you for another successful year!