New construction Energy Efficiency Package

Old 08-28-02, 02:42 PM
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New construction Energy Efficiency Package

I had originally posted this message in the "Heating and Cooling" forum, but I think it might be more on-topic in this forum. My parents are urging me to get this package, but I'm not sure it's worth it. I do think it'll save me money from month-to-month, though, as the amortized cost should be less than my monthly gas/electric bill savings. What do you think?

Here is the original message:

Richmond American Homes is building my new home, and they are offering an "Energy Efficiency Package" to me for $3,300.

Here is what the package contains:

- Change A/C units to 12 SEER levels (10 SEER is standard)
- Basement level furnace will be a 90+ efficient model (efficiency of standard model is not specified)
- All exterior wall insulation will be upgraded to R-15 (R-13 is standard)
- All attic ceiling insulation upgraded to R-38 (standard is R-30)

For around another $800, they will also install extra insulation in the attached 2-car garage: "outside exposed wallls and the ceiling not attached to the heated portion of the house." You also get insulated garage doors. I'm leaning against this one.

The house will be built in Northern Virginia, where summers are hot and humid and winters can be mild to very cold. I like keeping my thermostat at around 68-70 during summer.

Should I buy the $3300 package? I've studied some of the other threads on this board, and I've gathered that a high-Seer unit (and a high-efficiency furnace) will not save much, if any, energy if it is improperly installed or sized. Unfortunately, I probably have no way of assessing the size/installation of this system until it is installed. Nobody has elected this option in section in which my house will be built (the sales manager is not very knowledgeable about HVAC, and she does not market this option to customers.).

I assume that like most "tract homes," the HVAC installation is the same for everyone, regardless of whether you have a finished basement (mine will not be finished), extended family room, extended kitchen/breakfast nook, etc. My house will be around 1900 finished square feet, with another 840 unfinished square feet in the basement (to be finished in the next couple of years). Assuming that most builder heating and A/C units are oversized, will a 10-SEER oversized unit be less efficient than a 12-SEER oversized unit? This package will cost me another $15 per month on my mortgage. I doubt I can obtain enough information to make calculations, but should I expect to save more than $15 per month on my electric bills?

Old 08-28-02, 07:00 PM
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I'm going to try and answer all your questions, if I inadvertently miss one, please let me know.

First check with either the DOE or EPA websites for "Energy Star Homes". If your builder is under this program, he receives incentives and so does the buyer. For the buyer, the rebate incentives are about $3,000. or more. It is apparent the salesperson doesn't know this. Each state is basically responsible for compliance. In my state an Energy Conservation Service Contractor (ECSC), which I am involved in, measures and verifies compliance. A mechanical Engineer and an Architect reviews the plans for the home and all aspects of the program are physically inspected. Which are the insulation, heating and cooling systems, especially the proper sizing of the units. After or near when the house is finished, the air conditioning is tested for proper pressurizing, the ducts are tested for air leakage (Duct Blaster test) and the entire house is given a blower door test to determine air flow and to see if the house meets the minimum ventilation standard set by ASHREA. A variety of health and safety tests are done, especially worse case scenario test if natural gas is used in the home. Some developers realize these tests are so thorough that they go as far as to guarantee the first year energy bills to their buyers of their houses. The developer I know personally that does this is Masco Construction Services Co. and they are nationwide.

I am not certain if this is done this way in your state because each state is responsible for determining compliance to Energy Star standards. In my state, the funding for programs like this comes from a Societal Benefit Charge which all rate payers contribute to when they pay their energy bills. In my state, that fund is 1 billion dollars.
Old 09-04-02, 02:05 PM
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EE package

The *worst thing that you can have happen, is an oversized HVAC system. It'll cycle on-off a bazillion times an hour; your mean interior temp will fluctuate like a roller coaster. Electric motors on startup - especially high torque loads like compressors - use 7-9x running current. And your utility meter is quite capable of recording all these inrushes.

Obviously, if you upgrade the R-value of the wall and ceiling insulation, your HVAC system calcs need to be adjusted downward. I hope the place comes with decent fenestration. Personally, I'd hire a qualified HVAC outfit to calc the required size with the upgraded insulation, and write that into the purchase contract.

If your garage will be West facing, I'd consider the garage package. IMHO, you can *never have enough insulation or R-value. Also, retrofitting the wall and attic insulation - while not impossible - could easily be as expensive as this whole package.

The cost IMO, appears fairly reasonable. Remember, it should be Parts Only, as the labor units to install R5 vs. R50 insulation should be about equal. Same for the furnace/chiller units...

Then again... depends how long you plan to stay there (as usual). Do the division. You *will be rolling the cost into a mortgage; and it will make great selling points if and when you move. Haven't seen energy costs decline much in my lifetime...
Old 09-15-02, 11:57 AM
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HVAC change

Here is what the package contains:

- Change A/C units to 12 SEER levels (10 SEER is standard)
- Basement level furnace will be a 90+ efficient model (efficiency of standard model is not specified)
- All exterior wall insulation will be upgraded to R-15 (R-13 is standard)
- All attic ceiling insulation upgraded to R-38 (standard is R-30)

The only real difference is the HVAC change, the rest of the "improvements" you will never see on an electric bill.
I have R0 (empty) in the walls and R11 in ceiling.
Winter bill never over $100.00, and that was BEFORE replacing the 82 year old leaky windows !!

See if you can upgrade the windows to vinyl or vinyl clad w/low e glass instead of the cheapo metal "builder grade" stuff, this will make more of a difference than adding a tiny amount to walls and small amount to attic.

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