Green Remodeling Incentives

Home Energy Audits and the financial incentives available to help pay to retrofit an older home to “Green” status, and a recommendation for my buyers that they consider an energy audit as part of our inspection when purchasing a home in Bend.
I recently became certified as an Earth Advantage Real Estate Broker, which, for those who do not live in the Northwest, is a program similar to but not quite as in depth as Leed certification. Earth Advantage certifies homes with what is called an EPS score, much like the Energy Star scores you see on appliances these days. Now, there are neighborhoods in town where these EPS scores are standard, including of course Northwest Crossing. Newer homes in our area often are “green”, meaning they have a high EPS score due to modern green building techniques.

But, if like me you own an older home, you can still participate in the “green” home boom, by retrofitting your home in various ways to save on energy costs and make your home much more liveable, AND valuable. Studies show that buyers are currently willing to spend 5% more for a green home than for a standard 20th Century style home. In order to better inform my clients, and to determine what I could do and how much it would cost to retrofit my home, I participated in an Energy Audit. The lure of free money in the form of incentives from Clean Energy Works and Energy Trust, which are closely linked, was enough to get me on board. When a Northwesterner pays their utility bills, a portion goes to Energy Trust, which then pays those funds out as incentives to retrofit older homes. Clean Energy Works operates on funds directly from Pacific Power and Cascade Natural Gas, but performs the same function, and the two often work together.

The audit was suggested by Clean Energy Works (I will have links at the bottom for all of my mentions), and performed by Neil Kelly associates, which is a company that started in Portland many years ago, and performs both audits and retrofit energy remodels. They performed a blower door test, in which they add negative pressure to the home to find out where the air leaks are, duct tests, infrared sensor testing to see where cold air is flowing in and heat flowing out, and a host of other tests. The whole thing took about 3 hours.

A few days later I got my report and the recommended remedies, broken down by cost per item. To summarize, the total to retrofit my home, a 1989 built structure, was $17,500. Of that, incentives from Energy Trust, Clean Energy Works, as well as State energy tax credits (Federal energy credits have vaporized, unfortunately) would kick in $4000. Interestingly enough, they offer an option to amortize your cost, and they set it up so that the amount you pay will not be more than the amount you SAVE each month on your energy bill! Quite a nice system. My monthly payment, should I choose to go this route, is $38, the minimum they expect I would save on my monthly bills. It turns out my ducts are quite leaky, with 5 times the loss from furnace to vent as in a green home, most of my windows of course need replacing (about $7500 of the total cost), and in the 1980’s they simply did not seal homes very well. Add to that the fact that there is no insulation under the floorboards but only on the stem walls, and you can see there is a lot to do here!

Now, $13,500 might seem like a lot, but with the value of my home close to $400,000, and the fact that buyers are willing to pay 5% more at the moment for a green certified home, anything under $20,000 should be easily recouped in my case.

Which brings me to my last point, one that I believe will register with my Bend home buyers, especially those in higher price brackets. One of the largest concerns my clients tend to have is in regard to energy efficiency, as we are cold in the winter and warm in the summer here. A few years ago I could order the energy bills for prospective home purchases, but that is no longer the case as they are now considered private. So, for those who are extremely concerned about energy costs and green home living, I will now recommend that they consider having an energy audit performed during our 10 day inspection period. Whereas a standard home inspection costs about $400, an energy audit costs as little as $250, and will either set your mind at ease, or keep you from making a bad investment. Well worth it, in either case, especially for costly homes. Something to consider for the 21st Century.

As promised, here are your links!

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