Not just hype – Green building pays off

Green Building – Should you believe the hype?
hype-mfp-energy-drink-iiThere’s been a lot of hype surrounding green building practices lately.  Save energy, save the earth and feel good about yourself for making a difference for the next generation.  What’s not to love?  Especially if you can save money at the same time!  Well, last year I decided to test the waters with my own green building experience.  I decided to move into a home built by Green Builders in Georgetown Village and got my Ecobroker certification to learn more about the industry and help others through the process of “going green.”

After 12 months of living in a green home, I decided to compare my utility bills with the previous year of living in a “non-green” home and see if there was a noticeable difference.  Keep in mind that this blog post will only focus on the financial benefits, but green building also benefits the environment and the health of your family.  Before I get into the results, there are a few details I need to share with you first:

1.  My previous home was on 115 Village Park Drive (115 VP) and I only moved 5 houses down to 125 Village Park Drive (125 VP) – Location is pretty much the same (Georgetown Village), and so all the climate and home positioning factors are relatively equal.

2.  I compared the time frame of August 2007 – July 2008 for 115 VP with August 2008 – July 2009 for 125 VP – The 2008 summer was pretty dang hot….but anybody can tell you that the 2009 summer was even worse, not to mention a pretty bad drought that we’ve been having too!

3.  For utility consumption purposes, my family size stayed the same:  Just Me, my wife and 3 rascals under the age of 5.

4.  Lastly (here’s the big one); the home on 115 VP drive is a 2000 SF, SINGLE STORY and my new home on 125 VP drive is a 2800 SF, TWO STORY – a home that is 40% larger!

Comparing the Gas Bill

Gas

Both of my homes used used gas for the stove, furnace and water heater.  125 VP had a slight advantage in efficiency because the home was built in 2008 and 115 VP was built in 2002.  My home on 115 VP used a traditional water heater that would maintain the temperature at a fairly consistent temperature.  The home on 125 VP uses a tankless water heater so it heats water on demand.  I also have a 50 gallon traditional water heater that is dedicated to my 400 SF home office above my garage, but I hardly ever use hot water up there.  So despite the fact that I have 2 water heaters, 1.5 more bathrooms and 800 extra SF more in my newer home, I still ended up spending only $359 over a 12 month period compared to $521 for 115 VP.  A savings of $162/year.

Winner:  125 VP

Comparing the Electric Bill

So how did my larger 125 VP home use 20% less electricity then 115 VP?  Well, for one, all of the bulbs in that home are compact fluorescent lights (CFLs).  According to the Energy Star website, CFL’s use 75% less energy than incandescent bulbs.  This is an easy upgrade for any homeowner to do.  Word of warning though, you’ll notice that the cost of these bulbs are MUCH higher.  Sure, they’ll boast that the CFL lasts 7 years or longer and that might be a good justification, but as of the 12 month mark, I had 4 of my CFLs go out on me already.  I also purchased a more efficient refrigerator, and a front loading washer/dryer set for my new home.  The HVAC unit in my Green Builder home also went up in efficiency to a minimum of 14 seer.  These appliances can make a significant difference in reducing energy consumption.

Another HUGE advantage that 125 VP has is that the insulation is spray foam.  You can go up in the attic at 125 VP during a 100+ degree summer day and you won’t feel like you’re in an oven.  In fact, you might feel comfortable enough to play a game of checkers up there.  The foam does an amazing job keeping cool air in and hot air out during the summer so that my HVAC doesn’t have to work as hard.  The home’s exterior is a white Austin stone, which is better at reflecting heat then the red brick on my 115 VP home.  In order to minimize direct sunlight shining directly into the home, Green Builders constructs their windows higher up and extends the roofline over the home further out.  The result: I spent $1304 for 125 VP and $1418 for 115 VP, a savings of $114/year.

Winner:  125 VP

Comparing the Water Bill

125 VP has low-flow toilets and showerheads, a 53 gallon rain collection barrel, drought-tolerant landscaping and more efficient appliances.  115 VP has a smaller yard.  Even though my grass is looking pretty ugly over at the 125 VP home, at least I can feel satisfied that I spent less on my water bill then I did at my 115 VP home!  In fact, it was a measly $16/year less ($378 versus $394), but still a win for green building!

Winner:  125 VP

Conclusion:

Living in 125 VP saved me money and usage on all three utilities:  Gas, Electric and Water.  A total savings of almost $300/year or $25/month!  However, keep in mind the home is 40% larger and still managed a savings.  At a utility cost of $0.73/SF/year, that would mean that if I didn’t upgrade and just moved into a 2000 SF green home, my utility costs would only be $1458/year.  115 VP, a 2000 SF home, cost me $2333/year!  That’s a difference of $875/year or $73/month.

This $73/month could justify a homeowner paying $10,000 more for a green home and keep his cost of ownership (house payment and utilities) pretty much the same.  Another way to look at it is this:  If you are going to invest $10,000 to achieve a savings of $875/year, you might want to make sure you live in the home long enough to reap the financial benefits.

If you’re considering a purchase of a green home or doing energy efficient upgrades, tap into my Georgetown Texas real estate expertise and give me a call or share your experiences in the comments below.  I’d love to hear from you!

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  1. […] 133 Fairfield Court was built in 2007 by Green Builders, Inc. A few of the money-saving features include a tankless water heater, spray foam insulation, and energy star appliances.  As an example of the potential savings, this 2,192-sf eco-friendly home has a 2011 average electric bill of $65/month!  Considering the excessive heat wave that Austin just experienced, that is a significant savings compared to other homes without spray foam insulation.  Most “traditional” homes could have bills 2-3 times this amount and every $50/month in savings is equal to another $10,000 in your loan amount.  Consider this: You can buy an inferior home for $10,000 – $15,000 less, but if you consider the true cost of ownership and factor in your low utility bills, you’re probably going to end up paying the same amount each month.  Prove it to me you say?  Well, here’s an example from Edward, who also lives in a Green Builder home.  Click this link to read the article on his experience. […]

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