This is an archived article that was published on sltrib.com in 2011, and information in the article may be outdated. It is provided only for personal research purposes and may not be reprinted.
When you buy a new home, you expect it to be built to the highest standard of energy efficiency and comfort. Unfortunately, that's not always the case in Utah because the state's home energy code is vastly outdated. This means that most new homes are built below even the minimum standards for energy efficiency, resulting in higher energy bills, costly home repairs and reduced comfort for many Utah households.
Building homes to the highest energy-efficiency standards simply makes sense for both homeowners and builders. Energy is one of the biggest expenses of home ownership and will take an even bigger bite out of household income in the future. Energy prices in Utah have risen 4 to 5 percent every year for the past 10 years, and Rocky Mountain Power recently asked for a 13.7 percent rate increase, with more to come. Ensuring that homes are energy-efficient helps keep energy costs down and makes home ownership more affordable.
Building efficient homes also helps builders stay competitive in a tough market. While most builders are constructing only 25 percent of the homes they were building before the recession, we're at 50 percent so building energy-efficient homes is insulating our company from the worst of the recession.
Recent studies by Utah's Uniform Building Codes Commission and the Building Codes Assistance Project found that building homes to the latest energy code would save households between $175 and $200 each year on energy bills, even when accounting for any increases in mortgage or construction costs to build to the code. Building homes energy-efficient from the start also wards off the need to make costly energy fixes to homes after they are built, which can cost $4,800 and more, according to Utah's Weatherization Assistance Program.
Frankly, I didn't need a study to know that energy-efficient homes save occupants money. Our customers' low energy bills are all the proof I need. We've also proven that efficient homes can be built affordably. What's more, we're not just meeting the latest energy code requirements, we're exceeding them. Every home we build in Utah is 30-40 percent more efficient than the most up-to-date energy code.
Today, Utah's energy code is more than three years old. A number of local governments, construction and utility industry leaders, energy-efficiency experts and the state's own building code commission support adopting the latest code. Lawmakers passed up the opportunity this year to update the code, though they may be reconsidering.
Ironically, as the state stagnates with its current codes, the nation's leading energy code experts will be convening Tuesday in Salt Lake City for the Energy Codes 2011 conference.
To save families money and get home sales and construction moving again, all Utah homes should be built as energy-efficient as possible.
Rene Oehlerking is the marketing director for Garbett Homes, a Utah-based production home builder.