City of Austin Mandates Home Energy Audits To Avoid Building New Power Plant

Home For Sale With Sign Out Front Photo

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Homeowners in Austin, TX are now required to have an energy efficiency audit prior to listing their house for sale. While this is not the first city in the US to mandate such a program, that isn't making it any easier for residents to swallow, reports the Wall Street Journal.Not all homeowners agree that this is a good idea, as it means they will have to shell out $200-300 for the audit just to find out that they possibly have several thousand dollars in repairs. They can pass the repairs on to potential buyers but that means they risk the buyers asking for a lower price (even though there is no requirement that the new homeowners follow up on repairs). Sellers who do not disclose their energy audit risk being charged with a misdemeanor.

The Mayor of Austin, Will Wynn, stands by the program for several reasons. First, because of the 300 homes that have already been audited, most are finding that ducts leaked more than double what was recommended and attic insulation was also below specifications. Second, because requiring homeowners to improve energy efficiency and thus need less energy will help the city avoid having to construct a 700MW powerplant by 2020. Plus, homeowners that improve their energy efficiency (especially those that do it sooner rather than later) only save themselves money on their heating and cooling bills, and that's a smart idea whether you plan to sell your home or not. This measure could also mean a few new jobs as all homes will have to be inspected prior to their listing on the market.

What's involved in an energy efficiency audit? Mainly inspectors are looking to see if there are leaks around the house that would allow heat or cool air to escape, thus wasting money and resources. Air conditioning units are checked for leaks, as well as seals around vents, and adequacy of attic insulation.

Advice to residents: Get your audits early, that way you can do the easy/cheap things like adding caulking now before you plan to sell your home and apply for rebates through Austin Energy for energy-efficiency upgrades that you make to your home. On the other hand, for proactive homeowners that are as efficient as possible, this could be a selling point for their home. Knowing that new homeowners won't have to make any repairs, and will also save on lower electricity bills could be a reason to bump up the asking price, rather than having to drop it due to poor insulation and necessary repairs.

Austin is not the first city in the US to require energy audits of homeowners, as San Francisco and Berkeley have had similar regulations on their books since the 1980's (but they require current owners to make the upgrades), but it is the first city in Texas. San Antonio is monitoring this program and considering initiating a similar program. :Wall Street Journal
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