Home inspection findings by Frank Schulte-Ladbeck, Professional Real Estate Inspector TREC# 9073

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Living an Energy Efficient Lifestyle

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Are we deluding ourselves? We move into a green home or energy efficient home, expecting savings that never come. Could this be that we do not understand how to use our home, or is it that we need to make lifestyle choices?

Have you noticed that when you do something to save energy that you do not see a cost savings? For those of us who watch these numbers, we know that energy price increases often wipe out that money which we are expecting. I found a couple of recent reports interesting. One found that most people think that they are converting their homes to be energy efficient or green, but they have not really done so. This fits in with what I have seen during my home inspections. Many homeowners take certain steps, and think they have achieved more than what they did accomplish. The other report backed up this finding , yet it had a slightly different twist. We find that most people want energy savings; they attach this to the idea of a green home, but they do not understand what this means. They purchase EnergyStar products, but then they overuse their equipment, so they end up using the more power than they had before. I have touched on these facts previously; however, I wonder if we are selling the idea of energy efficiency improperly.
    I heard a Realtor state that there are not enough green homes available for sale in the Houston market. For me, this was a puzzling statement, since I knew that there were homes being built which met one green standard or another.  I knew there were homes that could be converted into green homes. For her, it was that the homes had to meet specific criteria, one of which was that they had to be at a high price point, because she wanted to deal with homes in that range. I began to look at how builders were advertising their green homes, and I came to the conclusion that some where using the idea of green as equating to quality, but for all, green did indicate a higher price. I do not believe that green has to be higher in price, but I can understand why for many it would be. Green goods simply cost more. Even though we do have this quality aspect to a green home, advertising does focus on the savings. Makes sense. An appliance that is more energy efficient should use less energy, therefore our energy bill should be less. My point is that the advertising about quality and savings is not untrue, but it may be misleading by omission.
   I am sitting on the trampoline, playing with the children last evening. My wife comes to join us. We had dinner on the porch when it was still light out, and we end up staying outside till nearly the bedtime of the little girls. To me, this is a normal night. The lights are not on in the house, because we are not inside. No television, or computers, or gaming systems are running. We are not even playing music through some entertainment system. At that point, we are using little in the way of energy. What was your family doing? It is easy to have a television in every room, or an electronic device that can entertain us. We could all be leading our separate lives. I am not perfect, and that scenario has played out in my home, but I want more evenings where we are talking to each other, where we are playing with each other. This is the energy efficient lifestyle.
    There is more to that lifestyle. Unplugging the electronics comes with the energy efficient home. When I am not using the television, it is disconnected from the power source by turning off the power strip that it is on.  This information is out there on the web. People who want to know how to be more energy efficient have the resources to do so, but what we need to do is sell this idea of the green home alongside the concepts of quality and savings. We can break down most people into groups when t comes to any concept. There are those who represent the avant-garde, the first adapters. They learn it all, and they participate. They are followed by a second wave, who participate in this idea for their own reasons. They have some questions, but they are quite knowledgeable.  The third group will be those who do not care for the idea, opposing it based upon their beliefs. The lat group would be those who are indifferent. They may latch onto the idea if they are intrigued, but they are not going to rush out to find more information. With the green homes, we have the early adopters. They do not need a specially built house. They convert existing structures. What we need is better marketing to the second group. They understand much, but they do need better information on the lifestyle front. They have already bought into the idea of quality and savings, but they are unaware of the lifestyle (this is becoming more widespread as an idea, but I think that those selling the homes should participate in this marketing too).
    I have written about converting my own home into a more green space. I am not where I want to be, but I keep slowing moving towards that goal. This past week brought more callers asking me about my service. I found that more people are asking questions about do I provide information on energy efficiency. Do I discus how to maintain the home. To me, these questions are the signs that people of the second group have arrived on the scene. Soon enough, green homes may be the standard, since those who are indifferent will begin to buy these homes. Now is the time to sell the lifestyle.  In a way, we need to become more like the Amish; pick and choose the technologies that suit our lives, instead of latching onto every new item. I do not advocate shunning our electronic world. I do advocate tempering its use. Do we need the television every night? Does my son have to go to his room to be on his gaming system? He can still play it, and we can still watch television, but we need more nights on the trampoline. Move away from the device; move towards the family.

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© Frank Schulte-Ladbeck Professional Home Inspector Houston, Texas
Frank Theodor Schulte-Ladbeck
home inspector, TREC# 9073
Houston , Texas , 77063 United States

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