The Ohio Association of Homebuilders doesn’t want consumers to buy an energy efficient home. The organization has convinced several legislators to further weaken Ohio’s energy code by effectively putting the Association in charge of approving the state code through an amendment to the state budget. Incidentally, this amendment will do nothing to address Ohio’s budget woes, and consumers will pay the price through higher energy bills. A weak energy code is no different than a tax; a tax you will pay as long as you live in your home in the form of higher utility bills.
Our organization, Ohio Partners for Affordable Energy, includes over 60 nonprofits, most of which weatherize the homes of low-income customers. We have been doing this for 35 years, because it saves families money and indirectly reduces energy prices for all customers. Weatherizing over 10,000 homes a year has given our crews more experience in energy efficient construction than most builders.
The homebuilders claim that building efficient homes increases costs to homebuyers. In reality, they want to make a bigger profit and leave a family with higher energy bills for the life of that home. Yes, a more efficiently-built home will cost a little more upfront, but an additional $1,500 in a 30-year mortgage won’t make a home unaffordable. Paying higher gas and electric bills than necessary will cost a lot more than a small increase in the monthly house payment. In fact, the number two reason for foreclosure is inability to pay utility bills.
Any energy auditor can tell you that the cheapest way to make a home efficient is to do it right the first time. Making the shell of the house efficient – the walls, attic, and foundation – can only be done completely when the home is built. Sure, we can later weatherize a home by adding insulation and sealing air leaks, but we can never get to all the nooks and crannies that are accessible during the construction process. Besides, a consumer shouldn’t have to weatherize a new home!
More than 10 years ago we surveyed Ohio consumers and asked if they trusted builders to construct an energy efficient home. More than 90 percent said no. This is probably just as true today, and the Ohio Homebuilder Association’s opposition to cost-effective energy codes proves why this consumer perspective is true.
Environmentalists and insulation manufacturers support strong energy codes, but homeowners reap the real benefits – lower energy bills. I have represented consumers in national negotiations over model building codes. I was always outnumbered by representatives of the National Association of Homebuilders, but we ultimately compromised on a stronger energy code. Ohio’s Homebuilders are reneging on that deal. We shouldn’t let that happen.