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States Hear Consumer Call for Cost-Cutting Energy Efficiency Standards

More states across the country are using energy codes to save their residents money, improve homes and buildings, and protect the environment.

Support has grown from Maryland, which just adopted a more stringent energy code, to Texas, which this month will adopt a statewide code that should cut the energy consumption of new single-family homes by more than 15 percent. The District of Columbia and Ohio are just two examples of states expected to take action in the new year to improve their energy codes

Energy codes set minimum energy-efficiency standards for the construction of new homes. A homeowner can save an average of $243 a year on utility bills when the home is built to meet the standards of a model energy code. While the home costs slightly more to build upfront –less than $850 on average — the increased efficiency pays for itself in less than a year. Besides helping save money, energy-efficient homes are easier to keep warm or cool consistently throughout the house, and they help curb pollution by consuming less energy.

The push by state legislators reflects what consumers are saying – they want more efficient, comfortable homes that help save both their budgets and the environment. According to a recent survey by Consumers Union, the policy and advocacy division of Consumer Reports, and the nonprofit Building Codes Assistance Project (BCAP), Americans overwhelmingly believe that more energy-efficient homes will reduce energy use and pollution, and that homeowners should have a right to a home that meets national energy standards.

Among the key findings of the Consumers Union/BCAP survey:
– 82 percent agreed that homeowners should have a right to a home that meets national energy standards.

– 84 percent of respondents agreed with the statement that more energy-efficient buildings will reduce energy use and pollution.

– 79 percent agreed that disclosure of a home’s energy usage would enable them to make an informed decision about a new home purchase.

– 74 percent agreed that energy code standards will help ensure that homeowner and taxpayer dollars are used wisely and efficiently as new buildings will be required to be built right the first time.

– 75 percent agreed that energy codes should be enforced like other safety and quality standards of construction.

“A model energy code promotes the construction of homes that cost less to heat and cool, putting cash back in your pocket while keeping the temperatures in your home comfortable,” said Stacy Weisfeld, Energy Code Campaign Organizer for Consumers Union. “An energy-efficient home is simply a better deal for the homebuyer, and we’re asking states to listen to consumers and update their codes to help deliver these benefits.”

Although the rising cost of gasoline grabs headlines, heating and cooling our buildings accounts for more of Americans’ total energy use–about 40 percent–than driving cars. Unfortunately, much of that energy is wasted. Strong energy codes ensure that new homes have high-quality construction, thereby reducing energy waste, harmful carbon emissions, and Americans’ utility bills.

“American consumers know that strong energy codes mean higher quality homes and lower, more predictable utility bills,” said Cliff Majersik, executive director of the Institute for Market Transformation, a nonprofit group that promotes energy efficiency in buildings. “In light of consumer sentiment, we’re likely to see wider adoption of stronger codes, which could save consumers up to $40 billion while significantly reducing energy waste.”

For more information on Consumers Unions energy code initiative, visit www.agreenerfuture.org/codes. To read more on BCAP’s Incremental Cost Analysis Model and Report visit http://bcap-ocean.org/incremental-cost-analysis.

The Consumer Reports National Research Center conducted an online survey among a panel provided by Survey Sampling International. A total of 5,086 interviews among adults aged 18+ were completed. Interviewing took place over February 16th – 23rd, 2011. The margin of error is +/- 1.6% points at a 90% confidence level.