Find Out What Matter’s Most
It’s natural to judge a new home by what we consider pretty or desirable when we are shopping for one. And the beauty of a home is important, especially if it adds to the homeowner’s sense of pride and value. But is beauty the only thing we should base our buying decision on? The answer is “no”—especially if it is going to be your “forever” home. Here’s why.
You can buy a home for its seemingly beautiful, perfect qualities of exotic natural stone countertops, spectacular flooring, master-crafted tile work, designer ceilings, and gorgeous exteriors—and then after you move in, you find out your utility bills are high, or that the home is uncomfortable with some rooms always hot and others always cold. Worse, you may discover unhealthy moisture issues as time goes by from a variety of potential sources. So what should you look for when shopping for a new home? Here’s our best advice.
Look for a home that is certified as a BUILT TO SAVE™ home. If the home has this certification, you can totally base your decision on its beauty because an independent home energy rater has inspected and tested the home to make sure that the things you don’t see or couldn’t see during the home’s construction process were done correctly. You can enjoy peace of mind knowing that you are buying a high-performance home that will provide room-to-room comfort with even temperatures, a properly-sized air conditioning system, tight construction, and lower utility bills. More importantly, a BUILT TO SAVE™ certificate means your high-performance home was built to above minimum code standards and will command a higher resale value should you decide to sell later.
WHAT IS BUILT TO SAVE™?
BUILT TO SAVE™ is a voluntary home certification program available to builders of new homes. In order to begin the process of enrolling a home in the program, a builder must first register online as a member of the program by visiting BuiltToSave.org. The home can only be enrolled if the walls (drywall) have not been installed. Ideally, enrollment of a home in the program should be done well before the home has begun to be built. The reason is that an independent home energy rater can then have an opportunity to review the home’s plans and its Manual J to look for potential problems before it is too late to act.
FIRST STAGE OF THE BUILT TO SAVE™ PROGRAM
After the home’s floorplans, elevations, and Manual J are submitted to the Rater, he/she will evaluate the documents. The Manual J is particularly important because it determines the size of the air conditioner. If the unit is oversized, for example, the home will experience a variety of problems, including high levels of humidity, unhealthy moisture issues, and higher utility bills. This stage of the program is important because by calculating the heat loads of the home as it pertains to the actual design, the home’s energy efficiency can be predicted even before it is built.
During the construction of the home, specifically after insulation is installed and before the walls are put in place, the Rater will perform a complete inspection of what is behind the walls.
A comprehensive checklist is used to inspect the way the insulation was installed and many other items that could impact the home’s performance. The envelope of the home is inspected by looking for potential areas that can allow cool air to escape to the attic or cracks that would allow outside air to enter the home. The checklist complies 100% with the 2015 International Energy Conservation Code mandated by the State of Texas for new homes.
The third and last stage is called “Final Testing” and is performed by the Rater once the home is completed. Two tests are performed in the final testing of the home using specialized equipment and software: a Blower Door Test and a Duct Blaster Test. The Blower Door Test measures the leakiness of the home to determine how much air leaks into or out of a home, and the Duct Blaster Test similarly measures the amount of air escaping from the ductwork in the attic. The resulting information from these tests must be within acceptable limits to qualify for the BUILT TO SAVE™ certification.
THE BUILT TO SAVE™ CERTIFICATE
A BUILT TO SAVE™ certificate is issued to the builder when the Rater submits all documentation which includes—in addition to the completed checklists—photos of the work performed, photos of the builder’s corrections if applicable, and photos of the actual readings from the testing equipment. The documents serve as a testament to the Rater’s guarantee of the home meeting all of the requirements of the BUILT TO SAVE™ program.
Learn more about the BUILT TO SAVE™ program at www.builttosave.org.