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Daily Real Estate News  |  November 10, 2010  |   Energy Audits Are Great, Mandates Aren't
As a matter of good health, you probably make an annual trip to the doctor for a physical exam. Some of those visits may result in a clean bill of health, but other times you may learn you have high blood pressure, unhealthy cholesterol levels, or other conditions that you can keep under control by making some changes.
It’s time to start being just as proactive about the health of your home, said Vikki Murphy of the Building Performance Institute Inc., based in Malta, N.Y. The not-for-profit organization sets technical standards and professional credentialing programs for home performance audits.

 “You need to start looking at a home as a system and diagnose what’s going on,” Murphy said at the Land Use, Property Rights, and Environment Forum on Friday at the 2010 NATIONAL ASSOCIATION OF REALTORSŪ CONFERENCE & EXPO. “If one system has a problem, it impacts the other systems’ ability to function properly.”
If a system breaks down, it can result in high energy bills, uneven temperatures, moisture, poor indoor air quality, and even pest infestations.

The best way to head off these problems is through an energy audit or home-performance evaluation, Murphy said. Professionals use blower doors, combustion analyzers, and duct pressure tools to assess air leakage and other issues. Then, they work with homeowners to create a plan for fixing the problems. Some fixes, such as insulating an attic, are affordable and have immediate effects on comfort and energy costs.

Given that so many of the 128 million homes in this country were built before modern energy and building codes were established, this type of testing is essential to make sure properties are not just energy efficient, but also healthy for inhabitants.

“Do you know where your fresh air comes from?” Murphy asked. “Have you checked for gas leaks or carbon monoxide?”

While few can argue with the benefits of an energy audit for homeowners who want a healthy and energy-efficient home, it’s clear that many in the real estate industry oppose efforts to mandate energy audits or home performance ratings.

Such mandates already are in place in Austin, Texas, and in few communities in California. But real estate professionals and association executives attending the forum said that if energy audits were required for every transaction, it could end up costing home owners thousands of dollars in energy retrofits and could delay closings.

Kelly Quigley, REALTORŪ Magazine

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