Q: How much does an energy rating cost?

A: Sustainably Built can often provide a fixed bid for Energy Ratings, but the costs vary significantly due to the difference in building types. For a small rectangular new home with flat ceilings, a rating could cost as little as $500. Large homes with complex geometry could cost as much as $3000. Regardless of the actual cost, most clients find that the money spent on an energy rating pays off in utility bill savings almost immediately.

Q: At what point in the building process should I contact you?

A: As soon as possible! We can help you make smart decisions in the preliminary design stage, even from paper napkin sketches. The earlier you bring us into the process, the more we can help influence the energy efficiency of your project with the least expense. We’ve even helped architects enhance designs from right from their initial hand sketches.

Q: What tax incentives are available for home energy efficiency?

A: If you are a builder, a $2,000 tax credit is available for making a home 50% more efficient in heating and cooling than building code. There are numerous other credits available on individual upgrades for homeowners as well. Visit www.energytaxincentives.org for extensive information on what is available at the federal level. Additional rebates are available through Xcel for solar electric systems. And new legislation is in the works to provide many more incentives and rebates to the consumer. Sustainably Built will stay on top of these incentives and make sure you don’t miss out on what’s available.

Q: What is a blower door test?

A: A blower door test is performed on a home to determine the airtightness of the building. A large fan and canvas cover connected to testing equipment is placed in the doorway of a home. The fan is turned on at a high speed and the air in the house is pulled out that door. By “depressurizing” the house, an energy auditor can test how leaky the house is, and then trace where the leaks are coming from. The resulting air leakage rate is a required element of a Home Energy Rating.

Q: What is a duct blaster test?

A: A duct blaster test is similar to a blower door test, but is performed on the ductwork of a home. The air-tightness of a duct system is what determines it’s efficiency and has a big impact on the overall efficiency of the heating and cooling system of a home. A duct blaster test is also a required element of a Home Energy Rating for all houses with ductwork.

Q: What is a pre-drywall inspection?

A: Another essential component of the Home Energy Rating is a pre-drywall inspection. This is a physical inspection of the installation of insulation in a home that is done before drywall is installed. Insulation is “graded” in three levels with I being the best. Fiberglass batt insulation rarely achieves a Grade I rating, due to the difficulty in avoiding gaps and voids as well as in properly insulating around wires and plumbing. Spray foam and wet-blown cellulose almost always achieve Grade I ratings due to the nature of their installation.

Q: What is a net-zero energy home?

A: A net-zero energy home is one that produces as much energy as it consumes over the course of a year. Features such as passive-solar design, super-insulated walls and windows, solar thermal heating, and photovoltaics all contribute to the check that the utility company will write to you at the end of the year.