Sie müssen Brand Viagra nur bei derviagra apothekeViagra Brand ist für jene Patienten nicht angezeigt, die eine andere Medizin gegen

Cialis is cheaper than brand pills, and you can always afford normal treatmentcialis onlineCialis online simply place your order, use your credit card to pay for your pillscialistaking erection pills to support your compromised erectile function (you will not have to take Cialis for the rest of your life.There is only one place to play from Online Casinos.casinoPlay Online Slots.Usually the recommended dose is 50 mg Viagra.ViagraViagra 100mg

Energy Performance Oversight and a Gas Guzzler Tax for Homes?

by Nic Darling on March 4, 2011 · 9 comments

in Development,Green Programs,Philosophy

I know I owe everyone a redesign of our Performance Sticker and some talk of the various available home energy use metrics, but that is tall order, and I have been a bit short on time. So, instead I’m going to buy a little more time with a discussion of one of the lesser points that arose in the Sticker post comments . . . how involved does government get in the process of making performance stickers a requirement of the building industry?

Comparative energy use performance information has long been a staple of the auto industry. EPA estimates, for better or worse, have given us a means of comparing the fuel use of cars. They also give those of us obsessed with energy efficiency an open invitation to a dark pit of depression when watching car commercials. Seriously, they’re bragging about 24mpg? Pass me a pint of ice cream, a bottle of rye and my blanky . . . isn’t that how everyone deals with depression?

This testing is, as I understand it, carried out by the car manufacturers and reported to the EPA. The EPA then audits 15% or so of them to keep the manufacturers relatively honest. These tests are only performed on new cars and certain large models are exempt. For instance, GM is not required to provide Hummer data to the EPA. Presumably the 10mpg results would just be too embarrassing for everyone.

Car manufacturers test only a single representative of a given model for mileage as each is expected to be nearly identical. While the results are not always particularly accurate when compared with real life performance, they do provide a fairly reasonable means of comparing different models. For instance, I may not know what the exact, real-life mileage of my Accord will be, but I can be fairly certain it is going to be  15 to 20 mpg better than what I would get from that Dodge Ram.

All of this originated with a “Gas Guzzler” tax intended to encourage the production and purchase of more efficient private automobiles. Larger vehicles like trucks and vans were left out because they were seldom owned for private use. The law assumed if you had a truck or van, you had a legitimate use for it. How surprised those lawmakers would be today when a 6,000 lb truck is considered a perfectly reasonable vehicle for running your 80lb child to soccer practice.


Legally we can't call this a "Gas Guzzler"

So, how might this system apply to homes? Basically, we have a government mandated test for new products tied to a tax. Could that work in the housing market? With what changes? Believe it or not, I have an opinion.

Let’s start with the idea of a tax. We have an established habit of taxing things that have a negative effect on individuals and/or those around them. We tax liquor, tobacco, gas guzzlers, etc. We also tend to be more comfortable with taxes on non-necessities. At a NY grocery store there isn’t a tax on milk, but you’ll be paying one for the cookies to go with it. I think we can agree that low-performance homes fall in one if not both of these categories. So, a tax would not be outside  our historical inclination.

Let’s say we impose a graduated tax based on the projected energy use of new buildings. This tax would be levied either on new construction builders or buyers. I would argue builders as the buyers are going to be paying it either way. Leaving the exact metric out of this for the moment, let’s imagine that we base this tax on the results of some basic standard test and analysis. Results of this test must be sent to the appropriate agency. The agency would then levy the tax and provide an official document to be used in the sale or resale of the home in question.

There are, of course, some challenges. In this plan, each individual home would need to be analyzed. Solar orientation is the biggest reason for this individual attention, though variation in construction quality can certainly not be discounted. This could be conceived as an unreasonable burden on the builder. However, one could also argue that builders have been unreasonably unburdened in this respect for too long. Home performance, unlike performance in nearly every other consumer product, has remained relatively unchanged for a long, long time. This burden could also be reduced by providing a baseline rating based on code requirements. Homes would receive this rating without the necessity for more elaborate testing and be taxed accordingly. Builders would still be required to share the rating with potential buyers.

Another challenge could be oversight. If left to their own devices there is little doubt that some builders would be less than honest in reporting certain specifications. Insulation values, for instance, are an excellent opportunity for subterfuge. The oversight agency would have trouble auditing any of the reported homes for  those things, like insulation, which are difficult to inspect once a home is complete. This could be solved by third party inspection and oversight, but again we start to see the system become cumbersome.

A little drywall and this looks perfectly fine.

Lastly, energy use in a home is difficult to predict as so much relies on the habits of the homeowner. Any predicted usage is likely to be way off. However, this is a similar problem in our car example and rather than dissuade universal enforced use of some sort of metric, this unpredictability of behavior encourages it. The more universal the adoption of a metric like this, the more useful it is. This is because such metrics only provide truly useful information in comparison. Sure, the family that leaves the heat set to 85 and doesn’t believe in an off switch is going to use far more energy than the amount on their home’s  performance sticker. However, they can be reasonably sure that they would be using even more energy if they had bought the home with the lower performance rating.

So, to make a long post short, I propose a required analysis provided by a third party for all new homes. This would likely include a blower door test and a detailed analysis of all specs (orientation, insulation, mechanicals, etc.) including an inspection. In a perfect world, this test could be part of the municipal permitting process with the tax revenue from inefficient homes providing the necessary funding. The result would be an easy to understand comparative metric that would inform buyers and determine the gas guzzler style tax on the property. Of course, there is nothing perfect about this world, and my idea is, without a doubt, too simple to work.

To answer a valid concern in the comments of the original performance sticker post, I don’t think a program like this should be mandatory for older homes, but it doesn’t seem unreasonable to expect some required energy oversight for new or fully rehabbed houses. Older homes could choose to use the system as it becomes something buyers expect to see, but as was mentioned in the comments, there is certainly no need to waste money  to tell me a 100 year old Philly row home is inefficient. I expect it’s use in older homes to become a voluntary but eventually expected practice.

Well, I appear to have used this blog post to demonstrate something of the nature of inefficiency. My apologies. It is as Mark Twain once said, “I didn’t have time to write a short letter, so I wrote a long one instead.”

If you made it through, tell me what you think. Should we mandate the use of a particular metric to value the energy performance of new homes? Does an accompanying tax for poorly performing homes make sense? What other strategies are there for insuring consistent use of a single standard?

Use the comments to provide your own insights or to chastise me for my long, lazy and confusing writing.

If you enjoyed reading this post I can promise you'll love our new writing over at Postgreen Homes. Yeah, we know that's the same thing your favorite band said and their new album is nowhere near as good as their early stuff, but seriously, we are actually still getting better.

There also isn't much conversation to be had here . . . at least not with us. So come on over to the Postgreen Homes Blog and tell us what you think of our new(ish) digs and crazy ideas. We will be sure to tell you what we think of your opinion.

{ 9 comments… read them below or add one }

1 Rita March 4, 2011 at 4:59 pm

Give me a break!
I thought you guys were on my side which is for making homes more eco-friendly. But come -on the last thing we need is more government involvement in any process.

You should know better than anyone else that month by month regulations are chipping away at our freedom and hampering our creativity.

Fewer people die in single family home fires than dozens of other accidents but govt mnadated sprinklers are now required in every home. Now if you want to replace you AC you need a rater to come in and test the ducts that have been there for years. Arc fault breakers so you don’t short out a wire when hanging a picture in your bedroom. It goes on and on.

How about bathtubs that use only a gallon of water? We could have a tub inspector for that.

Forget the tax, in short time energy will cost double what we pay now. In the past few weeks gasoline has begun the ramp up. And the real price will shape how people function and what they do on a daily basis. When gas went up to $4 a year or two ago people actually drove less and fewer trucks and beasts were bought. As the cost to heat and cool one’s home goes up so will everyone’s attention to retro-fitting or building new homes that are more efficient.

Pete Seeger once sang about the upcoming population problem with a tune the went “The whole world is doubling……” If you want to enlist the tax man go for a tax on intercourse because each new person uses more energy over their lifetime than can be saved with R-38 insulation or Great Stuff foam caulk.

2 jimluk March 4, 2011 at 5:18 pm

This brings up all sorts of issues, and potentially interesting solutions.

We could start by removing existing disincentives, ie: stop subsidizing home heating oil year in and year out when a few upgrades could provide the same savings with a little upfront investment.

Even more controversial we could stop providing tax breaks on mortgages all together,
they may be popular but they incentivize home ownership as a short term investment, bigger mortgages = bigger tax breaks = tax shelter. This in turn leads to the “wrong” kind of houses being built

Now, instead of a direct tax we could use FHA funding to set the standards, something like 90% of homebuyers now use FHA loans, additionally FHA could create a program that rolls additional upgrades into the mortgage at a subsudized low interest rate so that expensive one time costs that provide long term savings can be affordable to add to the home.

This is a bit of disconnected thought, but i’m sure that it wouldn’t be to hard to create a comprehensive systematic policy, Of course enacting it is another story.
Some of these ideas are taken almost directly from the book Coming In From the Cold: Energy-Wise Housing In Sweden” that Greg LaVardera has recently talked about on his blog. Its a good read, although it is always painful to read about great solutions that were written 25 years ago.

3 Ian Watson March 4, 2011 at 5:53 pm

Rita: I certainly agree with you that behaviours will change as fuel prices go up. However, buyers of homes (unlike those of cars) have no basis to evaluate their potential purchase and thus alter their purchasing behaviour. Fewer trucks will be purchased because people know that trucks burn more gas than other types of vehicles. But how is a potential homeowner to know whether or not the home they’re about to purchase uses more energy than the other house they were considering purchasing? A home energy rating system solves this problem. It allows otherwise ignorant (I do not mean that in the pejorative sense) home buyers to make an informed decision.

However, for a rating system to be useful it has to be ubiquitous. If home builders are using different rating systems it will be an apples-to-oranges comparison and thus absolutely useless to home buyers. The need for a standard standard (i.e. a common rating system) suggests government involvement, or exceptional industry collaboration (good luck with that).

The other requirement for a useful rating system is that it has to be honest. How useful would gas mileage ratings be if GM could claim that the hummer gets 100 mpg? While we all wish that all builders were honest, the unfortunate truth is that there are bad apples out there. So again, the conclusion is the need for government oversight.

So in summary: changes in behaviour require that consumers are informed about how those changes will affect them, which requires a ubiquitous and honest rating system, which requires government oversight. I know that the government does some ridiculous things – the mandatory sprinklers is a little crazy (although it’s only in some areas of California as far as I know) – but you shouldn’t throw the baby out with the bathwater. There are a lot of benefits to having an organization like the government that can step in and say “we’re doing this for the greater good”.

4 Rita March 6, 2011 at 11:03 am


My response to the article was a bit over the top but I am hard-pressed to see a situation where government regulation has helped in the long run other than to increase the cost of the prouct and delay the process.

Can you imagine if the government thought it made sense to regulate computers so that the “uninformed” (nobody knew about ram, caches & motherboards 25 years ago) could be protected from oportunists in the PC business. Probably the world’s greatest recent success story “Apple” would have been regulated into oblivion.

In a world where people have less and lee money to waste the winner in new housing will be the company that doesn’t rely on fake ratings or an overly burdensome and costly review process but the one that delivers.

Just like millions of people buying an almost unknown product from Apple because they believe in the company and its products the same could and should happen to new housing. I’ll buy a home from the builder that gives me an energy guaratee. Whether the insulation is seaweed or knitting wool it doesn’t matter to a degree if the builder will stand behind his product.

Not to disparage the big three auto makers but, why do so many people buy Honda’s or Hundai’s. Because the manufacturer delivers consistently. These cars for the most part simply DO NOT break. That’s a heck of a lot better than a big three 100k mile guarantee where every quarter you are back to the shop for a free repair.

We just got rid of a 22 year old Honda civic. It consistently got 30 miles to the gallon and in 22 years the nothing broke. We only had to buy replacement parts (oil, gas, 1 muffler, tires, brakes and a battery)

If somebody’s eco house is so good let them guarantee that my utility bill won’t exceed X $ per month. It is as simple as that. No ratings, no government intrusion just real commerce.

By the way single-family residential sprinklers are now mandatory natiowide with only a few states electing to opt out of that part of the new residential building code. With city water the cost adds $2 / sq ft to the house and if you have a well the cost could triple. On a 1500 sq ft house that’s an extra $3,000 if you are lucky.

ONe more comment. Just think how excessive regulation and review might have prevented the people at 100k from building some of the innovative products they have created. I’m sure they have stories about what they wanted to do or might have done only to be stopped by codes and inspectors.

Hey even Steve Balmer (head of Microsoft) dissed the IPhone and he’s merley a copetitor not a regulator.

More importantly

5 Brian G March 7, 2011 at 10:36 am

I mostly agree with Rita except the part about the reliability of Hondas:)

A blower test is easy to compare between homes, but the part is quite vague. For example fiberglass vs cellulose insulation. A detailed and clear voluntary standard would be a good idea. Also would DIYs(Do It Yourself) be required to take this test when they improved their insulation. I would suggest something else.

How about looking at the actual utility bills for a year instead and create some kind of rating based on this? This would be much less expensive and would allow comparison of new and older homes. When you really look at it. It not about your ACH value or your HERS score. It is how much energy does your home use. In Michigan where I live, I can look up my monthly energy usage for the last 2 years on the Internet. It wouldn’t be hard to add a calculated rating to my energy bill.

6 Rita March 8, 2011 at 7:07 pm


That’s a pretty simple way, without hiring a consultant or government involvement, to get a read on what an individual house is doing.

7 Ian Watson March 9, 2011 at 12:52 pm

Unfortunately, utility bill histories are completely useless for evaluating a house for purchase because they don’t compare apples to apples. Even if I did have access to the utility bills for a house I’m purchasing (and that has dubious privacy implications) how am I to know if the bills are low because the house is actually energy-efficient, or just because the previous owners were energy freaks who kept the thermostat at 15 and only showered once a year. Past utility bills have very little basis for comparing potential purchases because it’s so dependent on the user.

Rating systems take the user out of equation and provide a strong basis for evaluating the actual merits of the house. While ratings can’t provide me with absolute energy usage that I can expect in a home (my habits will affect that greatly) they at least allow me to make relative comparisons between different houses that I’m looking at. In other words, it won’t be able to tell me that I’m going to spend $500 a year in utilities, but it will be able to tell me that I’ll spend half as much on utilities in one house than I will in another. The qualifier here is, of course, that the rating system used on houses I want to compare MUST be the same, or else I have no grounds for making a valid comparison. This again brings up the need for someone (whether it be government or an amazing private collaboration) to standardize the ratings system.

As for your analogy with consumer loyalty with Apple and vehicles, it doesn’t necessarily apply to housing. The first reason for this is that housing purchases are a rare occurrence in someone’s life. Apple depends on you buying their product year, after year, after year. They must earn your loyalty. A home builder needs to sell you a home once, and doesn’t really expect to have you purchase another home from them anytime soon. Loyalty is much less important. The second reason is that branding is much less important in housing than it is in other markets (although PostGreen might change this). When was that last time you bought a home based on the builder’s name? Probably never. You chose your home because of price and location and features. With things like computers (and even cars) people are buying them because it’s Apple. Without brand recognition in housing there’s little incentive for builders to attach themselves to things like efficiency. The third reason is that brands are not ubiquitous. If I really liked my last Apple product, I know that I can buy my next product from them whenever and wherever I want. With housing, even if I do associate energy efficiency with a company, it doesn’t mean the next house I buy will be in an area where they have one for sale. I associate PostGreen with energy efficiency, but I’ll never be able to by their homes because I don’t live in Phili. The next best thing is for me to have a ratings system where I can evaluate my next housing purchase, regardless of brand.

This post has gone on way longer than I intended, but I’d like to make one more point. Rita brought up an assertion that it’s good that the government didn’t regulate computers to protect the uninformed and thus didn’t kill the industry. But the government DOES regulate the computer industry to protect the uninformed, and I believe that computers would not have been the success they are had they not done so. Computer buyers make their purchase based on a number of factors, including its speed and amount of memory. If governments didn’t maintain standards about defining and reporting the speed and memory of computers, there would be no way to evaluate computer products. What would stop computer companies from claiming that their computers ran at a million gigahertz and had ten billion gigabytes of storage space? Buyers would have no confidence in the computer industry (including the honest companies) because there would be no way to sort the good and the bad.

8 Jim Wild March 9, 2011 at 12:59 pm

Rita, Brian,
Interesting idea to see live data, but so easily skewed. The problem is that energy in use (as Nic explained) is very dependant on occupant. So you will not get a builder to guarantee your bills, as much as this is a great solution. You would have to buy a defined level of service (heating/cooling from them for the heating, then they can market based on how cheaply (efficiently) they can achieve this. The people with the money can then make the investments to plant/systems/houses to achieve this, not the home owner. It still has the problem of the occupant leaving the doors and windows open letting it cool down, how do you account for this.

In the UK we have Code for Sustainable Homes voluntary assessments, these are comprehensive and very good, but expensive to perform. Mandatory Energy Performance certificates which are knocked up in less than half an hour and very limited. But they exist and can inform, but people don’t really understand them and in my experience of mass produced new build houses with reasonable ratings are still using lots of energy because of poor build quality so that people think the ratings are meaningless. Passivhaus standard (voluntary) goes some way to resolving this.

Energy price rises will help to make home use less energy, but not before it will have made the vast majority of the population utterly impoverished and living in uncomfortable inhuman conditions.

We need more like PostGreen’s to educate the customers there is a real choice

So when is Post green going to do refurbishment’s? Not all houses are new…..


9 Rena Goodwin February 9, 2013 at 8:55 am

First of all: a truly terrific blog. I can’t begin to tell you how informative your posts have been. I’m a LEED GA, on the way to an AP certification, sometime this year I hope.
I agree with your views about home energy ratings. We are all stepping into the abyss when buying a traditional home, unless we spend a lot of CASH upfront just to discover a home is not the bargain it looks to be on paper.
I’m not going to jump into the fray on regulations, especially so late in the argument! I will say though that innovation is inspired by self-regulation. Seems you guys were very self-regulated. Well done!

Leave a Comment

Previous post:

Next post: