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Minneapolis leads the way to save energy

Alerting buyers to a home’s energy usage is just another step moving towards a greener society.

South Minneapolis houses
MinnPost photo by Peter Callaghan

I’d like to take a moment to cheer the city of Minneapolis for requiring verified energy disclosure in four major areas that predict a home’s future energy use. It is one of the few cities in the country where this information is required before a house is listed for sale.

Even if a house needs a lot of work, which most old homes do, buyers are often motivated to make upgrades that will save energy before they move-in. If they’re not, at least they deserve to know where they can save energy and cut costs.

Back in 2009, a few months into the Barrack Obama presidency, I started a website for home energy efficiency for people in Pennsylvania. We’d purchased an old home three years earlier and were getting slammed with high heating bills. I figured the best way to learn about saving fuel for the home was by writing about it. I took a course and became a BPI certified building analyst.

Before long, I learned of a software program created for the Department of Energy called the Home Energy Score. I can’t tell you my excitement at being invited to the White House and listening to a presentation from then Vice President Joe Biden who introduced the Home Energy Score program as part of the Middle-Class Task Force program he was leading.

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Later, I participated in the pilot of the software and learned just how bad most old homes are in regard to energy-efficiency. That was true of our home which was built in 1899 in what then was one of the wealthiest cities in the country, Pittsburgh.

Based on the feedback received from our energy assessment, we sealed up the attic and fixed the rim joists that wrapped around the basement wall with spray foam. However, it wasn’t until five years later, a year before we moved out, that I discovered another one of the biggest culprits of energy loss: a hole the size of two bricks leading directly to the outdoors. The hole was behind the kitchen cabinets and hidden on the outside by a half-century-old planter; I discovered it only by chance. So much for working with professionals.

John Horchner
John Horchner
This may be why the Department of Energy’s Energy Star program will not certify existing homes for use of its seal unless there’s been a gut rehab.

Still, we have to keep trying. It’s a journey not a destination.

Realtors especially could do more. They could take a class like I did. They could fill out the Residential Green and Energy Efficient Addendum form from the Appraisal Institute so that energy related information (efficiency, solar, location) could be included in every listing.

Kudos to Minneapolis for a great start setting an example for other cities to follow. Now more than ever, it’s the right thing to do.

John Horchner is a publishing professional who lives in St Paul.