General Question

LuckyGuy's avatar

Would a fuel economy figure for a new home be useful for potential buyers?

Asked by LuckyGuy (38450points) January 22nd, 2016

The average American spends about the same amount of money on home heating and cooling as they do on fuel for their vehicles.

By now, everyone is familiar with EPA fuel economy figures and most people at least think about them when they purchase a car.
Imagine if homes came with a figure for the fuel economy of their heating and cooling plant. For example: my home gets 8 HDD (Heating degree days) per gallon of heating oil. If it’s near freezing, 32F for 24 hours, that means my HDD is, 65–32 = 33. It will take about 4 gallons of oil to heat the house. The heating season where I live is about 6100 HDD so I could expect to use ~760 gallons in a season. Would that be useful for someone comparing homes?
Obviously homes that heat with electricity or natural gas would have different numbers.
A qualification test could be run with the T-stat at a fixed temp, say 65F, and be preformed on the model homes, open to the public. All it would take is an hour meter on the burner and a record of the weather. An inspector would check it when they do the Certificate of Occupancy.
Of course, mileage would vary from household to household but this would represent an average value that could be used for comparison. It would be like the EPA fuel economy test that is driven over 23 cycles on representative vehicles. Nobody gets those number exactly but they are useful for comparison purposes.

If you knew the fuel economy figure you could see how much you gained by shutting off a room, or adding insulation in the attic, or turning down the T-stat a degree or two.

Or does nobody care? Is the world filled with people like those we see on HGTV: “I need a kitchen with stainless steel appliances.”

Would you use that number if it was listed with the home’s information?

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14 Answers

Tropical_Willie's avatar

I’ve bought and sold a couple houses, a review of the last year’s utilities was usually in the due diligence. So yes there a benefit of “fuel economy” for complete house.
I have a two zone heating system with upstairs on a different zone. Both zones are on “set back” T-stats. We’ve added additional insulation in the attic that dropped the utility bill by 15%. I have a friend in town that has a house almost the same size and shape, he pays 50% more for utilities.

elbanditoroso's avatar

I think the issue is that the amount of fuel used is closely related to:
– the number of people living there
– how warm (or cool) they like it
– whether they will use the fireplace or not
– age of the people living there (older people generally need more heat)


For example, I generally avoid using the AC in summer, unless it is seriously hot. My daughter uses her AC much more than I do. The opposite in winter: I won’t turn on the heat unless it’s pretty cool – I use sweaters.

So a heat index can be an indicator, but it would have to be accompanied with all sorts of footnotes and caveats that rob of it of any meaning.

jaytkay's avatar

Where I live, a sale or lease requires gas and electric bill history disclosures.

LuckyGuy's avatar

@elbanditoroso Yes, people’s habits and usage vary so their fuel usage would vary as well. . That is true with cars and trucks as well. Some people do all highway driving. Some only use their cars for short trips. Some keep their trunks filled with junk. But the EPA has standardized on a test so vehicles can be compared.
What if a new house came with a fuel economy figure printed on the front door?. Would people shop around and take that number into account when deciding which house to purchase?
Would they change their mind and decide maybe they don’t need a large house that gets poor fuel economy? Maybe a smaller, more fuel efficient one will do.

cazzie's avatar

We actually have that here in Norway. To sell a home we need to supply the exact cost of electricity supplied over a 12 month period. Well not cost but the kilowatts used.

Seek's avatar

It’s meaningful to me. I know our electric bills are artificially high because this place is very poorly insulated. When looking for new apartments, I can assume an extra $100 in the budget just in energy savings.

LuckyGuy's avatar

@cazzie I like that they use units like kilowatt hours and not cost. The price of energy varies month to month. The important number is actually how much energy you use. If I recall you heat with electricity so that number is even more relevant.

Anyone who looked at my heating bills would think this house was a super bargain. I have my stat set low AND get the majority of my heat from wood. I can go years between oil fill-ups. (My record was 3 years! ) That would give a potential buyer a false impression. A standardized test would avoid anomalies like these and make it easier to compare houses fairly. It would be so easy to do. An accurate meter that was left running for a day or two, or longer if higher resolution is desired, would be an excellent predictor. of total usage.
Why don’t prospective home buyers demand it?

If all I have to do is show 2 years worth of utility bills I will be more diligent and burn more wood. My home would appear to be more efficient than a Department of Energy research project.

jaytkay's avatar

Weather would be an uncontrollable variable. How would you work around that?

You could limit that problem by making it regional, so you’re not trying to force the same model on Buffalo and Phoenix.

But still, you can’t measure homes in a controlled environment.

Seek's avatar

Well, the house itself isn’t moving from Phoenix to Buffalo, so you wouldn’t need to know how much a house in Phoenix costs to heat through a northeastern winter…

Seek's avatar

One thing though: in Florida, it’s summer about 10 months out of the year. We keep the air conditioner set at 80, and the heat set at about 73.

Lots of people, even in my neighborhood, think 80 degrees indoors is uncomfortably hot, but when it’s 90+ degrees outside, to me it’s fine.

How would you make the model work so it’s useful to someone who doesn’t keep the thermostat at 68–72 year round?

cazzie's avatar

It is just an indicator. I also have a wood burner, so it isn’t super perfect. Wood costs money too, though.

jaytkay's avatar

How would you make the model work so it’s useful to someone who doesn’t keep the thermostat at

It wouldn’t matter. A standardized test would be standard. It’s like EPA MPG ratings on a car. The car has one rating for that car.

Jenny Leadfoot and Grampa Turnsignal won’t get the same mileage.

LuckyGuy's avatar

@jaytkay Weather is taken out of the picture by using Heating Degree days in the calculation.
The numbers are readily available for any zip code. They are also published in the daily newspaper. The heating season where I live is about 6100 HDD. I divide that by my fuel economy figure ( 8 HDD/ gallon) and know how much oil it takes to eat my house for a season.
Warm climates use CDD, cooling degree days We only have about 500 CDD days (almost nothing) so many people don’t have air conditioners.

If it is 50F out you would divide 65F-50F =15F by the measured fuel usage (say 2 gallons) to get 8 HDD/gallon
If it is 0F out you would divide 65F-0F= 65F by the measured fuel usage (say 8 gallons) to get 8 HDD/gallon. Those numbers will be very close.
You can run the test over a period of days to get more precise figures.

LuckyGuy's avatar

I just checked the Heating Degree Day information in the newspaper this morning. On the back page of Democrat and Chronicle, D section, Page 8, there is a weather section with info for the region, national cities, and international cities.
There are subsections for temperature: high, low, record high and low, average, etc. Precipitation, wind and Heating Degree Days
It lists the Heating Degree Day information in chart form for the previous day: Monday Jan 25, 16
Monday: 33
Season to date: 2730
Normal season to date: 3456
Last season to date 3326

If you had a fuel economy figure you would know how much fuel you would likely use if you made no changes to the house. It might also convince you to buy somewhere else.
“You want to live in a place with normal winters of 6100 HDD?! Are you freaking crazy?!?!” “Ok, I’ll agree, but the house must be efficient.”

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