Group testing home energy measurement method

CNJ staff photo: Tony Bullocks Dalinda Bangert of EcoTerra Enterprises in Santa Fe seals an air duct Tuesday prior to a leak test at a home being built in Clovis.

By Eric Butler: Freedom New Mexico

Current and past officials of the New Mexico Home Builders Association are pretty sure standards for energy efficiency will soon be in place for new homes.

On Tuesday in Clovis, organization members believed they took a collective step toward having at least a say-so in the process of making the standards.

A house on Tiffany Cove in Clovis, in between visits from house-seekers, was the first in which the group sought a test using the HERS method of measuring energy and to what degree energy might be escaping the structure through leaks.

“What we’re going to end up with at the end of this whole process is a HERS Index, which stands for Home Energy Rating System,” said Dalinda Bangert, who performed the test. “(A rating of) 100 is basically built to the current energy codes. The lower you go the better, though.”

“We’re doing this statewide and this was the first one. We’re also doing them in Alamogordo, Las Cruces, Roswell, Silver City, Santa Fe and Farmington,” said Clovis developer Randall Crowder, who was last year’s president of the NMHBA. “The goal is to make housing more energy efficient throughout the state. Our goal at the New Mexico Home Builders is to understand what is the baseline, where are we starting from? How efficient is the stock were building now under the 2006 building code.”

Bangert, from EcoTerra Enterprises in Santa Fe, used two tests to measure energy efficiency in the 1740-square foot Clovis house, which was built earlier this year.

One test was for the vents and ducts leading to the attic space. The other was to measure leaks in outer shell of the home — including doors, windows and wall insulation.

She said she didn’t expect any final results until the end of the week.

Crowder and Scott Bealhen, current president of the group and also at the house during the testing, both expressed certainty the state will eventually implement standards for energy efficiency home builders will have to meet.

Both, however, also thought old homes, not newly-built ones, were the biggest culprits for energy loss in the state.

“Let’s say we have to go to talk to the state legislature about housing and they tell us we need to be more efficient. We can say, ‘Wait a minute, we have a baseline to work from,’” Bealhen said. “These houses aren’t performing that bad as it is. If you’re trying to achieve a HERS rating of 63 and these houses already are (at that level). Therefore, does it have to be mandated and do these things that aren’t necessary?”

“This will be a tool in educating and helping them (state authorities) to understand the efficiency of new homes,” Crowder said. “Our association firmly believes that the energy problem is in the older homes. The laws are more and more stringent on the new homes and that’s not where the problem is.”