December 16, 2022 | Neil Kolwey
Each year, about 50,000 new homes are sold in Colorado, and more than half of these are single-family homes. Most of these new homes continue to rely on natural gas for heating, and are generally built to the minimum efficiency standards of the local building code. This status quo aspect of the new homes market only exacerbates the climate crisis.
Although a modest trend at this point, some builders and developers are building new homes that are more energy-efficient, with better indoor air quality and minimal carbon emissions, and homebuyers are very interested in these types of homes as they become available. These homes have the following features:
- They are healthy, by including electric cooking and heat recovery ventilation.
- They are efficient, featuring good air sealing, insulation, and high quality windows.
- They are electric, with efficient heat pumps for space heating and heat pump water heaters.
Many of these homes also have solar PV systems, which further reduces electricity costs and carbon emissions.
In 2019, Rainer and Karen Gerbatch bought a new, all-electric home in the Geos neighborhood in Arvada, a suburb of Denver. Their “solar cottage” is highly efficient, is heated with a small geothermal heat pump, and the solar PV system generates more electricity than the home consumes annually. The Gerbatch’s also love that the home is very quiet and comfortable, with very low energy costs. In addition, the home cost slightly less than an average home of its size in Arvada.
To promote these types of new homes, the Beneficial Electrification League of Colorado (BEL-CO) launched a New Homes section of its Love Electric website. The new portal helps educate new home buyers about the benefits of healthy, efficient, and electric new homes and provides resources including:
- Case studies of new all-electric homes in Colorado.
- Developments with these types of homes for sale.
- Lists of architects and builders who can help you build a custom all-electric new home.
A growing number of builders are building efficient, “green” new homes such as Energy Star-certified homes, but many are hesitant to go to the next level, towards all-electric (or mostly electric) new homes. To help these builders take the next step, the Love Electric New Homes section provides resources including:
- Examples of healthy, efficient, all-electric new home developments and custom homes.
- Utility, federal, and state rebates for zero-energy and all-electric new homes.
- Local building codes that encourage or require all-electric new homes.
- Lists of qualified heat pump installers.
As local building codes are updated, new homes built in Colorado will become more energy efficient. Utility rebates and state and federal tax credits will also encourage installation of more heat pumps. BEL-CO hopes to complement these positive forces and contribute to a shift in the market towards high-performance homes that will save people money on their energy bills, offer superior comfort and indoor air quality, with minimal carbon emissions.