Sunday, February 14, 2010

Austin Board of REALTORS "urged" Task Force for audit

The more I learn about the Energy Conservation Audit and Disclosure, the less I like it.

On page 8 of the Energy Efficiency Upgrades Task Force delivered to the Austin Mayor and Council on September 17th, 2008 it reads:

"The Task Force had initially considered and approved a prescriptive checklist of required efficiency upgrades in lieu of an audit. The advantage seen by the Task Force of such a list was that an individual homeowner could self assess and avoid the cost of an audit. However, the Austin Board of Realtors made a proposal to the Task Force urging that an audit be required before a property is sold with full disclosure to the Purchaser. That presentation is attached as Exhibit 2. On the basis of that proposal, the Task Force decided to adopt the recommendation of the Austin Board of Realtors and recommend that a third party audit be performed before a home is sold and the results of the audit disclosed to the purchaser."

I've contacted the Austin Board of REALTORS (ABOR) and asked two of their members why their representatives on the Energy Efficiency Upgrades Task Force "urged" homeowners who were selling their home to get an "energy" audit. I add quotes around the word energy because the audit never informs the homeseller or buyer how much energy the home should be using based on a national, regional or comparable home-size standard or average.

The audit will tell you if the attic needs more insulation, if the home is "leaking air" and if the HVAC ducts are leaking. The audit tells you if the windows have solar screens and how much shade covers the home. I don't know about you, but when the sun hits my Austin home on a cold February morning, I don't mind if the sun warms my windows too.

I was pretty gung-ho on the ABOR until I found out they were "urging" the audits to begin with.

I think I'll formally ask the Austin Board of REALTORS for $300. That should cover my home energy audit. Which is mandatory. And enforced by a Class C misdemeanor for non-compliance and a fine of up to $2000.

I can't wait to see what sort of stupidity Austin City Council has in store for Austin.

And by the way, do you think a homebuyer is going to base their home purchasing decision based on the current R-value of installed insulation in an attic?


  1. Thank you for diving into the specifications of Austin's ECAD ordinance. In 2008, the City of Austin was positioned to require energy inspections & upgrades on all homes older than 10 years old. Such a requirement would have placed economic hardship on homeowners -- potentially costing each homeowner thousands of dollars. ABoR launched an extensive campaign to educate homeowners about that City initiative and recommended that upgrades be performed on a voluntary basis, promoted with incentives. While ABoR proposed an audit, the proposal was made as an alternative to costly mandates. Audits can equip homeowners with the tools needed to make more informed decisions. The City adopted the audit on a trial basis for two years, meaning that the City of Austin is expected to revisit the goals for overall energy consumption to determine if and what additional steps are necessary.

  2. Thank you for responding to my concerns, -it's more than I can say for any member of the Austin City Council. As I understand the events of 2008, the City of Austin leadership wanted to mandate energy inspections of 10-year old single-family homes for sellers and the mandatory retrofits of "deficiencies" would have been borne by the buyers. Home energy audits and retrofits should be voluntary and driven by the free market. When my wife and I bought our 1500 square foot home in Austin, Texas, the depth of fiberglass insulation in the home's attic was not a consideration in our purchase.

    Energy consumption is a business transaction between the buyer and the utility monopoly, -in this case Austin Energy. For example, what good does it do to have a high efficiency, low energy consuming home, if the homeowner has two 50-inch plasma televisions, three desktops and other appliances that consume large amounts of electricity?

    I find Austin Energy's claims of reduced energy consumption dubious. The City of Austin prematurely closed the Holly Street power plant and are now scrambling to find ways to not meet Austin's energy demand. In January 2007, Austin Energy purchased 664.8 million kilowatts of electricity on the open market through World Energy. However, Austin Energy's expensive Greenchoice Power goes unsold and "green" Austinites hypocritically consume electricity that was produced at power plants beyond Austin.

    The criminalization of the Energy Conservation Audit and Disclosure championed by the City Council's lead statist, Mike Martinez, was the final insult. Austin Energy is a "city-owned" monopoly and I can't purchase electricity from any other provider as a resident of Austin Texas.

    Since the Austin Board of REALTORS lobbied to make these inspections mandatory, I'd be much obliged if your organization would send me a check for $300.

    That would cover the cost of my energy audit.

    Thank you,

    John Barksdale
    4014 JAFFNA Cv
    Austin, TX 78748