Insight Homes staff constantly work to lower its homes’ HERS scores, which are 55 or better.
New home sales continue to rise, and one homebuilder says it’s because buyers are realizing that they have more clout for the cash than houses five years and older.
The United States Department of Commerce says that sales of new homes reached 504,000 in August, which is 18 percent increase over July’s sales of 427,000. Year over year, sales increased 33 percent. This is the biggest jump since 1992 and the highest level in sales since May 2008. As a result, the NAHB/Wells Fargo Housing Market Index puts home builder optimism at level 54, which means they see the market as favorable.
This increase is no surprise to Rob Elliot, vice president of Insight Homes out of Delaware. The company has had a significant influx of new home buyers and believe that more people are looking for modern designs, higher quality construction and something that’s going to last.
“It’s quite clear that houses in general are starting really to be built to a much higher standard than previous homes,” says Rob Elliot, senior vice president of Insight Homes. He added that there is a huge gap between a home resale and new homes as the older ones don’t have to meet the same codes as those of today. They use cheaper products. He says that buyers are seeing the lifestyle advantages of going new.
Rob Lisle, the founder of Insight Homes, began his business after going through the new home buying himself. He wanted the latest and greatest building materials, but was disappointed with the performance of the house’s energy, air quality and other factors. From there he created 36 Builders and began with three homes at a time, perfecting each one to the best of his ability. Then he built three more. Then three more. He did this until the 20th home, when he achieved the goal of maximum comfort, diminished energy bills, perfected air quality and satisfyingly low home energy rating system (HERS) score of 55 or better.
HERS scores range from 0 to 100. Much like golf scores, the lower the score, the better.
“I think that new home buyers expect a lot more but don’t want to pay extra for it,” Lisle says. “That’s why we include so many premium features that other homebuilders charge extra for.”
Now named Insight Homes, the company has a building scientist on staff every day, constantly trying to improve the HERS score. Many Insight Homes are now receiving HERS scores in the 40s. To achieve this, Insight Homes are suited up with Energy Star rated GE appliances. Many of these appliances also meet the EPA's criteria for WaterSense. Insight’s is working toward a 100 percent built in the United States goal, including appliances.
“The truth of the matter is, the appliances and electricity we use is becoming a bigger and bigger issue,” Elliot says.
The average Insight Home electric bill is $122.47. Insight Homes is able to break down the energy bill to determine what eats up the lion’s share. According to Elliot, it isn’t the HVAC system—it is the computers and televisions that are the culprits.
The company philosophy is that each home is more than the sum of its parts. The builder examinesevery aspect closely to determine what improvements can be made, from the crawl space to the roof.
“We are looking at the house as a complete, 100 percent total system,” Elliot says. “It’s a holistic approach of a better house.”
As aforementioned, air quality is one of the most important aspects of each Insight home. The builder uses NuTone central vacuum systems because standard vacuums dump dirt and dust back into the home.
“The indoor air quality can be five to 10 times worse than the outdoors in a home with a traditional vacuum,” Elliot says.
He also says that Insights is the only builder that uses “top of the line” York Affinity systems as standard, such as an 18 SEER air conditioner and 98 percent high efficiency modulating gas heat system. The Affinity Series of packaged heating and cooling units are Energy Star certified, and use at least 15 to 25 percent less energy than standard models. A programmable thermostat interfaces with the unit. With the Intellicomfort app for iPhone, iPad and Android, users can change schedule and programs to reduce energy use while away. Zoning capabilities help homeowners reach the comfort levels they desire in each area of the home.
Rinnai tankless water heaters are incorporated to cut down water waste. Owners who turn on the water and wait for it to heat up can waste about 20 percent of a home’s energy cost. Tankless water heaters can save up to 34 percent of those costs, as they heat up the water inside the pipes on demand.
Insight Homes use direct all home-run plumbing and manabloc water systems so it doesn’t take as long to get hot water. These systems don’t have to employ lines. The hot water is almost instant. Graywater recycling is planned for a year or two from now.
High efficiency compact fluorescent light bulbs are used throughout each home, but LEDs are not installed at this time.
“We are trying to make them work in a scenario for 2015,” Elliot says.
Solar is offered as an option, but is rarely implemented.
“We believe that before we use more energy, it’s better to retain the energy we already have,” Elliot says. “The more efficient a home is, the less solar needed.”