Todd Usher
Todd Usher

What types and brands of energy-efficient appliances do you spec?
We spec energy-efficient everything—dishwashers, refrigerators, ceiling fans, bath fans, water heaters, toilets and, of course, HVAC systems. Our go-to brands for HVAC are Lennox, Trane, and Mitsubishi; for home appliances we look for Energy Star qualification rather than a specific brand. If we’re using a product that qualifies for Energy Star then we know we are in good shape. And we educate our clients to look for this as well. How do they perform?
The Energy Star appliances we use in our homes perform much better than their inefficient alternatives. An Energy Star ceiling fan, for example, can move more air; an Energy Star dishwasher uses less energy and less water but still gets the dishes clean. The extra-efficient dishwasher in my own home does a superior job of getting the dishes clean than our previous model—so I know from personal experience that these study results ring true.

When it comes to HVAC, the Energy Star models are measurably more efficient but they are also much better at humidity control—and humidity control is directly correlated to comfort. At Addison Homes, we utilize HVAC systems that qualify far beyond the minimum Energy Star qualifications because the enhanced humidity and comfort controls provide a far more comfortable indoor environment

Are they more expensive?
It depends. In most cases, if you look at true equipment cost there isn’t a huge add—maybe 10% to the price of the appliance (NOT 10% more to the overall cost of the house). Very few clients question the investment in energy-efficient appliances once they understand the benefits—lower energy costs, increased comfort, improved indoor air quality, and better results.

Do customers specifically ask for energy-efficient or Energy Star-rated appliances?
Our niche is sustainable, energy-efficient homes—we build 100% to Energy Star, EarthCraft House and/or DOE Challenge Home standards—so clients come to us seeking energy-smart solutions. We’ve found that Energy Star has strong brand awareness but consumers don’t always know all of the products this encompasses. Therefore, as part of our design process, we generate energy models that utilize the many appliance and product options available, so clients can see the energy impact of these choices.

As HVAC systems, water heaters, and building envelopes become ever more efficient, what we see while generating these energy models is that lighting and home appliances now account for 50% to 60% of a home’s total energy costs. The builder can increase a home’s efficiency up to a point—through high-performance systems and materials—but getting to that next level of efficiency depends on the clients’ use of lighting and appliances. That’s why it is so important that energy-efficient dishwashers, refrigerators, washers/dryers, light bulbs, etc. appeal to consumers.

One appliance-related challenge we’ve seen, over and again, is that people will upgrade to a new, energy-efficient refrigerator in their kitchen and then move the older model out to the garage where it continues to run inefficiently.

Have you had any issues with callbacks?

Any problems with installation?
High-efficiency HVAC systems can be more complicated to install; advanced features do require the work of skilled technicians. As far as light fixtures or drop-in appliances such as dishwashers, installing an energy-efficient product is no more difficult than installing its inefficient counterpart.

Do customers like them?
Addison Homes receives third-party customer feedback reports via GuildQuality, and that—along with referrals—indicates that our clients are indeed consistently pleased with the energy-efficient appliances in their homes.

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