Next Monday, Hovnanian Enterprises will update the website that promotes its high-performance homes to include community-by-community estimated annual savings from energy-efficient features built into those homes. The Red Bank, N.J.–based builder, with 201 communities in 18 states, claims to be the first national builder willing to go out on a limb and publicize what it thinks its houses can save buyers, based on an energy modeling process through which it has submitted a house in each of its neighborhoods. Hovnanian used the Residential Energy Service Network’s Home Energy Rating (HERS) index as its scoring system, says Laura Van Velthoven, the builder’s corporate vice president of sales and marketing.
Hovnanian launched the website NateKHOV.com on January 7. The site’s primary thrust is encouraging potential home buyers to compare the builder’s new homes with less-efficient houses built 10 or 20 years ago. “We’ve found that this is our main competition right now,” says Van Velthoven. The builder has also weighed its new homes against those built to energy standards set by California’s Title 24. While annual savings will vary by house and market, she projects that buyers of new Hovnanian homes can expect to pocket between $1,000 and $1,500 per year.
By providing specific dollar savings, Hovnanian is also attempting to separate itself from builders that promote their homes’ energy efficiency using different comparisons, which Van Velthoven contends are less precise and don’t give home buyers much to work with. She points specifically to KB Home, which has created an “Energy Performance Guide” that rates the energy consumption of its houses, on a scale of 1 to 100, compared to other new and existing homes to determine how much lower, on a percentage basis, a KB Home owner’s monthly utility bill would be. Meritage Homes is another builder that claims its newer communities will lower owners’ utility expenses by as much as 67%. “Compared to what?” asks Van Velthoven.
However, the publicity that other production builders have been generating for their respective energy-efficient homes appears to have spurred Hovnanian to kick its own promotional efforts into a higher gear.
On its High Performance Home website, Hovnanian is featuring “Nate” (an acronym for “Nature Technology Efficiency”), its spokesperson for all things energy efficient. Beyond the usual explanations about how low-E windows and tighter construction reduce energy consumption, the site offers information about low-flow faucets, compact fluorescent light bulbs, and recycling. “A lot of this energy efficient stuff, likes HERS ratings, can get pretty technical, so we’re trying to educate people without confusing them,” says Tom Nelson, president of NDG Communications, which is handling media for Hovnanian’s campaign that includes YouTube videos, Facebook, and Twitter.
Nelson notes that consumer research indicates that, in some buyers’ minds, the purchase of an efficient home still means giving up certain things, like a house’s location or a floor plan they favor. So Hovnanian’s site emphasizes that buyers can have an energy efficient home “without sacrificing their comfort and principles.”
While Hovnanian is satisfied with the marketing of its high-performance homes so far, Van Velthoven says the company still thinks buyer awareness could be higher. That awareness could get a boost soon, as Hovnanian is about to open for sale a new 30-home phase at its Four Seasons at Metedeconk Lakes active adult community in New Jersey. That phase will be the builder’s first to offer solar panels as a standard feature. “We’re testing this to see what the buyer response will be,” says Van Velthoven.
John Caulfield is senior editor for Builder magazine.