Houston tops in energy efficient homes… at least by one measure

big_house We like ’em big in Houston.

When most people think of Houston homes the term “energy efficient” doesn’t usually come to mind. Gabled ceilings, oversized A/C units and big back yards seem to fit the image a bit better.
Maybe it’s time to think again. The Federal government’s Energy Star program has rated Houston as the market with the most Energy Star-qualified homes — 144,000 homes.
There’s an Energy Star rating for just about everything these days, from appliances to windows. The Energy Star rating on homes requires extra steps to conserve energy by using sufficient insulation, a tight building envelop, high-rated windows and efficient heating and cooling systems, but essentially they need to be at least 15 percent more efficient than homes built to the 2004 International Residential Code (IRC).
That’s probably a far cry from the energy profiles of some homes and buildings like the one’s we mentioned here. But the EPA estimates Energy Star homes will save their owners an average of $200 to $400 each on utility bills, or $270 million nationwide.
The U.S. hit the 1 million Energy Star home mark this year. Nearly 17 percent of all single-family homes built in 2008 qualified for Energy Star, compared with 12 percent the year before.
Do you live in an Energy Star home? Do you notice any difference compared to your old home? I suspect it’s not that difficult or more costly to build a home with that rating, but I feel like I’ve seen the label slapped on new home ads a lot lately.
The cities with the most Energy Star-qualified homes:

• Houston, TX (144,000)

• Dallas-Fort Worth, TX (103,000)

• Las Vegas, NV (80,000)

• Phoenix, AZ (73,000)

• Greater Los Angeles, CA (57,000)

• Greater New York, NY (25,000)

• Tucson, AZ (19,000)

• San Antonio, TX (19,000)

• Sacramento, CA (18,000)

• San Diego, CA (18,000)

• Columbus, OH (17,000)

• Des Moines, IA (16,000)

• Indianapolis, IN (14,000)

• Austin, TX (13,000)

• Greater Philadelphia, PA/Wilmington, DE (12,000)

• San Francisco-Oakland, CA (11,000)

• Boston, MA (10,000)

• Denver, CO (7,800)

• Orlando, FL (7,600)

• Oklahoma City, OK (7,500)