1980s homes get new life as energy-efficient models

Usually, when people hear the term "model home," they think of brand-spanking new places.

But these two model homes are anything but new. Both in the area of Tenaya Way and Lake Mead Boulevard, one is a three-bedroom, two-bathroom home with 1,521 square feet. It was built in 1984. The other is a one-story residence with 1,131 square feet and two bedrooms and two baths. It was constructed in 1987.

Both were foreclosures and are being retrofitted to be as energy-efficient as possible. They will be used as showcases before being sold, hence the "model" home reference.

"Our goal is to drive local awareness for the value in making home performance improvements," said Annette Bubak, president and co-founder of Nevada Energy Star Partners — Green Alliance. "We’ll do this by modeling best practices, increasing home energy efficiencies and reducing energy demand and waste."

The project is an Effective Energy Remodeling — Improving America’s Housing Stock initiative, sponsored by the U.S. Department of Energy’s Building America Retrofit Alliance program.

Nevada Energy Star Partners is a diverse coalition of organizations, businesses, individuals and "green allies" united in one common goal —- to promote environmentally friendly products, practices and services.

The two homes were selected from the city of Las Vegas’ Neighborhood Stabilization Program.

Millions of homes were built over the past decades with hardly a nod toward energy efficiency. Through Nevada Energy Star Partners, both contractors and homeowners can benefit from the growing home-performance remodeling market.

The homes also are being used as teaching tools in a two-stage process. First, they’re used to teach local construction workers the nuances of installing a home with features such as air-conditioning units as energy-efficient as possible. Kelly Thomas, project manager, was at the smaller home and said his concern was with the overall energy efficiency and how well the systems functioned. He found the installation was improper "and the HVAC was way oversized … by at least a ton," he said.

The effort involved more than the HVAC —- the heating and air-conditioning unit. Inside the smaller house, all the floors were torn out, and the breakfast bar that divided the kitchen and dining room was removed. Showers were taken down to the studs.

The appliances were being replaced with Energy Star ones, and the countertops were about to be replaced. In the backyard, the water feature was being torn out.

"This is such an invasive process, we needed an empty house," said Beth Gillette, executive director of Nevada Energy Star Partners. "For the average home, we don’t need to go to this level."

While the houses are in the retrofit stage, contractors are being invited to learn about the process so they are aware of how to make a house more energy-efficient. They will get hands-on instruction on shell sealing, HVAC systems and insulation.

"If you seal (cracks) and don’t leak air out of your home, you don’t have to run the air conditioner so much," Bubak said.

In the second stage, the homes will be used as energy models to educate homeowners about economically sound measures and strategies that result in energy-efficient, healthy and comfortable homes.

Nevada Energy Star Partners plans various events and tours of the homes so residents can get a firsthand look at the retrofit process and learn about rebates, incentives and financing.

"The Building America Retrofit Alliance pilot program is our chance to show the nation that Las Vegas is the prime market for energy efficiency and retrofit upgrades," Bubak said

Making a home more energy-efficient is a relatively new concept in the real estate market. So is the methodology for determining the value of a home that is energy-efficient versus one that is not. That’s part of what the ongoing community awareness campaign will involve, making home inspectors, appraisers and Realtors aware of how much such improvements can benefit the sale price of a house on the market.

The houses will be open to the public starting in early February.

For more information, visit thinkenergystar.com.

Contact Summerlin/Summerlin South View reporter Jan Hogan at jhogan@viewnews.com or 387-2949.

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