Energy Efficiency March 25, 2022

Energy Efficiency and Your Boulder Area Home


More and more people are keeping energy efficiency in mind when it comes to their homes in the Boulder area. The goal of an energy-efficient home is to reduce and conserve energy use. While some people consider this option because they are concerned for the environment, it’s also a cost-efficiency and health benefit. As sustainability becomes a normal part of the building and home renovation process, it’s helpful to know what’s available. Here’s everything you may need to know about energy efficiency and your Boulder area home.


City of Boulder Energy Conservation Code


The City of Boulder adopted an Energy Conservation Code years ago and updates it every three years. The current code was adopted in March of 2020 and became effective July 1, 2020. The goal for this energy code is to help Boulder become more high-performance and build Net-Zero Energy residential and commercial buildings. They aim to achieve this by putting in place several rules regarding new builds, as well as alterations, additions, or repairs done to existing buildings. There are rules regarding the Energy Rating Index (ERI) requirements for example which detail what ERI score you must have based on the square footage of your home. Additionally, there are rules regarding the energy efficiency of windows, doors, roofs, and even lighting equipment. Whether you are building, renovating or simply repairing your home – having an experienced and knowledgeable contractor is essential. You want someone you can trust to follow all the rules and make sure your home is up to code.



Boulder County has a program called EnergySmart that helps homes become more comfortable and energy-efficient. You can sign up with them and then an expert Energy Advisor can answer your questions and help you assess what energy efficiency projects you should take on first. They have an extensive rebate and financing program to help make these changes and installations affordable. The City of Boulder, Lafayette, and Longmont has also partnered with Boulder County to add their own rebates that you can use in addition to the normal ones as well. Part of the EnergySmart program is Comfort365. This service provides a cleaner, more efficient option for heating and cooling your home. If you’re more interested in producing your own energy then they can help you get set up with solar panels as well. They can even help with incentives regarding electric vehicles.


Boulder County BuildSmart


If you are building a new home in the unincorporated areas of Boulder County or making additions to an existing home, you need to know about the county’s residential green building code. It’s called Boulder County BuildSmart and the regulations encourage high-performing and sustainable residential construction in the unincorporated areas of Boulder County. For homes over 5,000 square feet, they also require Zero Net Energy, meaning the building produces as much energy as it consumes. You might want to check to see what the rules are if your home was destroyed by the Marshall Fire, as some changes have been made for those owners.


Zero Net Energy (ZNE) Homes


Zero Net Energy homes are becoming increasingly popular, and with good reason. In the City of Boulder, all homes over 3,000 square feet are actually required to be ZNE. It not only moves Boulder county towards a sustainable future by protecting the health and economic prosperity of the community, but it’s good for you as an individual too. The total costs for Zero Net Energy Homes are generally lower and there are financial incentives in place for building energy-efficient homes. These homes are also cheaper to operate because there are little to no utility costs. There are incentive programs that could provide a loan benefit to buyers based on the energy efficiency rates of the homes. Zero Net Energy homes are sturdier construction and thereby more resilient, more disaster-resident and last longer than conventional homes. They also aren’t as dependent on the grid system for energy as they generate their own power. This is very convenient for unanticipated events like power outages or severe cold spells.


Ways to Make Your Home ZNE or Energy Efficient


There are many ways to make your home more energy-efficient or even Zero Net Energy. A helpful first step is to estimate your home’s energy use and then work backward from there. If you are building the home, then you can work this into your designs and make sure you achieve ZNE while keeping costs down. This is also useful when renovating or making changes to your home as you will know what projects to tackle first. Remember that you will have to follow the code if you are building or making any changes to your home in the City of Boulder. Overall, any energy-efficient changes or additions to a home rely on smart design. Talking to a designer, architect, and builder who has experience with energy-efficient or ZNE homes is essential. They can guide you on what the best steps may be and work with your budget. They’ll also be the most familiar with the code and rules in place for the specific city you are building or buying in. Here are a few of the most common features that people include when making their home Zero Net Energy or simply more energy efficient.



Solar Power


One of the popular ways to make your home more energy-efficient or ZNE is by adding solar panels. These are sometimes also called photovoltaic (PV) panels and they’re a great form of renewable energy. Usually, they are tied to the grid, meaning that you can pull energy from the grid on very cloudy days when you’re producing much. This also means that you put energy back into the grid if you’re overproducing; you then get paid for the energy your solar panels have generated. These solar panels can power your whole home including lights, heating and cooling system, heating water and powering appliances. PV panels do tend to be quite expensive so you will need to consider your budget. The good news is that the solar investment tax credit (ITC) will stay at 26% until 2022 and different kinds of rebates may be available to you as a way to keep costs down.


Insulation & Sealing Building Envelope


These things are easier to add in new construction than an existing home, but it’s not impossible. Sealing the building envelope involves air sealing the home. This is a cost-effective way to reduce space heating and cooling use and increase indoor air quality. It can be difficult however and requires a decent amount of work. You’ll always want to make sure your home is well insulated. This helps maintain the temperature of your home so that your heating and cooling systems don’t have to work too hard. If you’re buying an existing home you can ask the home inspector to take a look and assess the insulation.


Windows & Doors


You want windows and doors to also be well sealed and insulated. It’s often easy to lose heat or coolness through these means. When building a home make sure to choose appropriate window and door products. You can also choose where to put windows for optimal solar tempering. If you have south-facing windows you can use the sun to heat your home in the winter months. You’ll want to design this carefully however so that you don’t just add additional heat in the summer. Replacing all the windows and doors can be a costly process when buying an existing home, but it will save you money in the long run as you lower your utility bill. You can also maximize the amount of natural light you get through your windows as a way to reduce the use of lights throughout your home.


Using Efficient Appliances and Systems


When choosing or upgrading appliances, heating and cooling systems, or even lights, keep their efficiency in mind. Do some research and see if appliances are Energy Star certified to get a better idea of how efficient they are. Switching out your normal light bulbs for LEDs is another great way to reduce the amount of energy you need to use. Finding energy-efficient HVAC and water heating equipment is also essential. If you have solar panels, you could use this to heat your water and increase efficiency. An air-source ductless heat pump, also known as a mini-split heat pump, is a good choice for a high-energy efficient heating and cooling system.


How Can I Help?


I hope you found this information on energy efficiency and your Boulder home helpful. If you want to buy or build a home and want an experienced real estate agent to guide you through the process, don’t hesitate to contact me.


Elisabeth Nelson
Luxury Home Specialist & New Home Specialist
Coldwell Banker Realty
(303) 916 5859