What I'm Seeing Now


Is Your Builder An Energy Smart Builder? This One Is...

One of the things that attracted this couple to this builder in this neighborhood and buying this style home was that this builder participates in "green" construction techniques and this couple would be helping this planet.

Well, is your builder an Energy Smart Builder This one is...

Click the link to see if your builder is Energy Smart!

And, if the builder is Energy Smart, what are the benefits?  Click here to check your state!

Now hold on.  Personally I am a cynical soul and don't believe everything I hear.  It pays to check things out.  It especially pays to check on what people and/or organizations claim to be doing (in return for benefits, you know...) to meet this or that criteria.

There were many things in this new home that were, shall we say, questionable as regards energy savings.  Here is one.

This builder touts that they install a minimum of R-38 insulation in the attic space.

That's a good amount of insulation!

The criteria of the agency that rated AND PASSED this new home considers insulation to be "green" when its R-value is between 38 and 60.  Fine.

For puffy, blown-in fiberglass insulation R-38 would be about 17".

This is a large house.  There are three distinct attic spaces.  ALL THREE of them had erratically-placed, not level and uniform, hills and valleys insulation ranging from 10" to what you see in this photo.

Can't see it?

Let's zoom in.

Obviously when I say ALL THREE, that means that I went into ALL THREE attic spaces.  And I measured the insulation in ALL THREE attic spaces.  And I got the same result in ALL THREE attic spaces.

What's that link up there pronounce?  Oh yes, that "stringent standards" are met by their "committed partners" in "green" construction that benefits "the environment, the local economy and our national security."

Well, thank goodness.  We are all saved.

Gee, I'm wondering if the Energy Guy actually went up into any of the attic spaces. 

On this same house I noticed during the pre-drywall inspection that all of the Energy Guide stickers had been removed from the appliances.  That's a no no.  It even says ON THE STICKER that it should not be removed, except by the consumer.  But this house passed the "criteria inspection."  Mercy me, the stickers weren't there during this inspection either.

Well, thank goodness.  We are all saved.

My recommendation:  when claims are made by someone providing a good or service, check it out!  I don't know about you, but I'm a little tired of having "shovel-ready" information poured down my throat and told that if I don't swallow it I'm a bad person.  I AM A HOME INSPECTOR.  The SAME information would have been reported on THIS house no matter the energy criteria it was supposed to meet, minimum or otherwise.  But please, stop feeding me the bull.




Jay Markanich Real Estate Inspections, LLC  

Based in Bristow, serving all of Northern Virginia.

Office (703) 330-6388   Cell (703) 585-7560


Comment balloon 25 commentsJay Markanich • October 24 2012 02:00AM


Well I'm glad that this couple had you to look out for them.  Sad on the insulation.  At least they were consistent, though.

Posted by Debbie Gartner, The Flooring Girl & Blog Stylist -Dynamo Marketers (The Flooring Girl) about 8 years ago

They were consistent in many regards Debbie.  There's so much pap flying around, it bugs me!

Posted by Jay Markanich, Home Inspector - servicing all Northern Virginia (Jay Markanich Real Estate Inspections, LLC) about 8 years ago

Seems to me that the builders who are touting "Energy Star" should be disclosing what year?????  It changes every 3 years.

HA!  Just wait until the nest round of standards are released.  Energy Star may be a thing of the past.

Posted by Lenn Harley, Real Estate Broker - Virginia & Maryland (Lenn Harley, Homefinders.com, MD & VA Homes and Real Estate) about 8 years ago

Great post, Jay.  I'm in the process of researching exactly how the energy code is supposed to be interpreted in Minnesota, because I find the same issues in new construction Minnesota homes all the time.    This is one of those things that really disgusts me.

Btw, I've started bringing a yardstick in to the attic with me.  Here in MN, the insulation installer is required to leave a placard at the attic scuttle hole stating the minimum insulation depth.  I take a piece of orange tape, mark that depth on my yardstick, then take a bunch of photos showing what was installed, clearing illustrating where the depth fell short.

Insufficient Insulation

Posted by Reuben Saltzman, Delivering the Unbiased Truth. (Structure Tech Home Inspections) about 8 years ago

If they are paying extra for it and the builder is claiming it, then they should deliver it.  Like you always say, your job is just to observe and report.  If the builder does not like that, too bad!

Posted by Kathryn Maguire, Serving Chesapeake, Norfolk, VA Beach (GreatNorfolkHomes.com (757) 560-0881) about 8 years ago

Morning Jay congrats on the feature I did not notice but like Kathryn are they paying more for this home?  If so I wonder will your inspection cause them to negotiate the price? 

Posted by James Dray, Exceptional Agents, Outstanding Results (Fathom Realty) about 8 years ago

Gee Jay, those builders are still stretching the truth...and they didn't think you would come alond with your holmes hat on...good for you for putting this out there & reminding all 'just not to believe' everything told to them!

Posted by Ginny Gorman, Homes for Sale in Southern RI and beyond (RI Real Estate Services ~ 401-529-7849~ RI Waterfront Real Estate) about 8 years ago

It's a shame that any one can claim to uphold these standards and clearly not be in compliance.

Posted by Gabe Sanders, Stuart Florida Real Estate (Real Estate of Florida specializing in Martin County Residential Homes, Condos and Land Sales) about 8 years ago

A lot of them staple those cardboard rulers to the trusses to help them with the installation I guess. Problem with that is they stack it up where the rulers are...lol, and it does settle in time. Rarely see one that is as advertised.

Posted by Fred Hernden, CMI, Albuquerque area Master Inspector (Superior Home Inspections - Greater Albuquerque Area) about 8 years ago

Jay is "Green" just a buzz word? I'd like to know how green construction benefits our national security.

Posted by Michael Setunsky, Your Commercial Real Estate Link to Northern VA about 8 years ago

Cheating on insulation depth seems to be universally common. As for the certified builder, I liken this to so many other professions where an individual or company is certified. Our own industry is rife with these "qualifications". Does every home inspector measure up? 

Posted by James Quarello, Connecticut Home Inspector (JRV Home Inspection Services, LLC) about 8 years ago

You mean energy stickers aren't like the ones on pillows, etc. that can't be removed or the energy/pillow police prosecute ?:)  Comsumer beware...or wary.

Posted by Sally K. & David L. Hanson, WI Real Estate Agents - Luxury - Divorce (EXP Realty 414-525-0563) about 8 years ago


I've wondered about the "Green" thing before. I recently searched our MLS for Green homes in my service area (searching for any home with one of a dozen or more "green catagories" available for search). Out of 1800+ active listings, only one(1) claimed to have any greening about it.

Maybe it's better actually being eco-friendly and not advertising it than to advertise being green and not stacking up to muster. I hear "It's not easy being green".

Posted by Brad Rachielles, REALTOR, CDPE, Upland, CA (CENTURY 21 Peak, Ca BRE# 01489453) about 8 years ago

Personally I am tired of the word "Green".  Unless you are talking about cash!


You are absolutely correct about the insulation though.  I often find the sticker at the attic access that states that they insulated to R-30 but I can see the tops of the 2 X 4 trusses.  R-30?  I don't think so.

Posted by Robert Sole (REM Inspections LLC) about 8 years ago

Lenn - these guys touted R-38 minimum in their literature.  Not so.  There were many other things.  You know who they are - off Evergreen and Black Branch.

Reubs - RESNET says anything between 38 and 60 is acceptable.  But when they say R-38, it oughta be!  Love the ruler!  Smack some knuckles with it!

Kathryn - with all the energy stuff I identified, I assure you - they not like that.

James - everyone who buys "green" pays extra.  Green means mo' money.  I am sure there will be no price renegotiation.

Posted by Jay Markanich, Home Inspector - servicing all Northern Virginia (Jay Markanich Real Estate Inspections, LLC) about 8 years ago

Ginny - people accept anything!  Remember my blog - Caveat Omnia?  That means Beware of Everything!

Gabe - it is ashame and they will be held to it now!

Fred - I see the rulers everywhere.  Well, not in this house.  Someone "forgot..."

Not sure about the national defense claim Mike and yes, big buzz word.  It is so watered down it is undefinable at this point.

Posted by Jay Markanich, Home Inspector - servicing all Northern Virginia (Jay Markanich Real Estate Inspections, LLC) about 8 years ago

It is something they all fool with Jim.  As to certs, you and I don't get paid tax dollars for our certification claims!

S&D - the stickers are supposed to prove that you get what you paid for.  On mattresses and pillows they are supposed to mean it's new stuff, and not re-wrapped old junk full of dust mites!

I heard that too Kermit, I mean Brad.

Robert - I used to do energy inspections as a part of my home inspection service.  Now people pay me for the same thing!  That's GREEN!  I don't like those stickers.  They claim such and such a square footage and then so many bags, all of which adds to a certain R-value?  Too much slip between cup and lip there!

Posted by Jay Markanich, Home Inspector - servicing all Northern Virginia (Jay Markanich Real Estate Inspections, LLC) about 8 years ago

Jay, Here is suppose to be R-49. A local home inspector buddy of mine took a picture of his measurement, The went to the insulation marker and found they had cut off the bottom of it. Nice. The only green is in is their pocket full of greed.

This is a common practice everywhere unfortunately. On new home they are required to put up markers through out and an insulation card stating what the used and the fill depth and # of bags. 

Posted by Donald Hester, NCW Home Inspections, LLC (NCW Home Inspections, LLC) about 8 years ago

That there is the real definition of GREEN, Don!  I don't like those charts with the area and number of bags.  Too much lieing is going on there.  Just measure the depth!

Posted by Jay Markanich, Home Inspector - servicing all Northern Virginia (Jay Markanich Real Estate Inspections, LLC) about 8 years ago

I'm going to suspect two things here. One the Rater is taking the documentation from the insulation company and not checking. The Resnet standards require the Rater to take a measurement in at least 4 places. 

The Energy Star Certification in voluntary and at the moment this home would not pass. There is no trade offs. Hope the wall insulation was better than the attic. The attic can be fixed but not the walls.  Not the 2009 IECC might be mandatory in your area and insulation is part of the code requirement. But there is some allowance for a reduction to R-30. For example if the house is built with heel trusses and the insulation is full thickness over the exterior top plate.

Posted by Rob Ernst, Reno, NV-775-410-4286 Inspector & Energy Auditor (Certified Structure Inspector) about 8 years ago

I think a lot is going on here Rob!  And nobody is doing their job.  My big beef isn't with the R-value here or there.  My big beef is that this builder advertises that all their houses come with a "minimum" of R-38 and they meet these various "green" standards.  These folks are supposed to get a cert stating that their new house is helping to save the planet and the builder gets its bennies for being so good to the planet.

That's my beef.  Too much shovel-ready crap.

Posted by Jay Markanich, Home Inspector - servicing all Northern Virginia (Jay Markanich Real Estate Inspections, LLC) about 8 years ago

Jay, Energy raters do not get paid tax dollars. The builder pays the rater. I know, it's a field I have explored. In fact I heard recently blower door testing will become mandatory on new homes. Looks like being a rater is going to get more lucrative.

Posted by James Quarello, Connecticut Home Inspector (JRV Home Inspection Services, LLC) about 8 years ago

I know that Jim.  Raters are employees.  The breaks come from the state and localities to the builders.  Tax breaks are made up by tax payers.  What else would be their incentives for participation, saving the planet?

Posted by Jay Markanich, Home Inspector - servicing all Northern Virginia (Jay Markanich Real Estate Inspections, LLC) about 8 years ago

I have not heard of any breaks be given here in CT. There are, were, tax incentives for purchasing higher efficiency equipment and insulation for homeowners. I got a small tax credit for my new boiler. My state does provide huge subsidies for solar panels. A waste of money in my eyes. That money could be better spent on things that save real money and energy like insulation.

As for your question, I can only speak for myself, my incentive is several. One is why contribute to a problem(s). Also I'm not averse to saving money. It seems to me people get caught up in ideologies and become blind to the issues. Embracing better, more efficient technologies, using less or non toxic substances is good for the human race. Those that complain often seem have a separate agenda. 

Posted by James Quarello, Connecticut Home Inspector (JRV Home Inspection Services, LLC) about 8 years ago

There's a link in the post to check the states Jim.  I did not read it but here is CT:


I would think that solar at your latitude doesn't give many minutes per day of really good rays.  But I don't know.  I have heard that the worst city in the country for solar is Bellingham WA, which I have teased Steve Smith about!

It's funny you should say that about insulation.  When people call me to ask if this or that energy thing would be good for their home, I answer by saying that probably the most energy-effective and cost-effective thing they could do is insulate more and caulk gaps!

My question regarded the builders' incentives.  I know yours and mine - we want to do good jobs and have people come to us and call us back.  And what causes that incentive was answered by Adam Smith, as quoted in my last free enterprise quote.  Self interest.

And I am in total agreement with your last paragraph.

Posted by Jay Markanich, Home Inspector - servicing all Northern Virginia (Jay Markanich Real Estate Inspections, LLC) about 8 years ago

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