Savenia Finds Increased Home Value in Solar Leases

Screen Shot 2014-05-21 at 3.01.33 PMRecently an increasing number of articles published in national outlets like the Washington Post, Los Angeles Times, NPR and others are warning consumers about the difficulties in selling a home with a leased solar system.

These articles often present an unbalanced view by focusing on rare horror stories, an approach that could easily lead to fewer homeowners choosing to go solar and to the creation of problems in the re-sale market.

As an independent 3rd party with direct experience evaluating solar systems for home sellers in many states, Savenia believes solar leasing can be a valuable option, and calls for a more balanced discussion on the merits of each purchasing method and the implications for home buyers.

Solar leases are a key driver behind US solar growth, and thousands of homes with leased systems have already been sold. Large studies show that homes with owned solar systems sell for a price premium, and our ratings have shown additional value for buyers of solar homes with pre-paid leases or contracts that lock in low energy prices relative to the market, in addition to the environmental benefits.

Solar home sellers need to explain the benefits of their systems to prospective buyers, and firms like ours now provide marketing services to make this process easier.

There are many variations of solar financial contract arrangements in the market and a changing regulatory environment, underscoring the need for scrutiny by both sellers and buyers prior to sale.

Savenia helps homeowners, Realtors, builders and renovators unlock the value of home efficiency upgrades. Solar, High Efficiency Appliances, HVAC, Lighting, Water Heating and more.

Savenia provides home sellers with customized Home Rating Labels, marketing materials and online marketing to differentiate, sell faster, and capture the full value of homes for sale. www.saveniahome.com

Electricity Prices Up Again in 2012

Residential Energy Costs 2013 with Savenia Logo

According to the EIA, residential electricity prices rose again across the US.  Residents of 75% of states (including DC) saw price increases in 2012, with Utah increasing the fastest at 11% vs. 2011. Other big increases in the 7-8% range were WY, ID, NE, HI, SD, MI and VT.

The most expensive electricity in the US was in Hawaii, where residents paid 37 cents per kilowatt hour, over 3x more than the national average of 12 cents. Next was Alaska and NY who paid 18 cents, followed by the North Eastern states of CT, VT, NH, NJ and CA who all paid 16-17 cents, some 50% more than the national average.

The cheapest electricity rates were found in Louisiana, Idaho and Washington state where residents paid between 8-9 cents.

Electricity makes up a large chunk of household budgets and as most consumers absorb these increases, it’s good to know you can take action to lower your bills by looking at Savenia Labs ratings for energy efficient appliances, light bulbs and other electrical items.  And since electricity to power these products creates air pollution, saving energy is both good for your wallet and good for the environment.

Savenia Labs Energy Ratings use ZIP code based regional energy prices and carbon footprint data to give shoppers the most relevant information to aid their buying decisions.  A coffeemaker that costs $200 to run over 5 years in Maryland will cost over $600 to run in Hawaii, and our ratings and labels reflect this reality for local buyers.

Go in to a participating retailer and take action to reduce your electricity bill on your next purchase.

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What We’re Reading: “Firms with Benefits”

This week the Economist writes about a business trend that is gathering speed across the country- Firms with Benefits. Savenia Labs, as you may know, is a Certified Benefit Corporation – which means we have taken on the responsibility to provide a measurable and meaningful public benefit through our work.  This commitment includes taking into consideration our stakeholders and also the environment alongside profit in our legal documents. We have made it our mission to educate people about the energy efficiency of the products they use every day, helping them save money and energy while reducing pollution.  Savenia Labs was the first Certified Benefit Corporation in Bethesda, MD and was also the first testing last lab to be certified in the United States.  We are proud to be part of a movement that uses the power of the markets to make the world a better place.

This year, California became the sixth state in the US to create a legal classification for companies – Benefit Corporations.  By registering as a Benefit Corporation, a company takes on a legally binding responsibility towards these commitments.  The Economist reports that Patagonia – the popular apparel company – was the first company in California to take advantage of the new law and register as a Benefit Corporation.  Yvon Chouinard, Patagonia’s president, wanted to solidify the company’s efforts to the community and the environment – and claims that his employees are happier and more productive because Patagonia works towards the greater good.

B Lab, the nonprofit driving the spread of Benefit Corporation laws across the country has now audited over 500 companies that account for almost $3 billion in revenue.  By changing corporate culture, this movement can have a huge impact on the way business works in the United States.  Patagonia’s involvement in this movement should only help accelerate this shift.  You can read the Economist article here.

You can read more about the Savenia Labs mission and independent audit results on our website at http://www.savenialabs.com/savenia-labs-mission

What We’re Reading: “If Only We Spent More Energy on Conservation”

What motivates someone to conserve energy? Certainly necessity can – if you don’t have enough money to pay your electricity bills, you’ll be highly motivated to reduce the electricity you use. According to Michelle Singletary writing in the Washington Post last Sunday, that’s exactly what got her grandmother, “Big Mama,” to become the energy efficiency maven she was. Ms. Singletary grew up without a clothes dryer, turning off all the lights, and unplugging her appliances. She makes a convincing argument that times have changed.

How many people unplug their appliances? Go without a dryer? A dishwasher? Multiple television sets? In this day and age, despite tightening household budgets due to the recession, it seems like the answer is: not many. Are people getting lazier or is wealth making the energy bill less important? Ms. Singletary argues that we need to change the way we talk about saving energy – create a Groupon-type craze about saving money to make sure you get the cheapest energy bill on the block.

Here at Savenia Labs, we think one of the largest impediments keeping people from saving money on energy is the fact that nobody knows how much they’re spending to power the appliances and electronics in their houses in the first place. How can you buy an energy efficient appliance if there is no information available as to that product’s energy efficiency? Now, that’s changed. At least in Montgomery County, Maryland where consumers can buy energy efficient appliances with the help of Savenia Labs Energy Ratings labels at Strosniders True Value Hardware Stores. Here we’ve noticed that when people know how much energy their appliances will use and how much that costs, they buy more energy efficient appliances. And this results in a win-win-win. People save money, innovative manufacturers are incentivized to come out with better energy saving products, and all of this translates into less air pollution so a win for the environment.

So what motivates you to save energy?

Electricity Prices and Carbon Emissions Up in 2010

Data from EIA. 2011 figure annualized based on increase from first five months.

US carbon emissions rose for the first time in 3 years, according to a Reuters report.  And electricity prices have continued their annual increases to record highs.  Since 2002, electricity prices have only gone in one direction – up – by over 38% during this period.  According to the EIA, carbon emissions were up almost 4% in 2010, the largest annual increase since 1988.  As the economy recovered from the global recession, manufacturing and consumption picked up – increasing emissions of carbon dioxide, the most prevalent greenhouse gas in the atmosphere.  Economic recovery is good – but we think energy efficiency measures can play a larger role in both reducing monthly energy bills and greenhouse gas emissions to support cleaner growth strategies.

As we calculated a few weeks ago, if Americans switched to more energy efficient microwaves, they could cut carbon emissions by 2.5 million metric tons per year and reduce the need for a new power plant somewhere across the US.  At the average price Americans pay for electricity, that would save over $322 million on electric bills, and that’s just for microwaves – already considered an efficient appliance.  Across all kitchen appliances, the total impact could be huge – all while saving consumers money on their electricity bills.  Many of the most talked about solutions to reducing electricity use and greenhouse gas emissions (carbon capture and sequestration, solar power, reforestation) cost money to implement.  Energy efficiency has among the fastest payback periods of any of these investments.  While nobody can predict future energy prices, one thing people can do is shield themselves against future rises by buying energy efficient appliances.  Savenia Labs can help.  Keep an eye out for our revolutionary appliance energy ratings this Fall.

What We’re Reading: The Problem with Green Ratings

Fortune magazine published an intriguing article on the trouble with green ratings for products.  You know – those things that indicate a product is “ecofriendly”, “sustainably harvested”, “free range”, “cage free”, or any number of labels you see on products these days.  The holy grail of labels would be an overall picture of a product’s sustainability – something Walmart set out to create in 2009.  Other efforts by Patagonia and apparel manufacturers are also well underway.  So what’s the problem?

Creating a green rating requires extensive knowledge of a product’s inputs, sources, manufacturing processes, and end of life disposal.  That’s information many manufacturers may not know or won’t share.  Thus – many ratings exclude important factors in a product’s footprint in favor of rating what they do know.  Others try to compile all the information companies and other entities release into a single rating.  While that solves the problem of making data easily understandable, it relies on manufacturer released data that can’t easily be verified or company level data that is difficult to apply at the individual product level.

Savenia Labs’ approach is different.  We only use primary data from our world class independent testing labs and then report out exactly what we found.  And we’ve found some amazing things…to be released this fall.  By providing data ‘straight from the lab’, we can help individuals and businesses make more informed decisions  about the products they buy.