About the Austin ECAD Ordinance

The City of Austin passed an ordinance effective January 1, 2009, that requires all homes sold within Austin must have an energy audit performed and the information disclosed to the seller.  Schedule Your ECAD Audit Now This Energy Conservation and Disclosure (ECAD) Ordinance (Ordinance No. 20091106-47) fits into larger goals Austin has to be more energy efficient and generate more energy from renewable resources.  Some of those goals include:
  • Achieve 700 Megawatts of generated electricity savings by 2020, which is equivalent to one coal fired power plant.  This hunt for “negawatts” is accomplished in part by making our buildings more energy efficient, hence the ECAD ordinance.
  • All city operations to be carbon neutral by 2020.
  • Meet 30% of the city’s energy needs by renewable energy resources by 2020 (including 100 megawatts of solar power).
(See Austin’s Climate Protection Program for further information.) In a larger context, buildings use 40% of all energy consumed in the United States, according to the DOE.  Transportation uses “only” 28% of all energy in the US.  Therefore, we need to improve the energy efficiency of both cars and buildings if we are going to solve our energy issues.

Who Needs an Austin Residential ECAD Audit?

Austin ECAD ordinance map coverage. Austin Energy Service Area.In a nutshell, if you vote in elections and get your electricity from Austin Energy, you need to an ECAD audit when you sell your home. A zip code level map of Austin Energy’s service area shows that there are places within Austin that don’t receive electricity from Austin Energy and are therefore exempt.  For example, parts of 78726, 78717, 78750, 78653, 78617, 78748, and 78739. Likewise, there are areas within the Austin Energy service area that are not part of the City of Austin and therefore don’t need an ECAD audit at the time of sale.  For example, parts of 78746, 78735, 78733, 78732, 78734, 78738, 78729, 78728, 78660, 78653, 78725, 78617, 78747, etc.
Do You Need an ECAD Audit?
If you’re an Austin Energy customer and you vote in City of Austin Elections, you need an ECAD audit when you sell your house …
There are other exemptions.  You don’t need an ECAD audit at the time of sale if:

ECAD vs. Comprehensive Energy Audit

Schedule Your ECAD Audit Now The ECAD audit is a subset of a more comprehensive energy audit.  The ordinance is a compromise between the desire to mine the negawatts in inefficient buildings and the desire of the real estate industry not to make it harder to buy and sell a house.  The original intent of the ordinance was to require the energy efficiency upgrades to be made prior to sale, but that was negotiated out of the final ordinance. Aside from a visual inspection, the only element that is tested in an ECAD are the A/C ducts, which are tested for leakage using a calibrated fan called a Duct Blaster. A comprehensive energy audit will also measure the total “building envelope” leakage using another type of calibrated fan called a Blower Door.  A blower door test not only quantifies the amount of air leakage in the home, in the hands of a seasoned professional, a Blower Door test can pinpoint where those leaks are occurring so that they can be fixed. A comprehensive energy audit will also analyze energy bills.  Doing so not only helps quantify what’s being used, when, it also acts as a baseline to measure the effectiveness of energy efficiency upgrades.  This bill analysis is not required of an ECAD audit because Austin Energy already knows what you use and when.  In this aspect, the ECAD audit benefits the City and Austin Energy, but not the new home owner. Also, an ECAD audit’s results are filled out using the official ECAD audit form, which the City itself admits is “…technical and difficult to interpret.” (See Austin Energy’s ECAD First Year Status Report, pg. 15.”)  A comprehensive energy audit will provide a narrative report which outlines your options, organized by ROI.  It not only contains information you can understand and take action upon, it provides information for any contractors that perform the actual work.  In other words, the Comprehensive Energy Audit is for you, the homeowner, so that you can take positive action.  The ECAD audit is both for you, but also for the City..and the City takes precedence.

Austin ECAD First Year Report

The ECAD First Year Status Report has some interesting numbers.  As of July 2010:
  • 9,549:  Austin home sales.
  • 3,999:  Number of ECAD Exemptions.
  • 4,862:  Number of ECAD Audits received.
This means 42% of all homes sold in Austin were exempt for one reason or another and 7% of the homes that should have turned in an ECAD audit did not. What the program managers found by looking at the ECAD data was that:
  • A/C ducts leak at rate just under 20%; that’s almost twice the code requirement of 10% duct leakage.
  • Older homes need 10 inches of insulation.  That’s equivalent to adding an additional 4 1/2 R-Value to the attic.  Austin Energy requires an R-Value of 38, meaning, older homes tend start with an R-Value of 33 1/2, according to the data.
  • City Council wanted 25% of all ECAD audited houses to actually perform the energy efficiency upgrades. Only 10% seem to have done so.
The above numbers would lead to an interesting fact: most sales were likely of homes built within the past 10 years, given the number of exemptions and given the little R-Value needed to bring the attic insulation up to R38.