New homes more likely than their predecessors to boast energy-efficient traits

The market for builders is highly competitive, with new home constructions rates languishing near record lows. The most recent estimates from the National Association of Realtors (NAR) found that while the costs of new homes has fallen somewhat, they are still vastly more expensive than existing homes, by a $225,000 to $175,000 margin. Those figures are current as of September 2011.

As a result, builders have had to find creative ways to gain a competitive advantage in the eyes of consumers. The rise of green energy initiatives over the last few years has caused many consumers to realize the long-term benefits of such improvements. While the current share of new green homes is about 17 percent of the market, that figure could rise to more than 30 percent by 2016, according to

Some of the most common energy upgrades include additions of energy-efficient heating and insulation, primarily because of the high cost of keeping homes at the correct temperature over an extended period of time. In some parts of the country – particularly in regions with the lowest temperatures – heating costs can surge to nearly 30 percent of total home energy costs.

"In the current residential market, there is an enormous need to differentiate your homes for consumers," Harvey Bernstein of McGraw-Hill Construction said in a press release. "When builders are able to offer homes that not only are green, but also offer the combination of higher quality and better value, they have a major competitive edge over those building traditional homes."

If consumers cannot afford to a build a new home, they instead may integrate energy-efficient upgrades into their current properties at a more affordable cost. By working with a Washington, D.C. home inspector, a homeowner can have an energy audit completed on their home, which should set them on a path toward slashing their utility bills.