Cincinnati’s Greening of the MLS: Increasing the Value of Energy Efficiency Homes

The Cincinnati Multiple Listing Service (MLS) manages housing information for real estate professionals throughout the region. When you search for houses online, all the data about the home, from lot size to number of bedrooms, is tracked by the Cincinnati MLS.

Greening the MLS

The Cincinnati MLS recently announced an important milestone in the enhancement of local green and energy related home buying tools. Homeowners and their agents are now able incorporate a number of new energy features into the MLS systems via an Energy Efficient/Green Features form.

With this form, a homeowner can identify a comprehensive set of enhancements to a home, including specific building rating information such as LEED ® and Home Energy Score ®. The form is then uploaded into the MLS system and available for prospective homebuyers to review. In addition, the presence of the form is searchable, allowing homeowners interested in energy saving homes to quickly and easily identify where those homes exist. In the years ahead, the MLS team hopes to develop further green resources to enhance the value of local real estate.

Why Add Green Features to the MLS?

Home energy costs are typically greater than the combined costs of homeowners insurance and property taxes, yet there is no easy way to report on and compare a home’s energy value. Home sellers can experience similar frustrations. Those homeowners that have made investments in home energy improvements (such as insulation/air sealing upgrades, high-efficiency heating and cooling systems, and other elements that can significantly reduce a home’s operating costs), are often unable to recoup their investments when selling due to the inability to effectively communicate these benefits. Incorporating this information into the MLS system is thus crucial in creating value.

A Need For Green

National research has identified a growing consumer interest in green [1] and energy efficient homes. Of more than 120 features rated in the National Association of Home Builders 2012 Annual Survey, energy efficiency now ranks among the top two most wanted features, favored by more than 85 percent of respondents.[2] Indeed, home energy costs can make up a sizeable portion of a homeowner’s annual home expenses. Analysis from the Energy Information Administration’s Annual Energy Outlook highlights that home energy costs are typically larger than either property taxes or homeowners insurance.[3] Yet despite the continued interest from homeowners and the significant cost considerations, there is often limited information available for a home buyer to understand a home’s energy or utility profile.

Studies conducted in markets throughout the country have shown that homes with green features have increased value, transact more quickly, and experience lower rates of foreclosure, compared to similar homes without these features. A 2012 study conducted by a pair of UCLA economists found that green labeled homes were selling for a 9% premium compared to non-labeled homes.[4] A 2013 study from the University of North Carolina Center for Community Capital and the Institute for Market Transformation found a 32% lower risk of default for energy-efficient homes.[5]

Where are Green Homes in Greater Cincinnati?

Like much of the country, the Cincinnati region has experienced a rapid growth of green rated homes in recent years, exemplified by significant transformation in the new home market. A recent Smart Market Report from McGraw Hill Construction noted that within five years, half of builders expect more than 60% of their new home projects to be green, nearly double the number of firms that are currently building green. ENERGY STAR® has more than 7,800 certified homes in the Cincinnati region, the Energy Alliance has directly supported more than 1,800 home energy upgrades in recent years, and the Home Energy Rating System (HERS) is on pace to continue to rate more than 1,000 regional homes per year. When combined with new market entrants from new home sales, the number of green homes in the regional market is expected to reach a critical mass in the years ahead. Now is a opportune time to take advantage of this growth.

How the MLS Became Green

Back in 2013, the Energy Alliance began a community dialogue about the value of energy efficient homes in the Cincinnati market. Studies from across the country had revealed that homes with energy efficiency or other green features are more valuable than there non-energy efficient counterparts. In addition to savings homeowners money, these homes have been shown to increase value by nearly 10%.

The Energy Alliance suspects that similar value exists in the local market and is committed to helping homeowners who have made these investments gain the most value for their homes. To help grow this dialogue, the Energy Alliance joined together with some of the region’s leading voices for energy efficiency, including the City of Cincinnati, Greater Cincinnati’s Green Umbrella network, the U.S. Green Building Council’s Cincinnati Chapter, and Efficiency First Cincinnati.

To test its assumptions and explore options to grow the industry, these partners convened a series of stakeholder discussions that included a diverse array of local real estate agents, appraisers, home builders, planning officials, and mortgage bankers. The purpose of this dialogue was to discuss the opportunities and challenges associated with increasing transparency of green and energy efficient homes. Out of these conversations a consensus began to emerge around the potential value of green homes and the group developed a series of recommendations to the Cincinnati MLS to help incorporate more green building information into the local MLS database.

The Energy Alliance is committed to working with the local real estate community in support of their new initiative. The implementation of green fields will require ongoing training and outreach (among agents, appraisers, homebuyers, and even mortgage bankers) to ensure proper understanding and implementation of these new tools.

What’s Next?

The Energy Alliance is committed to working with the Cincinnati MLS and other partners to broadly shre these important new resources and support homeowners seeking to gain value for their homes. The Energy Alliance is in the process of developing a series of training sessions and informational materials to share with homeowners and members of the local real estate community.



Contact Jeremy Faust at the Greater Cincinnati Energy Alliance:




[1] Green homes can include a variety of different features. Most green home certifications focus primarily on a home’s energy usage. Some also include consideration of s home’s indoor air quality, water efficiency, durability, and building materials, among other features.

[2] National Association of Home Builders Annual Survey (2012).

[3] Info provided through the Energy Information Administration’s Annual Energy Outlook (2013), the American-Community Survey (2010), and the National Association of Insurance Commissioners Annual Homeowner Insurance Report (2010).

[4] The Value of Green Labels in the California Housing Market (2012). UCLA Environmental Economics Series. Matthew Kahn and Nils Kok. The study included a hedonic pricing analysis of all single-family home sales in California between 2007 and 2012. Study focused on homes labeled with ENERGY STAR, LEED, or Greenpoint Rated, transact for a premium of nine percent relative to otherwise comparable, non-labeled homes.

[5] Home Energy Efficiency and Mortgage Risks (2013). Institute for Market Transformation and UNC Center for Community Capital.

Print Friendly
Energy Consumption: Back to the Future

How Much Energy Do We Use? Back to the Future Edition!

We’re spotlighting some energy-usage comparisons developed by the Department of Energy (DOE) in their interactive online infographic – How Much to Energy do you Use? While some people may prefer to think about energy usage in terms of cars off the road or trees planted, the DOE has a little more fun with the concept. How about time-travelling DeLoreans?

2015 marks the 30th anniversary of the movie Back to the Future. In the movie, Marty McFly needs 1.21 gigawatts of power, (approximately the power of a lightning strike), to send himself back to the future.

With that in mind, the Department of Energy infographic takes a look at how much energy we consume on an annual basis and puts it in terms of the number of trips we could make back to the future with all that energy.

Ohio, Lowest Regional Energy Usage Winner

The average Ohioan uses about 154,400,000 kBtus annually (close to the national average). This is enough energy to send Marty 30 years back to the future a total of 121 times.

Taking the idea one step further, if he used all that energy for one big trip back in time, Marty would land in 1645 BC, when pharaohs ruled Egypt .

Kentucky, In a Close Second Place

The average Kentuckian uses approximately 185,800,000 kBtus annually, which is enough energy to send Marty 30 years back through time a total of 151 times.

If he used all that energy on one trip back in time, then he would land in 2545 BC, just a few hundred years before Stonehenge was constructed.

For Comparison:

Alaskans use the most energy nationally, about 334,200,000 kBtus annually. That’s the equivalent of sending Marty through time a total of 271 times, or back to the year 6,145 BC, when wine and cheese were first made.

New Yorkers use the least energy, about 106,00,000 kBtus. That would send Marty through time a total of 86 times, or back to the year 595 BC during the Roman Empire.

What will our energy usage hold for the future?

October 21, 2015 is the official “future” date that Marty travels to in Back to the Future 2. While the 2015 depicted in the movie is very different from the 2015 of today, there have been a lot of exciting developments in the fields of energy efficiency and renewable energy that will continue to change the ways we use and make energy. Whether or not the “Mr.Fusion Home Energy Reactors” will be part of that mix or not remains to be seen, but who knows what the next 30 years will bring.


Print Friendly
Avoid Thermostat Battles!

Avoid Thermostat Battles! Set It and Forget It

Thermostats: One of the keys to a happy home

We recently came across an entertaining commercial that our friends at Michigan Saves put together that focuses on the idea of fighting for control of your thermostat.

The commercial, along with an article in the Washington Post (check out the article’s great video), got us thinking about the significant role that thermostats play in energy efficiency.

Half of Us Don’t Use our Thermostats Properly

According to the Department of Energy, home heating is the largest source of energy usage in the home while home cooling comes in third. That means taking control of those systems can lead to big savings on our energy bills. In fact, the DOE estimates that homeowners can reduce their energy usage by up to 9 percent through proper usage of programmable thermostats.

Unfortunately, only 30% of homes actually have programmable thermostats installed. Of those, a majority have not been programmed properly. You don’t have to be a mathematician to understand that such a low percentage translate into a lot of wasted energy.

Why Thermostats Aren’t Being Programmed

If programmable thermostats are so good, why aren’t more people using them? The Washington Post outlines three reasons why the vast majority of Americans have not embraced programmable or smart thermostat technology:

  1. Many older style programmable thermostats are too difficult to use so homeowners keep them in manual mode. In fact, research shows that less than half the people that own a programmable thermostat actually use it correctly.
  2. We often inherit thermostats when we move into a house, condo, or apartment. We didn’t choose the thermostat and we have no idea how to use it.
  3. A large portion of the general public has bought into the myth that setting back your thermostat at night or when they are gone requires more energy when it is time to heat or cool their home again. The DOE has conducted extensive research debunking this myth.

The Solution: Knowledge is Power. And Savings.

If you already own a programmable thermostat but aren’t sure how to use it, ENERGY STAR has some great resources:

A programmable thermostat isn’t always the right choice, especially if your system uses a heat pump, so make sure you know what technology is compatible with what you already have.

The Alternative Solution: Upgrade by Getting Smart

There are plenty of options out there for individuals who want to upgrade their existing thermostats to the latest technology. The next generation of smart thermostats like Nest, ecobee, and Lyric have easy to use interfaces and can be controlled remotely through an app on your smart phone. Smart thermostats offer a range of benefits from ensuring that your heating or cooling system ramps up in an efficient manner to knowing when you are within a certain distance of your home so it can bring it to your desired temperature. Before purchasing a smart thermostat, do your research and make sure that the one you select is compatible with your heating or cooling system.

The Result: Comfort, Savings, and Cool Heads

Whether you have an old programmable thermostat or a new smart thermostat, remember that taking the time to learn how to use it effectively can result in significant energy savings, and keep your household from thermostat battles.




Print Friendly

Solar in Cincinnati? Yes! #4

Can Greater Cincinnati support a solar industry?



These 26 organizations listed in the Solar Energy Industries Association (SEIA) database include manufacturer/suppliers (like Enerfab Inc. in Winton Place), installers (like Dovetail Solar and Wind), and other related solar services (financing, project development, consulting, and nonprofits).

See the Solar Energy Industries Association (SEIA) interactive online map for a view of Cincinnati, and the rest of Ohio’s solar industry:


Print Friendly

Dishwashers vs. Sinks!

Can you wash 8 full place settings of dishes with only 2 minutes of running water?

We were recently inspired to reconsider our dishwashing practices by an article in The Washington Post entitled, “Why you shouldn’t wash your dishes by hand”. The article challenges a common perception that hand washing saves energy and water.

Here’s the big picture:

  • modern dishwashers are optimized for efficient water and energy use
  • are able to save 230 hrs (10 days) annually that would otherwise be spent hand washing
  • are very effective at cleaning
  • are able to sanitize dishes with 140 degree water


“Scrape, Don’t Rinse”

According to the article, the most egregious water waste commonly occurs when dishes are pre-rinsed with continually running water before they go into a dishwasher. Modern dishwashers are more than capable of cleaning residue on eating-ware, so simply scraping dishes can adequately prepare them for washing.

If the article’s recommendations aren’t enough to convince you, it provides a number of other consumer and efficiency-minded organizations that have also weighed in on the scraping-versus-rinsing debate and the role of the modern efficient dishwasher:


The Clear Loser: Old Dishwashers

The Post concedes that while the most frugal and strategic of hand washers might be able to compete with modern dishwashers, older models finish last place concerning energy and water efficiency. Combine an inefficient dishwashing machine with in-sink pre-rinsing, and the problem is compounded.

The Natural Resources Defense Council reports that a dishwasher from 1991 uses up to 3-5 times more water and 1-2 times more energy than modern efficient models. Paired with an estimated 20 gallons of water wasted annually from pre-rinsing, an appliance update starts looking worthwhile.

Update and Save Energy, Water, Effort, and Money

Even if you don’t agree that it’s better to use a modern dishwasher than to hand wash, the main takeaway should be that an old dishwasher is costly. Like most energy efficiency measures, an investment in an ENERGY STAR certified machine pays back through energy, water, and time savings.

ENERGY STAR has an array of resources on its website that provide a potential buyer with everything they need to make a wise purchase:

As always, if you have any questions, feel free to contact us either online, or by phone (513-621-4232), and we will be happy to talk with you.

Print Friendly

Solar Thermal: Home Water Heating and Portable Stoves

Solar Panels are just one of the ways that solar energy can be utilized. Lately, our Building Analyst, Dane Ervick, has been learning about solar thermal technology.

Solar Thermal Water Heating in a Nearly 200 year-old Home

The latest phase of the large scale energy efficiency improvement of the 1821 Daniel Beard Home in Covington, KY involved the installation of a solar thermal water heating system. Dane was on the roof overseeing Intercept Restoration’s installation as part of our Contracting Service.


Solar thermal relies on a system of tubes to capture solar energy. A solar thermal tube consists of an inner glass tube coated in a reflective material which is enclosed in a transparent glass outer tube. A vacuum is created between the tubes which reduces heat loss and increases efficiency. The tubes are installed on the roof and filled with a water/coolant mixture.




The sun heats the mixture in the tubes (#1 on the above illustration) which is then transferred via a solar powered electric pump (#2) to a water storage tank (#3 ,which looks like a typical water heater) located in the basement. In the storage tank, heat is transferred to potable water through a heat exchanger, which renders the potable water hot and ready for use (#4). The cooled water/coolant mixture is then cycled back to the rooftop tube installation to start the process over (#5).

In the Daniel Beard home, the homeowner designed the solar water heating system to pre-heat water that can then be fed into a natural gas heated instantaneous water heater. This design allows the gas water heater to bring the preheated water up to the desired temperature at night or on cloudy days while ensuring that the majority of the heat will be supplied by a free and renewable resource.


With the sun heating the water and providing the power for the water pump, energy costs for heating water will be almost completely eliminated. After installation, water heating bills can drop 50-80%.

Solar Stoves: Portable Renewable Energy

Solar thermal technology came up again while Dane was speaking about energy efficiency for the 8th Annual Winter Permaculture Design Certification class provided by On this particular day, the class was being held in the home of a past client of the Energy Alliance’s Contracting Service program.


Before his presentation, Dane heard a presentation from GoSun, about their portable oven which uses solar energy to cook. After getting a closer look, Dane realized that the portable oven was essentially an empty version of the solar thermal water heater tube he had just seen on top of the Daniel Beard house.

Instead of heating a water/coolant mixture, the sun heats your food!



“Seeing the many creative ways that we can harness the power of a resource that is so ubiquitous makes me very excited to see what the future holds for this technology.”

Dane Ervick, Energy Alliance Senior Operations Associate and Building Analyst


Print Friendly

OKI Interactive Solar Map

Is Your Home Suited for Solar?

The OKI Regional Council of Governments has launched an online interactive Solar Map to help homeowners determine if their home is a good fit for solar. Funded by a grant from the U.S. Department of Energy’s SunShot Initiative, the Solar Map provides information about the solar potential of buildings in the Greater Cincinnati region.

After searching a specific address, the map can tell you:

  • if a roof is “good for solar” or “too shaded for solar”
  • the percentage of usable roof area
  • the size of the potential system
  • the potential number of kW per year that the system would produce
  • an annual utility savings estimate
  • the optimal areas of the roof for the panels

OKI would like you to keep in mind that this isn’t a perfect resource. The information produced by the tool is based on survey data and can’t substitute for a professional evaluation, but it is a great place to start.

Using the Map

1. Type the address of the building in question in the search bar in the upper right of the browser window:


2. Click on the building in the map:



3. See your solar potential from the results that appear on the left pane of the browser window:




About OKI: The Ohio-Kentucky-Indiana Regional Council of Governments (OKI) is a council of local governments, business organizations, and community groups committed to developing collaborative strategies to improve the quality of life and the economic vitality of the region.


Print Friendly

Is our region Solar ready? Should we be?

Guest writer Travis Miller is the Regional Planning Manager at the OKI Regional Council of Governments, an organization which we partner with frequently. OKI recently developed an interactive online Solar Ready map for people to get an initial idea of a building’s solar potential. Here’s a great post by Travis advocating solar in the OKI region:

Is our region solar ready?

Should we be? I love the sun! To me, there’s nothing much better than spending time outside on a sunny day – just soaking it in. Regardless of the season, sunny days just seem to be better days. I’d never really thought about the direct benefits of the sun or given much consideration to solar as an energy source… certainly not here in the Midwest. Today, I am going to share with you some pretty interesting findings I have come across regarding solar power. First, power from solar energy is something only viable in the far south or southwestern regions, right? Not true.

Where in the world is Solar Suitable?

Consider this – Germany is the global leader in installed solar capacity, yet, when you measure the level of solar energy hitting the earth’s surface on an annual basis, Germany has a very similar solar resource to that of Alaska. The bottom line is that solar works in every state, regardless of temperature.




Okay, so we have a fair amount of solar energy landing in our region, but it’s expensive to install solar panels is what I have heard.

Maybe it used to be expensive, but today solar power is becoming significantly cheaper. The cost of solar panels has dropped 99% since the 1970s. The total installed costs for solar PV at the residential level has followed and prices fell by over 50% between 2009 and 2014 alone. Declining prices has resulted in impressive growth rates. According to the Solar Energy Industries Association (SEIA) Solar Market Insight Report 2014 Q4:

  • Installations of solar PV in the US were the highest ever in 2014 – up 30 percent over 2013.
  • 12 times as much solar was installed in 2013 as in 2009.
  • More than one-third of all cumulative operating PV capacity in the US came on-line in 2014.
  • The most rapid growth segment forecasted in 2015 is in the residential market.

The chart below shows the amount of solar PV installed each year in the US – as you can see, it’s been exponential.  To put this in perspective, 12,000 Mega Watts installed in 2013 is enough to power about 2 million homes.



Solar is the fastest growing energy generation technology in the U.S., growing even faster than wind power or natural gas. Nationally, rooftop solar PV (photovoltaic) systems are becoming more mainstream and, based on the amount of investments being made by homeowners, businesses and even utility companies, solar is more than a short-term trend.

With the recent advent of home batteries able to store power generated from rooftop solar panels and operate household appliances, the future potential of solar is even more interesting.

Solar In Our Region

Here in the Tri-State, installations are also expected to continue to increase in the foreseeable future. Here at OKI we’ve been monitoring national trends in solar development since 2012 and have worked with local and national partners to develop tools for our local communities use to better manage the expected increase in installations. OKI’s primary interest in solar is to ensure that communities in the region are armed with the best information and best tools available as they and their residents consider solar.

If you think you may be interested in making a solar investment on your home, be sure to visit the Greater Cincinnati Energy Alliance’s website. GCEA is one of OKI’s Solar Ready partners and has recently launched the Solarize Cincinnati program. Their program provides a free home solar assessment and opportunities for reduced installation costs for participants – visit for more information.

Solar In Action

Here are some pretty cool, local solar projects.

The Cincinnati Zoo & Botanical Garden’s parking lot canopy is the largest publicly accessible solar system in the WORLD!

The IKEA store in West Chester Township has the largest rooftop system in the region.


Many of the Walgreens stores in the region have solar arrays on their roofs. This Walgreens is located in Deer Park on E. Galbraith Rd.



For more information on solar in our region, including an estimate of the solar potential of your home or business in the OKI region, visit and find your rooftop on our interactive map.

OKI staff is currently available to provide technical assist to any community in the region interested in applying any of the best practices found at

Feel free to contact me with any questions or to inquire about how your community can get assistance at

Hope you enjoy a sunny day soon!



Print Friendly