How big a role can building codes play in reducing energy waste?

That is the question economists at the University of Oregon and Yale University sought to answer by comparing monthly utility bills of 2,200 Gainesville, FL, homes built three years before and three years after Florida strengthened it building code in 2002.

According to the study, homes built after the change consumed, on average, 4 percent less electricity and 6 percent less natural gas—savings that homeowners achieved in a variety of ways, including using less-leaky air ducts, more-heat-resistant windows, better insulated attics and certain white roofing products.

The report estimated that the cost of compliance with the new code was less than $1,000 per house, with an average recoupment time for home owners of about 7 years.

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