Insurance companies know something you may not: the next home you buy could bankrupt you, or even worse, become your tomb. There’s a reason those companies are fleeing homes in places like Florida.

It’s called climate change, it’s real, and it’s scary. Over the last decade the number of heat-related deaths each year in Maricopa County, Arizona has increased over 1000%. The number and costs of billion-dollar disasters in this country have more than tripled. Too many households and businesses already struggle to keep the lights and air conditioning on, and climate change will make that worse. Unfortunately, due to opposition from homebuilders and some politicians, our homes aren’t being built to reduce or withstand those risks. And you’re going to pay more for housing – in unaffordable energy bills, insurance costs, repairs and rebuilding, taxes, or even your life – unless the federal government acts to make sure we start building better homes.

Federal agencies and government-sponsored enterprises collectively back around three-quarters of the mortgages in the United States, which means even if you don’t own a home or pay property insurance yourself, as a taxpayer you’re still on the hook when the climate change rent comes due. The 2007 Energy Independence and Security Act gave those federal agencies a tool to do something about the problem and lower your housing costs: requiring homes to meet modern building energy codes.

Up-to-date building energy codes are a marvelous thing: they help ensure you don’t get a lemon of a new home. Installing adequate insulation and air sealing means the air inside stays colder during the summer and warmer during the winter. That lowers your energy bills and helps you stay comfortable. It means your pipes aren’t as likely to burst when it’s freezing outside. It could literally keep you alive when the temperature reaches extremes and causes the power to go out.

Turns out it is also a heck of a lot cheaper to put insulation and electrical wiring into the walls and attic when you’re building the house in the first place, rather than after the drywall is up. Analysis for the U.S. Departments of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) and Agriculture (USDA) showed that the typical low-income homebuyer would save more money on their energy bills by the second year of living in the house than they spent upfront in the down payment for those energy-efficient measures. And we tend to live in houses a lot longer than just one year.

So why isn’t every new home built to those standards already? Because the typical home builder doesn’t have to care about what it costs to live in the home. And chances are when you’re buying a home, you’re not thinking about how much insulation is inside the walls or whether the electrical panel and wiring will be what you need in the future. But it matters – a lot.

There are even billions of dollars in funding and tax credits available thanks to the Inflation Reduction Act to make meeting and exceeding those standards even easier. That’s why the largest producer of manufactured housing in the country – which is even more vulnerable to extreme temperatures and high energy costs – is switching all of its factories to only produce “Zero Energy Ready Homes.”

That’s also why HUD, USDA, other federal agencies, and government-sponsored enterprises like Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac should ensure minimum efficiency levels. Building better homes will save you money and lower housing costs. It will reduce the pollution that’s causing climate change. It might even save your life.

By Mark Kresowik, senior policy director, American Council for an Energy-Efficient Economy (ACEEE)