Green Industry Articles

ENERGY STAR® 101: The Basics of Residential Programs

You likely associate ENERGY STAR® with appliances, but the program entails far more than energy labels on dishwashers, DVD players and lighting.

In fact, you can put ENERGY STAR® to work for you to sell homes. That’s according to Jonathan Passe, communications coordinator of ENERGY STAR® Residential Programs, U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. Passe conducted November’s GRC Webinar in which he provided an overview of the ENERGY STAR® program.

It’s the EPA’s voluntary partnership program with businesses in various market sectors and it aims to help consumer save energy and money, and to help protect the environment through energy-efficient homes, products, and practices.

Passe acknowledges that the ENERGY STAR® name recognition is high among consumers, though lesser known is the fact that people can get an entire house that carries the ENERGY STAR® label. In fact, more than one million such homes have been built around the country since 1995.

The process to attain a whole-house label is stringent and a property must meet an array of standards. Using the Home Energy Ratings (HERS) Index, these homes must be at least 15 percent more efficient than the 2004 International Residential Code. The homes also must incorporate additional energy-saving features that typically make them 20 to 30 percent more efficient than standard properties.

Another step is passing third-party inspection by working with raters. They help builders choose energy efficient features and evaluate the plans, as well as make recommendations for improvements. And when a house is under construction and after it is built, such raters perform a series of diagnostic tests to ensure that a home adheres to the ENERGY STAR® guidelines.

Included in the analysis are:

  • Effective insulation
  • High-performance windows
  • Tight construction and ducts
  • Efficient heating and cooling equipment
  • Lighting and appliances

Proper installation, sizing and operation of all systems for maximum efficiency and performance.

The ENERGY STAR® label, Passe points out, provides differentiation for a home that works for all segments of the housing industry. That includes property types, ranging from manufactured homes to custom homes. The program also benefits professionals, such as builders and real estate practitioners.

For instance, Passe says that the ENERGY STAR® label provides real estate practitioners something to market beyond the traditional price, location, community, and so forth. “Now you have a whole new set of benefits consumers are getting by buying an ENERGY STAR® home,” he says. He ticks off a list of the properties’ benefits. They’re quieter and more comfortable than normal houses, they require less maintenance and they're less expensive to operate.

The ENERGY STAR® site features an array of resources specifically for real estate practitioners. It includes demonstrations, marketing materials, fact sheets and ways to partner with other local professionals.

In addition, ENERGY STAR® offers educational materials to help consumers understand the value of a green building. After all, many features are hidden behind the scenes in a house. Thus, some sections of the site use videos and illustrations to make visible what’s not visible.

Given the pace of change in the building industry and new research emerging in green practices, ENERGY STAR® is updating its guidelines. “We have to raise the bar to stay relevant,” Passe comments. The next version is expected to be available in January 2011.

Passe also notes that there are green rating systems and products that are on the leading edge and says, “We’re attempting to set a balance between setting the ENERGY STAR® requirements at a level significantly more efficient than what is typically available in the marketplace, but deliver homes that are still cost-effective for builders to build and homeowners to buy. That’s the sweet
spot we’re trying to get to.”

Source: Green REsource Council Newsletter, November 2009