There is a huge misconception builders have on what it takes to be an Energy Star Builder.
There is a great deal of confusing information about what it means to be an Energy Star Builder. Using Energy Star appliances doesn’t make a builder an Energy Star builder. Using full foam insulation and expensive heating and air equipment doesn’t make an home an Energy Star Home.
Energy Star is a government-sponsored (Environmental Protection Agency) program created to incentivize and educate the public, manufacturers and builders about the benefits and importance of energy conservation. There are programs for a number of industries. Appliance manufacturers can be part of the Energy Star program and build and test the appliances they manufacture to meet or exceed certain baseline standards set by Energy Star. This is why you see the Energy Star logo on appliances at your local home store. Those appliances bearing this logo exceed this baseline and a manufacturer’s participation helps to differentiate their appliances as more efficient.
Like appliance manufacturers there is a program for site built homebuilders. There are a number of requirements to meet the standards, but in general to earn an Energy Star rating, a home must meet strict guidelines for energy efficiency set by the EPA and be verified by a qualified Energy Star Professional. These homes are at least 15% more energy efficient than homes built to the 2004 International Residential Code (IRC), and many include additional energy-saving features that typically make them 20–50% more efficient than standard homes (ref www.energystar.gov). If you’re spending an average of $300 per month now on energy for your residence and it is not an Energy Star home, then a comparable Energy Star home would likely save you over $1000 per year!
This is real money not just some ploy to save on carbon emissions. It does that as well, but the bottom line is that energy conservation saves you money. At today’s low interest rates the extra dollars saved allow for more house. An extra $100 per month buys about $15000 more home in total dollars. As a home grows in size, so does it energy use and the impact that Energy Star can have on your home purchasing power.
The sad thing is that to get these savings doesn’t cost $50,000. Often times 20% efficiency can be gained with the same products already being used. By adding an Energy Star design and inspection consultant to the building team, the builder and homebuyer get a number of benefits. The most important of these benefits is the knowledge these experts bring regarding design of the insulation process and their inspections to ensure the installation is proper and complete. Since many homes (especially those with two stories) have the insulation improperly installed, this inspection process can identify major areas of concern and get them rectified before the sheetrock hides the issues. It’s just good to have another set of eyes to review the work, especially a set of expert eyes, as even the best builders can’t catch everything.
By adding better insulation, more efficient lighting, better attic ventilation techniques and equipment, and using more efficient air conditioning equipment, the gains can be much greater than 20% and still be far less in net ownership costs to the buyer. In the end Energy Star just makes sense. If you are considering building or buying a new home and the home is not going to be built to these standards then you will pay for it with real money in the long run and you will lose all the other benefits that come with a better constructed home.