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Energy Star Homes
The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, through its Energy Star program, enables consumers to easily identify homes that meet strict energy-efficiency guidelines.
- Photo: cwlp.com
The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, through its Energy Star program, enables consumers to easily identify homes that meet strict energy-efficiency guidelines. In addition, the agency offers a program to assist consumers in identifying energy-efficient house plans.
Energy Star Labels
More people are getting familiar with the Energy Star label as they look for ways to save money. Those buying or building a new home especially should learn about the blue label and its uses. The Energy Star-qualified home sticker or certificate, for example, means a house has been independently verified to meet the EPA’s strict guidelines for energy efficiency.
When builders use the Energy Star Partner logo or are listed on the Energy Star website, it means that they have signed partnership agreements with the EPA that govern the proper use of the Energy Star name and logo. “EPA does not ‘certify’ builders and a consumer should not assume that all homes that the builder constructs are Energy Star,” says Enesta Jones, EPA spokesperson.
However, some builder partners have made the additional commitment to build 100 percent Energy Star qualified homes. Consumers can identify these builders by looking for a special “100 percent” Energy Star partner icon.
Some homes may include Energy Star qualified products that feature the blue logo. However, says Jones, just because a home includes qualified products, does not mean that the home itself is qualified. The house has to have a separate Energy Star qualified home sticker or certificate for that designation.
Strict Efficiency Standards
To earn Energy Star designation, a home must meet guidelines established to make it at least 15 percent more energy efficient than homes built to the 2004 International Residential Code (IRC). The IRC is a comprehensive, stand-alone residential code that creates minimum regulations for one- and two-family dwellings of three stories or less. It provides a set of measures and a performance approach to determine compliance.
A qualifying home should also include features that typically make it 20 to 30 percent more efficient than standard homes. The Energy Star designation follows six guidelines. They are:
- Effective insulation systems. Properly installed, climate-appropriate insulation in floors, walls and attics ensures even temperatures throughout the house, less energy consumption and increased comfort.
- High-performance windows. Energy-efficient windows employ advanced technologies such as protective coatings and improved frames to help keep heat in during winter and out during summer. These windows also block damaging ultraviolet sunlight that can discolor carpets and furnishings.
- Tight construction and ducts. Sealing holes and cracks in the home's “envelope” and in duct systems helps reduce drafts, moisture, dust, pollen and noise. A tightly sealed home improves comfort and indoor air quality while reducing utility bills.
This feature is an important one and often a sticking point, according to Michael L. Berry, an associate of ICF International of Fairfax, VA, who facilitates the Massachusetts New Homes with Energy Star program.
“The number-one way a home fails Energy Star is in duct leakage,” he says. “Proper duct sealing and educating HVAC contractors to perform proper duct sealing continue to be a challenge.”
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