What Makes Your New Home Truly Energy Efficient?

What Makes Your New Home Truly Energy Efficient?

Because many municipalities’ building codes require energy-efficiency features in new homes, buyers assume that the newer a home, the more energy efficient it is. Two certifications that actually certify the energy efficiency of homes are Energy Star and LEED for homes.

Energy Star

Energy Star is very familiar to American consumers as a mark of energy-efficient home appliances. It is also awarded to homes constructed by Energy Star certified builders, referred to as Partners. Since its inception in 1995, the Energy Star Homes program has achieved a market share of more than 20 percent in over 15 states. As of 2013, there are approximately 1.46 million Energy Star homes. About 100,000 new certified homes are constructed every year.

An Energy Star home must meet guidelines for energy efficiency set by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. These homes are at least 15 percent more energy efficient than homes built to the 2009 International Energy Conservation Code (IECC) and include additional energy-saving features that typically make them 20–30 percent more efficient than standard homes.

Energy Star Partner builders commit to working with credentialed contractors, such as for HVAC, and raters to meet EPA standards, which are adjusted for regions and climate conditions. Builders who use a collection of standard building plans may submit plans for review and approval by the EPA. “Approved plans are recognized nationally and include the necessary notes, details, specifications, and checklists that are required for acquiring the Energy Star certification. To achieve the Energy Star certification, homes must be built to comply with Energy Star requirements and involve a minimum of two HERS inspections; one during construction and one at the completion of construction.”

When a home has been certified, an Energy Star label is affixed to the circuit breaker box of the home and a certificate is provided for the homeowner.

LEED for Homes

The U.S. Green Building Council (USGBC) awards the Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) certification to homes that meet rigorous standards for energy efficiency. “Given the time, expense, and team commitment involved in achieving a LEED certification, even the first award level—Certified—is a major accomplishment. Qualifying for LEED certification is a time-intensive and complex process requiring detailed documentation and independent verification by a LEED Accredited Professional (AP). A property owner who wishes to achieve LEED status should consider hiring a consultant who specializes in LEED certification.”

LEED Certification for Homes, which was launched in 2007, is awarded at four levels: Certified, Silver, Gold, and Platinum. According to the USGBC, as of 2012 there are about 23,000 LEED certified homes in the United States and about 1,000 new single-family homes are certified each year.

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