Energy Star is a program with 60 product categories from home electronics, heating and cooling, lighting, office equipment, for commercial use and homes. Energy Star quality homes was started in 1996. 940,000 homes have been built; 6,000 builders in partnership with EPA uses the blue logo as part of the requirement.
With the housing market on the low, production was down in 2008 to 100,000 from 120,000 homes. However, market penetration increases from 12.5% to 17.5%, which is an interesting trend.
States that have big market concentration are South Central Texas, he says "Name a big city there! Austin, Dallas, Houston, San Antonio.." Then Arizona in Phoenix area, Las Vegas, California, the Northwestern part of the country Seattle, Oregon, Midwestern state like Iowa. You'll be surprised to hear that there's a big Energy Star homes community in Columbus, Ohio. That's because there is a big builder M/I Homes that built these homes in Ohio. Wisconsin, New England states like Vermont, Massachusetts, Rhode Island, New York. New York market, is interesting, he says, "..Long Island requires townships to mandate Energy Star as Code for every new home." In Mid-Atlantic, the number of Energy Star communities in North Carolina is better than of DC region. (Here's my post for the only community in N. Va.)
When asked why is DC region has low penetration than other markets in the country. He smiled. He said,"the concept here is builders build it and they (buyers) will come. There's no pressure, no utility companies take charge, no leading builder, no state energy program requirements. State energy program kicks in with HERS. Raters decision are influential. None of these things is here." However, interest for the program picks up in Virginia. Back then when market was hot, people would buy anything. (It's so true!) Now, we have NVBIA partnered with EPA and some key builders also joined the program, i.e. Camberley Homes, NV Homes (recently joined the program), Miller and Smith and military housing (i.e. Ft. Belvoir). (Somehow Energy Star banner on Camberley's Stockwell Manor is no longer on display - change of heart?)
I asked him what are the differences between LEED, Earth Craft and all the other green homes certifications (about 80 of them) with Energy Star Homes. The big ones he said, one, there is an obsession to provide market with clean energy, definitive attribute of what energy efficiency is that leads to labeling and absolute clear definition of energy efficiency. No home comes can come without our label. In contrast, green program, one label is not- Energy Star. You want definition people care a lot: good school, neighborhood, lot, etc. Then you have label gold, silver, bronze, all tiers. At the end of the day, to choose a new home, it's easy to use the blue logo (Energy Star), we give them resources guidelines and third-party certification (via HERS/ RESNET).
The other green certifications more or less are based on points. There are mandatory requirements within a single program to get the points, so what is the definition of "Green?" You could have 100 or more different variations of 'green' based on points.
Two, Energy Star homes ensure that house is build with the system, it matches the equipment with the home. So consumers know that the label means efficiency. It builds home using whole home approach, a holistic approach.
Unlike other programs, builders are free to join. It doesn't cost anything. If after joining the program, they stay inactive for 12 months, program terminates. The same thing if they don't follow the brand's guidelines. Third-party verification through HERS/ RESNET is required.
Okay so far we talked about the new homes, because that's what Energy Star homes program is about.
On the resale market, or existing home, they do have what they called "Home Performance for Energy Star," a program that has been around for 8 years. The reason that this program is not as popular as the new homes is, I think is because it uses a different approach: it needs a utility company to sponsor it. Energy audit is conducted by participating contractors who then evaluate your home using state-of-the-art equipment and recommend comprehensive improvements that will yield the best results.
In our region, EPA started talking with Baltimore Gas and Electric (BGE). No response yet from Virginia's Dominion Power (read: don't expect them to do encourage users to do anything energy efficiency related anytime soon).
Before leaving I asked him what one can do in this economy to improve home performance and reduce its utility bills. Sam suggested using some of the tools you can find on their website to start with. For example, Home Yardstick tool - it shows you your home energy use in comparison to others around the country - and then get recommendation for energy improvements. To get started you need to have your 12-mos bills, know energy sources for your home (electric, gas, etc.), and the square footage of your home.
There's also Home Advisor tool that can help you get recommendation for efficiency improvements as well. Using the tools and getting the recommendations it's like DIY energy audit without the 'auditor.'
If you're renters, here's the "Top 10 Tips" you can use to cut your bill.
To make your home more energy efficient, you can also use other home improvement tools from Energy Star website. Let me share this with you. When I took Eco-Broker a while back, this is one of the websites they use for reference. Its website have tons of info available. So give it a visit.
image: Energy Star