Energy Star promotes more stringent qualifications

| by Gary Wollenhaupt
Energy Star promotes more stringent qualifications

Few people in the country have as much influence over the U.S green housing industry as Sam Rashkin. As the National Director of the Energy Star for Homes program for the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, he has managed the program since its inception in 1996

Rashkin spoke to about the upcoming changes in the Energy Star for Homes program as it transitions to version 2.5 in 2011 and version 3.0 in 2012.

PGH: What will homebuilders and buyers see in the updated Energy Star for Homes standards?

SR: What happens with 2.5 and 3.0, home buyers get the assurance that they will buy a quality high-performance home like we’ve never been able to before in prior versions. The spec has always been an incredibly valuable way to get a more efficient home but what versions 2.5 and 3.0 do is start to force comprehensive building science in every labeled home. What it means to a homebuyer is they get a peace of mind that there’s a quality component that’s completely new to the industry across all the builders that are in this program.

PGH: Why should a homebuyer look for the Energy Star rating?

SR: It’s like until you step in a Lexus or some other luxury car that is just engineered completely from top to bottom for quiet and comfort for handling and acceleration, you don’t know the difference. The same thing will happen to the American homebuyer, they’re finally going to get in these comprehensive building-science homes that are truly high performance and that tangible feeling about a better product will come across to them. So much so that we hope this will create a whole new compelling reason to buy new homes.

PGH: How will Energy Star be applied to existing homes?

SR: Retrofit situations are an individual challenge on a case-by-case basis but there are substantial amounts of the recommendations, practices and technologies that can be applied. What is probably true there is some cost prohibitive point where you can’t get all the details in an existing house. What do you do to retrofit a capillary break under a slab or wrap a drain tile in a fabric filter or redo all the insulation inside the walls? There are various thresholds of performance that each house will be exposed to. In fact, some people will want this so much that they will go through that deep energy-retrofit process at a very high cost because besides the savings, they just want to live in a house that good.

PGH: What will be different about new Energy Star-rated homes?

SR: The house is a system, so what will happen is that all the key systems -- the thermal enclosure, the HVAC and the water protection system -- are all finally being completed in a comprehensive way. Every building and contractor will have to go through our online training courses and be credentialed so they can build Energy Star-qualified homes.

Starting in Version 3.0, every homeowner will get a certificate with each home specifying exactly what levels of technologies and practices were included in their home. In prior years, all you got was a certificate saying the home was Energy Star rated. If there were any issues you might be concerned about you wouldn’t know the insulation levels, the equipment efficiency, the air tightness. Now those are specified on the certificate. If there are any issues it’s much easier for the homeowner to get recourse with the builder. That serves as another quality assurance piece in the puzzle.

PGH: What are the estimated costs to comply with the new standards?

SR: For many builders in many parts of the country, the initial cost increase will be as high as $3,000 to $4,500 per home, so in other words $15 to $25 dollars per month for all this excellence.

We’re starting out at $15 to $25 more per month on a home that may save you $30 to $50 per month in utility bills so really it’s costing the home owner nothing or less than nothing. We also predict that the learning curve will kick in very fast. What may start out as a $3,000 to $4,500 cost increase could be cut in half very quickly.

Topics: Certification / LEED, Cost of Ownership, Energy Star

Gary Wollenhaupt

Gary Wollenhaupt is an experienced writer and editor, with a background as a daily newspaper reporter as well as corporate and agency public relations and marketing. He is constantly looking for affordable green upgrades to make to his home in eastern Kentucky.

wwwView Gary Wollenhaupt's profile on LinkedIn

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