Kentucky utility companies give energy efficiency awards

| by Teena Hammond
Kentucky utility companies give energy efficiency awards

The Energy Star New Homes Program of Louisville Gas & Electric (LG&E) and Kentucky Utilities (KU) recently announced the winners of its excellence in energy efficiency awards for the Midwest region.

The utility companies recognized three builders and two Home Energy Rating System (HERS) raters for introducing the most homes with at least a 25 percent efficiency code or higher in 2010. They also recognize six builders and one HERS rater for having the "best scoring home," meaning the most energy-efficient, highest-performing Energy Star-qualified homes in the area covered by the utility companies.

The winners introducing the most homes with a 25 percent or higher efficiency code were:

  • Chris Zitelli, Ecos Materials and Services, HERS rater, multifamily homes
  • Shawn Purcell, MetroFirst, LLC, HERS rater, single and multifamily homes
  • HPI Construction, LLC, builder partner, multifamily homes
  • Monsour Builders, builder partner, single and multifamily homes
  • TMW Construction, builder partner, single and multifamily homes

The winners of the "Best Scoring Home" category were:

  • Shawn Purcell, MetroFirst, LLC, HERS rater
  • Dominion Homes, production builder
  • HPI Construction LLC, multi-family builder partner
  • Kimbel Construction Inc., custom builder
  • Mike Oney Builders, custom builder
  • Ball Homes LLC, production builder
  • Seates Builders LLC, custom builder

Custom builder category

Mike Oney, owner of Mike Oney Builders, said that the 4,800-square-foot, $455,000 home his company built in Louisville has a HERS index of 41. The HERS index measures the efficiency of a home. A rating of 41 means that this home is 59 percent more efficient than comparable homes. Oney said he has four custom homes under construction at the moment and that they are all energy efficient.

"Everything I build is Energy Star rated. This house is the ultimate energy-efficient green build because it's all concrete construction. We used ICF, which are insulated concrete forms. The walls are foam forms we stacked up and filled with concrete and that creates a tight seal of the house. That was the primary factor of energy efficiency, and we used geothermal as well," Oney said.

More customers are asking for green homes, Oney said. "What I've noticed more so is that in the past when the boom happened the majority of people were looking at houses as being temporary investments. I would talk to them about energy efficiency and an Energy Star home, and they wanted to build as cheap as they could and get as much square footage as they could out of the price they paid. People are no longer looking at a five-year investment. They concentrate more on the quality level of a house rather than how big of a house they're going to get for X dollars."

The federal tax rebate that runs through 2016 is another factor in why consumers are more interested in geothermal. "People shied away from geothermal in the past because of the expense, but now it's getting more and more popular because of the tax rebate," Oney said.

Production builder category

Production builder category winner Dominion Homes has a 2,175-square-foot, $207,847 home in Louisville. The home has a HERS index of 71, which means that this particular house is 29 percent more efficient than a comparable home.

Dominion Homes, which is a homebuilder in Louisville and Lexington and also has a division in Columbus, Ohio, built 129 homes in the Kentucky market last year, said Lou Richardson, purchasing and estimating manager for the Kentucky division of Dominion Homes.

"We won the award due to the insulation that we were using in the home. We were using blown-in cellulose insulation," Richardson said. "We used R-38 insulation in the ceiling. We do extensive sealing of the house as far as the ductwork in the house, making sure it's all taped and sealed and there's no air infiltration keeping the cold air space from the conditioned air space."

The award-winning Dominion home also uses a 92 percent efficient furnace and an all-electric water heater. While some builders opt for even higher-efficiency furnaces, the significantly higher cost of, for instance, a 98 percent-efficient furnace would increase the price of the home more than the cost savings of the furnace, Richardson said.

Jarrod Vowels, general manager for the Kentucky division of Dominion Homes, said, "This is the Kentucky division's first full year of being in the Energy Star program. Our Ohio division has been in for several years."

"Energy efficiency is the goal on all of our houses. All are Energy Star, and with some designs you get a higher HERS rating because of the design of the home or different variables. All of the houses have conformed to Energy Star," Vowels said.

Energy Star

To warrant the Energy Star label, a home must meet guidelines for energy efficiency set by both the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, as well as LG&E and KU. The Energy Star New Homes Program was introduced by LG&E and KU in 2009 as a voluntary market-based program to reduce greenhouse gas emissions through increased energy efficiency. Last year, nearly 1,200 new homes were qualified and certified as Energy Star under the program in the LG&E and KU service territories.

Topics: Building Green, Energy Star, Heating & Cooling, Insulated Concrete Forms - ICF, Insulation, Rebates / Tax Credits

Teena Hammond
Teena Hammond has published more than 2,000 articles in People and W magazines, Women's Wear Daily, and in dozens of newspapers and books. She also wrote a home improvement, remodeling and decor column that ran in Gannett newspapers nationwide. She's interested in all things green and would love to hear from you with your story ideas.

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