The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has managed the Energy Star labeling program for nearly twenty years, and has helped Americans cut greenhouse gas emissions and save billions on utility costs. In 2009 alone, Energy Star partners helped consumers avoid greenhouse gases in an amount equal to that of the output of 30 million cars and save more than $17 billion on utilities.
The EPA recently announced a new set of more stringent guidelines for Energy Star-certified home construction. These new conditions will raise the bar of energy efficiency for qualified homes, making them at least 20 percent more efficient than homes built to the previous standards. Homeowners will likely see at least a 15 percent drop in their utility bills, as well.
The EPA’s updated guidelines will further solidify the Energy Star brand as it’s applied to new home construction. Energy Star homes will continue to represent significant increases in energy efficiency over homes that are built to standard builder practices and codes. The new regulations will go into effect as of January 2011, though many builders and contractors are likely to start implementing the changes much earlier than that.
If you’re interested in learning more about Energy Star new home construction and how the new guidelines may affect your project, the key components of the revised plan are as follows:
- Homes must have a complete thermal enclosure system. This includes complete air sealing around windows and doors, adequate insulation around all assemblies, and high performance windows. This not only makes the home more comfortable, but also helps lower utility costs.
- Comprehensive central heating and cooling systems must meet Energy Star standards and be installed by qualified professionals. Energy efficient heating and cooling systems are designed to increase comfort, offer better moisture control, and operate quietly. They are also outfitted with fresh air ventilation to improve the quality of air inside the home.
- Because Energy Star homes are so tightly sealed and insulated, they must be equipped with a total water management system. Flashing, moisture barriers, and durable membrane details are all crucial elements in keeping water away from roofs, walls, and foundations. This reduces mold growth, which improves indoor air quality, and extends the durability of these structures.
- With energy efficient lighting and appliances certified by Energy Star, homeowners can enjoy even more energy savings without sacrificing performance quality.
- Energy Star and the EPA will now require all new construction to be third party verified by an independent home energy rater. These inspectors will conduct thorough, detailed examinations using specially designed diagnostic tools to measure performance of key systems.
The new EPA guidelines should come as no surprise to those who make their living building green homes. The revised regulations certainly don’t break much new ground, but they are solid, relatively simple changes that should translate into substantial utility savings while further reducing homeowner’s energy dependence.
If you are a homeowner considering an Energy Star certified new home construction, you can find out more about the program by visiting http://www.energystar.gov/ or by speaking with an experienced HVAC or home contractor in your area.
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