ENERGY STAR is a voluntary program that allows products with superior energy efficiency to receive a certification. The types of products that can receive an ENERGY STAR certification vary significantly. However, all must meet specific guidelines.
Homes can be ENERGY STAR certified as well. These homes must meet very specific requirements about their energy efficiency, just like all other ENERGY STAR certified products. An ENERGY STAR certified home is judged against the 2004 International Residential Code (IRC). The home has to be at least 15% more energy efficient than the IRC to qualify as ENERGY STAR certified. Often ENERGY STAR homes go much further than the minimum 15% and are actually 20-30% more efficient than the IRC.
The energy efficiency of ENERGY STAR homes make them very popular in an era where homebuyers demand in green building procedures has increased. Not only are ENERGY STAR homes better for the environment, but they also reduce the homeowner’s costs. ENERGY STAR homes require much fewer fossil fuels to run, both in heating and cooling. Therefore, the risk of smog, acid rain, and other global warming effects are reduced. Plus, you, the homeowner, do not need to pay to burn the fossil fuels, which reduces your overall living costs.
If you are interested in purchasing the most energy-efficient home money can buy, look for the blue ENERGY STAR mark. That mark indicates that the home has met strict qualifications for energy efficiency. ENERGY STAR is a government-backed program, which allows you to trust in it as a symbol of quality. Learn more about how Green Begins with ENERGY STAR Blue.
Single-family, low-rise multi-family homes, and attached can all qualify for the ENERGY STAR rating. Essentially if the home is three stories or less, it can qualify. It does not matter how the home was constructed or the materials used. For example, manufactured homes, log homes, concrete homes, and systems-built homes can all qualify for ENERGY STAR.
If you see an ENERGY STAR certification, you know that the homes have the following features:
Installation is extremely important for energy efficiency. Typically, insulation in modern times is made of foam, fiberglass, or other materials. This foam can be placed or sprayed into your home. ENERGY STAR homes will include an installation that is properly installed and inspected. Your floors, walls, and attics should all have insulation that completely seals the interior of the home from the outside air. With properly installed and highly rated insulation your home will not be draft and will hold a temperature for a long time.
If you want to learn more about Properly Installed Insulation, visit this link. In the PDF you will learn about the four main types of insulation: batt, blown-in, sprayed or injected foam, and rigid.
- Batt insulation is often made of fiberglass or rock wool. It comes in blankets of many different sizes.
- Blown-in insulation is exactly how it sounds. It is fiberglass or cellulose insulation that is blown into walls or an attic through a large hose.
- Sprayed or injected foam are made of polyurethane. They are either injected or sprayed into walls, floors, and ceilings. The foam then expands to fill every cavity.
- Finally, rigid insulation is either made from polystyrene, polyurethane, or polyisocyanurate. These are all types of foam. It is rigid and formed into large sheets. This type of insulation is ideal for basements or crawlspaces where it does not need to expand.
ENERGY STAR insulation also includes a number of benefits, such as
- Better resale value for your home.
- More comfortable living areas.
- Reduction of your energy bills.
After the home has properly installed insulation, it can still lose energy easily. Windows are a very common entry and exit points for heating and cooling in a house. Anyone who has ever stood next to a drafty window understands the importance of energy-efficient windows.
To get the ENERGY STAR certification, a home must have very high-performance windows. This means that the frames are improved and the windows themselves have protective coatings. The windows should be able to keep in heat and coolness as well as block ultraviolet (UV) radiation.
This document describes the types of windows that qualify for ENERGY STAR certification and their benefits. An ENERGY STAR window has the following features.
- Invisible glass coatings.
- Improved frame materials.
- Great weather stripping.
- Warm edge spacers.
- Vacuum seals that are also filled with inert gas in between each pane.
- Inclusion of the Low-E coating to reduce UV radiation damage.
You probably care most about the benefits, which we have summarized below.
- Cost savings. The ability of high-performance windows to keep heat and coolness in your home decreases the amount you need to spend on energy.
- No UV damage. Your pictures, furniture, and other items will not have the discoloration associated with UV damage.
- No condensation on the windows and frames. Poorly constructed windows and frames allow for condensation, which increases the likelihood of mold growth. ENERGY STAR windows prevent all condensation on their surfaces.
Tight Construction and Ducts
You are probably seeing a common theme in the features that make up ENERGY STAR homes. They do not allow for leaking air to remove the heat and chill from your air no matter the season. Properly constructed homes will have all of the potential cracks and holes sealed. Plus, the duct systems will be well-made and designed to keep drafts, moisture, dust, and noise from the inside of your home. All duct systems in ENERGY STAR homes are third-party tested, which ensures their efficiency.
The document Efficient Duct Systems describes this feature in more detail. It also lays out the way that efficient duck systems are built. ENERGY STAR duct systems will have the following features.
- The sealing will be mastic and/or UL 181 tape.
- The duct system will be insulated and installed in conditioned spaces. ENERGY STAR recommends that ducts be insulated by following the International Energy Conservation Code.
- The ducts will always be the correct size for the home. ENERGY STAR homes have ducts that base their size on the Air Conditioning Contractors of America Manual J and D.
If your home is properly seals and the ducts are considered ENERGY STAR quality, you will enjoy the following benefits.
- Lower heating and cooling bills.
- Better indoor air quality.
- Improved durability of the equipment.
- A more comfortable living space.
Efficient Heating and Cooling Equipment
ENERGY STAR heating and cooling equipment go a long way towards keeping the home energy efficient. They also have a number of important benefits, including lower heating and cooling bills, less humidity, less noise, and more comfort for the residents of the home.
To learn more about ENERGY STAR heating and cooling systems, read these articles:
Heating equipment that qualifies for ENERGY STAR certification include boilers, furnaces, and heat pumps. ENERGY STAR boilers use 5% less energy than regular boilers. ENERGY STAR furnaces are 15% more efficient than standard furnaces. And, ENERGY STAR heat pumps are efficient because they use a refrigeration cycle to heat and cool the home. Make sure that the heating equipment is insulated correctly to allow for proper airflow.
Depending on the location of the home, energy-efficient cooling may be more important than heating. ENERGY STAR cooling systems will make your home more comfortable, create less noise, and, of course, increase your energy savings. They will also have the following features:
- They will be sized properly according to Manual J and S of the Air Conditioning Contractors of America.
- They will have the correct amount of refrigerant. Too much or too little refrigerant can increase cooling costs by up to 20%.
- They will be in the correct location. Attics and garages are not an ideal location for cooling equipment. They should be out of direct sunlight and provide easy access, via ducts, to the rest of the home.
Mechanical ventilation gets rid of the moisture, smells, and pollutants, that can clog a home. Mechanical ventilation is similar to non-mechanical ventilation, but these systems use ducts and fans instead of passive holes or cracks to ventilate the home. ENERGY STAR recognizes supply ventilation systems, exhaust ventilation systems, and balanced ventilation systems.
Supply ventilation systems should be used in hot or mixed climates. They use an air intake vent that draws in the fresh air and then delivers it to each room using fans and ducts. Exhaust ventilation systems are best for cold climates. These use fans in bathrooms that constantly exhaust air from the home into the outdoors. Balanced ventilation systems are approved for all climates. These systems ensure that the same amount of air is exhausted and brought into the home.
Not only does your heating and cooling systems need to be energy efficient, so do the other products in your home. The more ENERGY STAR certified products you have, the greater your savings and the greener your home. ENERGY STAR certified homes may also be equipped with ENERGY STAR qualified products — lighting fixtures, compact fluorescent bulbs, ventilation fans, and appliances, such as refrigerators, dishwashers, and washing machines.
As mentioned in the opening, ENERGY STAR ratings may be given to a wide range of products. These include light fixtures, compact fluorescent bulbs, appliances, and ventilation fans. ENERGY STAR recognizes multiple categories of products, including appliances, building products, commercial foodservice equipment, data center equipment, electronics, heating and cooling, lighting, office equipment, and others.
More information about ENERGY STAR qualified products can be found at this link and in the articles below:
All ENERGY STAR qualified appliances will come with two price tags. The first tells you the actual price of the appliance. The second tells you the cost of operating the appliance. The second tag is crucial because it shows you your savings when your use ENERGY STAR certified appliances. The following appliances can be ENERGY STAR certified.
- Air purifiers
- Clothes dryers
- Clothes washers
- Commercial clothes washers
Purchasing energy-efficient lighting is essential for keeping your costs down as a homeowner. ENERGY STAR certified ceiling fans, decorative light string, light bulbs, and light fixtures. Essentially, anything you need to light your home can be ENERGY STAR certified. If you are purchasing a new home make sure that their lights and fixtures all have the ENERGY STAR seal.
Recently, the EPA announced its ENERGY STAR Advanced Lighting Package (ALP). The ALP ensures that at least 60% of lighting fixtures in a home are ENERGY STAR. This distinctive program allows builders to increase their revenue and differentiate their homes. For homeowners, the ALP provides better savings and improved comfort.
The final product we have not discussed is water heaters. High-efficiency water heaters are just as important as appliances and lighting. They actually account for about 15% of a home’s energy use. Clearly, having an ENERGY STAR water heater is important.
To understand your water heater energy rating, you need to know two metrics: first-hour rating (FHR) and efficiency. The FHR tells you how much hot water is available during the hour of the day with the highest use. Efficiency tells you the product’s Energy Factor. The higher the Energy Factor, the more efficient the water heater.
There are four main types of water heaters: Tank, Tankless, Heat Pump, and Solar. Each of these four comes with its own pros and cons. They can all be read about in this article.
ENERGY STAR and the EPA relied on third-parties to verify each certified feature of a home. These third-party raters provide onsite testing and inspections. They ensure a fair and accurate rating system. When you see the ENERGY STAR certification, you know that the home has been inspected and tested thoroughly. Consumers can rest easy knowing that their ENERGY STAR home meets the highest standards.
Independent Inspection and Testing and the Home Energy Raters that conduct the inspections and tests can be found in the link.
Home Energy Raters inspect and test a home throughout the building process. This ensures that every stage of the construction adheres to ENERGY STAR standards. The inspections you can expect each Home Energy Rater to conduct include thermal enclosure inspections, HVAC qualify installation inspections, and water management inspections. By independently conducting inspections and tests our Home Energy Raters make sure the ENERGY STAR label keeps its expectations of excellence.