Monday, June 4, 2007

Understanding Energy Star and LEED®

The Energy and Atmosphere category of LEED® for Homes can be met through two different paths. One path consists of meeting LEED's own specific energy criteria. The other path is to follow Energy Star standards, increasing the level of energy efficiency beyond Energy Star standards to obtain more points.

Energy Star is a joint program of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and the U.S. Department of Energy. It was formed in 1992 on a voluntary-basis, and has become a noted standard for energy-efficiency. There are currently more than 750,000 Energy Star rated homes in the US -- 200,000 of which were built in the last year. That number is expected to exceed 2 million by the end of the decade.

New homes built to Energy Star standards are at least 15 percent more energy efficient than homes built to the 2004 International Residential Code (IRC). Your local codes may be more or less stringent depending on where you live. Energy Star homes utilize effective insulation, high performance windows, tight construction practices and ductwork, Energy Star lighting and appliances, and energy-efficient heating/cooling equipment.
Besides having lower energy costs, energy-efficient homes pollute less (16 percent of U.S. greenhouse gas emissions are generated from the energy used in houses nationwide).

Homes earn Energy Star certification through
verification of a third-party organization or an individual called an energy rater. There are two verification options. One is called the Performance Path, in which the energy rater uses software to model the home’s energy use, verifying that it meets a target HERS score. This option looks at existing homes or design plans that have already been completed. The other option is the Prescriptive Path. This home is built using a prescribed set of construction specs that meet the program’s requirements.

Concern about energy-efficiency is increasing (obviously), and the Energy Star name is becoming more familiar to the general public.
A study from late 2006 shows that 68% of consumers recognize the Energy Star label and that energy-efficiency is important in the buying process. Some mortgage companies now offer incentives to buyers purchasing energy-efficient homes (such as Energy Star), and there are tax benefits for building an Energy Star home as well.

The Greenbush project will follow the Energy Star route so that the house will be certified as both LEED and Energy Star. I am very excited because it is a great way to provide both Energy Star and LEED education to contractors in the Greenbush area. Rural communities are especially interested in energy efficiency, they just don't always have all of the information!

Click here to find an Energy Star energy rater, builder, or lender in your area. When we get further along in the process, I'll explain more about Energy Star.

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