The Basics of Energy Star

Many people are becoming familiar with Energy Star certification for their home, but I still have conversations with individuals who aren’t sure about the process or what it really means. It is really great that everyone is interested about Energy Star, but we really need to get adequate information out so that everyone is familiar with the process and how you go about having your home certified!

The first thing to know is that building a home that is Energy Star compliant does not cost significantly more than constructing a standard home. There are only a few items that need to be done, depending on your climate zone, that your builder may not already be doing. This is usually a air sealing and just a few insulating techniques dealing with air barriers. These items, again, do not add a significant amount of money.

Secondly, having your home certified does incur a fee. The party that verifies the construction and certifies it will charge a fee for their service. The individuals that perform this service are HERS raters. A HERS rater has been trained and tested to prove that they understand the building process required by Energy Star and how to properly test the home. The fee ranges, but there are some programs available depending on your location that provides assistance or rebates for this service.

To get your home certified as Energy Star, you have to score an 85 in the southern part of the country and an 80 in the northern. A detailed chart and more information are available at http://www.energystar.gov/ that shows which region you are in. The score means that you are respectively 15% and 20% more efficient than a home that is built to code. Again, this is relatively easy to achieve. A lower score is a better score.

Step 1: Thermal By Pass Inspection

The certification for energy star requires two inspections. A thermal bypass inspection occurs pre-drywall, and a final that tests the tightness of the home. I have had several builders miss the pre-drywall due to them not fully understanding the process and not being willing to let you know or ask questions. I have also had several homeowners contact me because they were informed that they only needed the final. This is a very critical point and evidently there is a large amount of misinformation out there as to how the process works.

The thermal bypass inspection is to verify the insulation and air barriers are installed correctly. Also, at this time, the HERS rater will evaluate the air sealing and give any tips on what else can be done to make the home tight. Air sealing is not specifically on the checklist and does not have to be inspected, but it is important, so we still tend to make comments regarding it. If the HVAC contractor is ready, the duct test can be performed at this time so that any leakage can be fixed prior to drywall.

Step 2: Final Inspection

The final inspection will consist of the blower door and duct blaster, if it was not done at thepre-drywall stage. The blower door checks the tightness of the home and the duct blaster does the same for the ducts. The equipment pulls air out of the home and ducts and we are able to measure the amount of air that flows through, telling us how leaking the home or ducts are.

The final step that you will not see is the modeling. There are two paths that you can take to get Energy Star certification: the Performance path and the Builder Option path. With the performance path, you must model the home, and with the builder option, you must meet certain requirements. Most individuals go with the performance path, as it is more flexible; with this path your home is modeled using software and given a score.

This is a very brief overview of the process, and there are other details that you will need to know if you are to construct an Energy Star home. However, this provides more than many know about the basics, and it allows you to get started with the process. If you are going to build an Energy Star home, contact a local HERS rater prior to starting construction to discuss the process with them!


Insulate Your Water Pipes

Many people know about this, and most do it if they have a chance of freezing their cold water pipes; however, you can benefit by insulating all water pipes, and the biggest gain actually comes from the hot water pipes. Just like I discussed last week with the water heater, the temperature difference between the hot water and the ambient temperature is significant no matter where the pipes run. By insulating the pipes, you slow the cooling of the pipes and therefore conserve energy and water.

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