Revised Construction Standards
Version 3.0 of the ENERGY STAR program took effect January 1, 2012. It incorporates some aspects of sustainability that go beyond energy efficiency. The additional health and safety, quality of work, and durability requirements align well with the work that Michigan affiliates are already doing. The major challenge toward achieving full certification is due to the lack of ENERGY STAR credentialed heating contractors. There are currently so few credentialed contractors in Michigan that many affiliates will not be able to get homes fully certified until this gap is filled. Some of the requirements in the new program also make certification of rehab projects problematic or impossible.
In response to these challenges, Habitat Michigan has established the following recommended procedures that will allow for the continuation of current HFHM programs:
• For new home construction, continued achievement of ENERGY STAR certification under version 3.0 (or version 2.5 for homes permitted in 2011 and completed by June 30, 2012) will qualify homes for HFHM resources. Affiliates unable to partner with a credentialed HVAC contractor should complete and verify all work and checklists required for ENERGY STAR 3.0 certification except for the sections of the HVAC checklists that cannot be completed for lack of a credentialed contractor. Upon final verification, the house will be accepted as though it were certified to version 2.5 of the ENERGY STAR program.
• For rehabs and recycled homes, affiliates should utilize their HERS rater to test the home before any work begins and to establish a scope of work to achieve the best health and safety, durability, and energy efficiency upgrades appropriate for the home. These measures are completed along with the rest of the work and the rater performs any required inspections. Upon completion, the home is again tested by the rater and an improvement report is generated and submitted to HFHM.
Please be aware that these criteria may not fulfill the requirements of other funding sources and programs. For example, affiliates working with SHOP funding should fully understand the requirements of that program. For affiliates participating in the 2012 Partners in Sustainable Building program, please contact Thom Phillips or the PSB staff at HFHI to review outstanding projects scheduled for completion by June 30, 2012.
Energy Star Manuals
Indoor Air Quality Plus Construction Specifications
ENERGY STAR has two approaches to achieving the standards for an ENERGY STAR qualified home:
Before construction begins, a Home Energy Rating System (HERS) rater simulates a home’s energy efficiency with specialized computer software based on the building plans. This allows the rater to identify the most effective upgrades to a specific project to meet ENERGY STAR performance standards.
After the home is insulated and before drywall is installed, the HERS rater visits the site to perform the Thermal Bypass Inspection Checklist. Upon completion, the rater tests the home's performance with a blower door and duct blaster. Learn about the requirements for the Performance Path.
A certified HERS rater can verify that the building was built according to a BOP and therefore meets ENERGY STAR standards. If a builder chooses this option, the HERS rater submits final verification of the building as an ENERGY STAR qualified home to its HERS provider registry using rating software as it does with the Field Verification Test. Learn about the requirements for the Prescriptive Path.
What Must I Do For an ENERGY STAR Qualified Home?
- First, partner with a Home Energy Rating System rater. These professionals will help ensure that the home you build will meet ENERGY STAR standards. A list of nation-wide raters can be found at www.natresnet.org.
- Next, become an ENERGY STAR partner. There is no cost to do this and just takes a simple online application. More information and the application can be found here.
- Take the ENERGY STAR Version 3.0 on-line training to qualify your affiliate for the program.
- The rater will then conduct a pre-construction analysis of the house plans and will produce an estimate of the HERS Index, which predicts the home's future energy use. This preliminary analysis may also be used to show compliance with the State energy code and to obtain a building permit.
- Recommendations will be given by the rater to improve the HERS Index, if needed.
- The home is built based on these recommendations.
- The Home Energy Rater must inspect the unfinished home after air sealing and insulation installation are complete and before drywall is installed to complete the Thermal Enclosure System Rater Checklist. One way to ensure that a home passes the checklist is to reference the checklist during construction.
- Finally, the Home Energy Rater will visit the finished home and conduct performance tests, usually consisting of a blower door test to check for air leakage in the building envelope and a duct blaster test to check for duct leakage in the heating system.
ENERGY STAR qualified homes can include a variety of 'tried-and-true' energy-efficient features that contribute to improved home quality and homeowner comfort, and to lower energy demand and reduced air pollution, such as:
Properly installed and inspected insulation in floors, walls, and attics ensures even temperatures throughout the house, reduced energy use, and increased comfort.
2. High-Performance Windows
Energy-efficient windows employ advanced technologies, such as protective coatings and improved frames, to help keep heat in during winter and out during summer. These windows also block damaging ultraviolet sunlight that can discolor carpets and furnishings.
3. Tight Construction and Ducts
Sealing holes and cracks in the home's "envelope" and in heating and cooling duct systems helps reduce drafts, moisture, dust, pollen, and noise. A tightly sealed home improves comfort and indoor air quality while reducing utility and maintenance.
4. Efficient Heating and Cooling Equipment
In addition to using less energy to operate, energy-efficient heating and cooling systems can be quieter, reduce indoor humidity, and improve the overall comfort of the home. When properly sized and installed into a tightly sealed home, this equipment won't have to work so hard to heat and cool the home.
5. Efficient Products
ENERGY STAR qualified 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. Learn more about ENERGY STAR qualified products.
6. Third-Party Verification
With the help of independent Home Energy Raters, ENERGY STAR builder partners choose the most appropriate energy-saving features for their homes. Additionally, raters conduct onsite testing and inspections to verify the energy efficiency measures, as well as insulation, air tightness, and duct sealing details.
Additional costs associated with achieving Energy Star certification can vary considerably and are relative to a builder's current building standards. If you are already building a durable and efficient home, additional costs can be rather small, often consisting of only the verification and certification expenses. The costs of transforming from just meeting the building code to achieving Energy Star can be considerably more significant.
“We found no significant increase in materials costs or in subcontract labor costs. It’s mainly the attention to detail, it far exceeds the standard practice..."
-W. Hendrix, President of Troup-Chambers Habitat, LaGrance, GA
Successfully Built 22 ENERGY STAR Homes in Just 7 Days
Below is an example of a cost comparison chart for a conventional home vs. added energy-efficent features:
("Habitat for Humanity: LaGrange, Georgia, 2003 Jimmy Carter Work Project". Building America; U.S. Department of Energy. Accessed 15 July 2009.)
While there may be a slight increase in the mortgage payment of an ENERGY STAR qualified home, the utility savings that will be realized results in overall savings to the homeowner. These savings may increase over time as the cost of energy rises while the mortgage payment remains the same. Below is an example of how a positive cash flow can be realized by building to Energy Star standards.
ENERGY STAR Qualified Home Monthly Annual
|Additonal Mortgage Cost*||+$11.66||+ $140.00|
|Utility Savings**||-$18.00||- $216.00|
* Based on $3,500 additional costs to achieve certification and a 25-year mortgage
**15% of $120.00 monthly utility costs
(“Benefits for Homeowners.” U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. January 10, 2008. Accessed 08 August 2009.)
U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development Office of Community Planning and Development also offers a helpful resource, "Building ENERGY STAR Qualified Homes and Incorporating Energy Efficiency and “Green” Building Practices into HOME-funded Affordable Housing" which includes information on benefits and advantages, typical low-cost features, and options for financial assistance.