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Musings of an Energy Nerd

Disappointing Energy Savings for Energy Star Homes

A Houston study shows that homes without an Energy Star label perform almost as well as Energy Star homes

How well do Energy Star homes perform? In recent years, about half of all the new homes built in Houston — including this charming garage-forward beauty built by Lennar Homes on Astonshire Street — have received an Energy Star label. On average, these homes use about 2% less electricity than comparable new homes without an Energy Star label.
Image Credit: Movoto.com

If you’re interested in residential energy efficiency, you’re probably familiar with the marketing pitch of the EPA’s Energy Star Homes program.

Among the program’s claims:

The only trouble with these marketing pitches is they aren’t true. Although several researchers have tried, no one has been able to document energy savings anywhere close to 15%, much less 30%, for Energy Star Homes.

The most recent study to look into the question of whether Energy Star Homes use less energy than baseline homes was a Houston study conducted by Advanced Energy and Michael Blasnik Associates. After comparing the utility bills of thousands of Energy Star homes with thousands of comparable baseline homes, the researchers concluded that the Energy Star homes used 1.9% less electricity and 6.8% less natural gas than the baseline homes. The average Energy Star home in the study had annual energy savings of about $81, not $200 to $400.

As Michael Blasnik said in 2009, when I last reported on the issue, “The Energy Star program started with a low bar. No one has found that Energy Star homes use 25% less energy than other homes.”

A low bar? Well, yes. One of the facts noted in the researchers’ report on the Houston study: “Energy Star homes [in Houston] generally used code-minimum insulation levels.”

A high percentage of new homes built in Houston — about 50% — are enrolled in the Energy Star Homes program. Virtually all of these homes were certified using the performance method of compliance (using energy modeling), not the prescriptive (BOP) method of compliance.

The Advanced Energy researchers compared the energy used in 106,000 Energy Star homes in Houston to 114,000 “baseline” homes — that is, comparable homes of the same age that were not enrolled in the Energy Star Homes program. The researchers compiled six years of energy consumption data for…

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30 Comments

  1. User avater
    John Semmelhack | | #1

    The other silver lining...
    The other silver lining to the report was that the Energy Star homes' real-world energy use was in line with the predictions from the energy model on average (typically Rem/Rate).

    One question I have for the authors, if they're reading: what percentage of the Energy Star homes were certified under sampling protocols instead of actual testing and inspections?

  2. Curtis Dean | | #2

    Regional differences
    I'm wondering if the performance differences would be greater in a climate zone with a higher heating load.

  3. User avater GBA Editor
    Martin Holladay | | #3

    Response to Curtis Dean
    Curtis,
    A 2002 study by Wisconsin Energy Star homes showed that Energy Star homes used only 10% less natural gas than new homes without an Energy Star label. That's better than 7%, but it's nowhere close to 30%.

  4. Matthew Amann | | #4

    Energy Star
    Anyone who thinks that Energy Star was created to "change things", might have to be called gullible. A program so easy to reach is only a method of hopping on the real Green bus as it speeds by........

  5. David Fay | | #5

    a bit harsh?
    Aren't we being a bit harsh? The main conclusion of the study was that "baseline" homes (that is, non-Energy Star homes) are a lot more energy efficient than the Energy Star program assumed. This is good news and hardly warrants the inflammatory headline, "Disappointing Energy Savings for Energy Star Homes".

    David
    Energy Metrics

  6. Matthew Amann | | #6

    Harsh?
    David, a standard insulated 2x6 wall should not be considered efficient. The bar is set low, there is absolutely no doubt about that.......

  7. User avater GBA Editor
    Martin Holladay | | #7

    Response to David Fay
    David,
    You wrote, “ ‘Baseline’ homes (that is, non-Energy Star homes) are a lot more energy efficient than the Energy Star program assumed.”

    I agree, that's what the study found. But researchers have known for a decade that the Energy Star Homes program makes false assumptions about baseline homes. The program benefits from the assumption that baseline homes are terrible -- that's the cornerstone of the program's marketing efforts.

    Anyone who wants to exaggerate about the performance of energy-efficiency features loves lousy homes. In fact, marketers who exaggerate are known to (metaphorically) scour the neighborhood in search of a bad example, so they can argue that their Whizbang Home saves energy compared to the leaky model T at the end of the block.

    That's why it's disingenuous for the Energy Star Homes program to say, "Gee, we didn't know that baseline homes aren't as bad as we've been telling people." Trust me, they know -- or should know. That's why the exaggerated marketing methods are indefensible.

  8. David Lanfear | | #8

    Energy Star
    I'm an energy star builder for several reasons. Firstly because its an easy way to have the performance of a house I build tested and measured. This allows me to then compare the performance of my houses to the work of others and to my own work. The guidelines for the program are also somewhat helpful, but really nothing compared to what I learn from this site and my professional associations like MBNE. It also doesn't hurt to get a rebate check at the end of the project, though in New York this is a Kafkaesque process as I have to go through NYSERDA.

    Having built to a 5 star plus rating I know that there is a wide gulf between one star and five, and I know that five star is a long way from Passiv Haus. Does this study merely include homes that "pass" energy star testing? Also, Is there any way of knowing whether those in energy star homes turned up the temp in there homes, therefore somehow validating Jevons Paradox?
    There are so many factors which seem to contribute to Energy Star lowballing comparisons, but in real life its easy to see the construction industry's resistance to anything new or different beyond new miter saws or nailers. From established manufacturers of building products to subcontractors in the field, for various reasons, there's a resistance to advancing practices too quickly. So, if Energy star had jumped too far ahead of builder's willingness and ability they would have been irrelevant. The program has moved fast enough to encourage modest "market transformation spillover" but, relative to the need for change is only inching forward. This why we see, and will continue to see, a lagging moving average of conventional building performance following energy star building performance. It has been easy for conventional construction to follow energy Stars pathetic minimum standards. Beyond the type of builders that visit this site I can' see how drastic change will happen without a radical change in the energy code.

  9. User avater
    Michael Chandler | | #9

    The good news is that code-minimum homes are rare
    The theoretical baseline Energy Star compares to is code minimum but the market place is competitive enough that these barely legal homes are pretty rare. Most builders are already picking the most cost effective efficiency measures and implementing them without certifying to Energy Star (or LEED as Henry Gifford has pointed out)

    We should not be disappointed in Energy Star, it has done a lot to help raise the bar and has led to way to more energy efficient building codes. The vigorous battle for improved building codes currently raging in NC has been made much more difficult by the oppositions use of the theoretical code-minimum home rather than the average new home as the standard against which the cost of the new code is measured.

    The shocking reality here in NC is that the only builders building the really code minimum homes are the ones marketing them to returning vets, and their attacks on the new code proponents make it sound like we are the ones who are unpatriotic to make it illegal to sell these cheaply built, under-performing homes to our returning service men and women.

  10. David Meiland | | #10

    Code?

    I can' see how drastic change will happen without a radical change in the energy code

    My guess is that code will never do it. A significant increase in energy prices will.

  11. Deniz Bilge | | #11

    The Whole "Green" Thing
    This whole "green" wave, in my opinion, has taken a sour turn. People are not incorporating these new energy "standards", not because they don't believe in it, but rather because they are simply unaffordable. We are missing the point. The American way should not be such that our government forces us through regulations and building code to comply to energy standards which are not accessible to everyone--both for the providers and recipients of these services. What made this country the most powerful in the world (at one time not too long ago) were two things that don't exist today:
    1) We manufactured just about everything we needed with the ability to compete domestically and internationally, at their respective levels of competition.
    2) Opportunity existed for ANYONE willing and able to put in the hard work necessary to succeed.

    Today, there are so many taxes and government regulations (including the union labor and unemployment insurance scams) that it makes it impossible to produce goods at a competitive cost vs the rest of the world. To eliminate competition, large companies often have a union member or some other corrupt representative in office who then creates regulations that only these companies can afford (for example, in Atlantic City, one cannot build a casino without a 500 room min. hotel).

    In other words, the cost of these "green" technologies remains high (if not climbing higher) because the few companies that produce all the goods have no competition. Common sense says if enough goods were produced, more people would be able to afford to use them.

    Secondly, the super expensive education. These workshops to educate and bring awareness of the need for dealing with our energy problems is just too expensive. For example, my local community college was hosting a ONE DAY green roof workshop, AIA, BPI, USGBC, etc certified. The cost --- $795. CRAZY! This information should not be a profit making opportunity for the non profits which organize and pay speakers for these workshops.

    Finally, the provider side. Contractors have been hit especially hard the past few years. They don't have the thousands of dollars necessary to become certified by the various organizations in the business. While I believe that there should actually be a more thorough application process in order to become a home improvement contractor--especially with specialized energy endorsements, this shouldn't have to cost alot of money. BPI certifications are hundreds, if not thousands of dollars. Continuing education credits are hundreds of dollars per workshop. It's just too much.

    The answer is not to depend on the government to take our tax dollars and the utilities to take our rate payer dollars and disperse this money to the few who can afford the green projects (in the form of rebates/incentives), but rather to promote the private sector of manufacturing, true competition, and free or virtually free education and awareness. It is this way real results will occur.

  12. Deniz Bilge | | #12

    Energy conscience...
    My next comments are about the quality of energy efficient homes. I think people have forgotten that we are animals that need sunlight and fresh air to be healthy. Although inefficient, we need windows that should open and we should have more of them. There is a relationship with the great outdoors which needs to be maintained in balance when we are designing and building an airtight house. Our homes should be able to regulate relative humidity within and air pressure levels. Moisture should always have an escape route.

    The thing that bothers me most about the direction this whole energy efficient building is the breathability concept. I understand that the more airtight the building, the less energy loss. But I don't want to live in a 2000 sq ft rubber lined plastic bag over my head, completely dependent on mechanical systems to exchange my air supply. Just because you throw in a couple fans, it doesn't make it a comfortable, healthy place. Kinda like the difference between wearing a cotton vs polyester shirt. Under the right conditions, one is fine in either, but the cotton is definitely more comfortable in general due to its breathability.

    Have we forgotten about the human being factor? It's like the discussion about child birth, where it is statistically safer to have a c-section. I'm sure it is, being that the doctors have more control over the birth, but it leaves its scars and potential complications, and causes higher risk for future natural births --the intangible stuff is often not considered in evaluating a situation.

    I once heard someone say "Your house doesn't need to breathe, you do". I thought about that comment, and still do. I suppose that could work in a perfectly theoretical world, but not in the one I live in. Vapor and air barriers are impossible to install 100% sealed. There's going to be either a rip, hole, or tape fold SOMEWHERE, where moisture can infiltrate. Without an escape route, the moisture will cause problems. Next, the mechanical system: Most people are either too busy, lazy, or broke to change the filters and to maintain their machines as often as they need to be. Also, what if there was an error in determining the size and layout of the system? A house is only as strong as its weakest link. As a roofer (many moons ago), I know how water works, and nobody is going to tell me that it is impossible for moisture to penetrate small holes and other openings in the continuous vapor and potentially cause problems. In my world, water will get to where it shouldn't be, and there better be an escape plan for it.

    Finally, the ultimate in green: Durability. I believe that wood does nothing but swell and rot. Why would anyone build a house with it? Stone, rammed earth, are more durable. I feel that homes are disposable, energy efficient or not. Nobody can sell me on the idea that an OSB-foam sandwich house (SIP) will withstand the test of time (unless we're talking about how long it takes to break down in a landfill). OSB is crap as far as being a durable product on the exterior. If we built houses once and they stood for hundreds of years with minimal maintenance, we'd be doing ourselves and our planet a service.

    I really think people need to adjust their attitudes towards energy, and re-evaluate the amount of it they waste. (On a sidetrack: I don't think compact fluorescent bulbs are a good thing simply because in 5-7 more years, what will be worse, the amount of coal burning we saved, or the thousands of tons of mercury from these bulbs in our landfills)? We should be focusing on a better balance between between energy efficient and natural building methods and materials.

  13. Sam Marsico | | #13

    Deniz made me think
    I too, have been discouraged by the 'star bellied sneetch' attitude and the profiteering common in the green movement, but I will not let those things stop my endeavor to improve the efficiency, sustainability, and quality of the homes I build. Education is why I'm here.
    Deniz' point about breathability made me think about all of my plow clients, who are among 15000 people right now without power. Some of their homes, especially the SIPs and ICFs, could be considered unsafe without the HRV/ERV. (They interviewed an old woman on the news this morning heating her home with her propane oven, and said nothing about the danger). Our most extreme heating days are often accompanied by power outages that can last a week or more. Makes me think about integrating an old-school roof jack pumpkin fan into the ventilator systems, which could siphon with a gentle breeze.
    As for this article, I see the improvement in 'baseline homes' as good news.
    I would like to see more data, across a broad climate range. I think that performance differences from an improved envelope would increase exponentially proportional to heating load.

  14. David Meiland | | #14

    With these two opening comments...

    1) We manufactured just about everything we needed with the ability to compete domestically and internationally, at their respective levels of competition.
    2) Opportunity existed for ANYONE willing and able to put in the hard work necessary to succeed.

    ... you have identified yourself as someone whose view is entirely too simplistic and naive to afford you any grasp of what's really at hand.

    I don't disagree with everything you wrote, but these are way off the mark. Very disappointing.

  15. Douglas Horgan | | #15

    Incremental gains matter
    I too am disappointed in the headline vs. content of the post.
    (I hasten to point out that, as usual, Martin's content is among the best available anywhere.)
    Every day I go out on job sites and talk to the actual tradespeople attempting to execute despite a thousand obstacles.
    In our market, it's very unusual to find a person who reads or takes classes or watches YouTube videos--or anything at all--to improve their knowledge & skill. I mean it's probably one in several hundred of field technicians.
    ENERGY STAR has brought a group of crucial concepts to the field and everyone has learned them, from the duct man's 18 year old helper, to the punchout framer, to the piecework insulation crew. There's no doubt at all that it has moved this huge, diffuse, maddeningly decentralized and barely professional industy forward in a big way. Nothing to sneeze at considering there are a few million people who don't read GBA, or really anything else, and most of them have learned a trick or two as a direct result of ENERGY STAR.
    I enjoy the latest discussion about net zero vs. passivehouse as much as the next geeky building enthusiast, but so few of us are thinking about things on that level that I would say programs with wide reach are doing a lot more. Overall I find the news reported in this article positive.
    An interesting converse view of the data is that even though an ENERGY STAR house can't be said to be way better than an average non-ENERGY STAR house, a non-ES house has absolutely no third-party QC or verification by which a person might know whether it's a crappy "code minimum" house, or is a well-built home comparable to the ES house.

  16. 5C8rvfuWev | | #16

    hearsay
    I mentioned this discussion and Martin's blog when I spoke with a contractor who builds/markets certified ES homes locally. He sees the matter somewhat differently -- the weak spot, he said, is in the raters. You can't get improved efficiency to the standards that are the target unless the raters stick to the program and are diligent in reporting the actual results they observe during the testing for certification.

    As it is, he implied that raters "sometimes" cave in to builders who want to advertise their product as ES but the complain when the test results don't come through that the rater is "killing" them. He complains that in a tough market they have to "help him out."

    And the rater depends on such builders for his own work, so ... what's he gonna do? Fail the guy and cut off his own income? Or cave in? His belief is that too often raters cave in. It's interesting that no one else has mentioned this part of the problem ... so I wonder if it's just local.

    I can't tell you how many times I've heard: "you don't need all that insulation here. This is the South."

    And of course there's my son's f.i.l who sent me one of his infamous emails this morning explaining that if it wasn't for the damn people who don't wanna drill in Montana, we'd have plenty of oil because "there's more oil under Montana than in Saudi Arabia."

    GBA is a wonderful resource, but a lot of what you folk have to say is, it's important to realize, "preaching to the choir."

    My own plan is to build to EarthCraft platinum standards, but it's not unusual to find people who think EnergyStar is the highest level of conservation and that it only comes on a yellow tag in a refrigerator. There's a LOT of spadework to be done before the garden can be planted, let alone grow.

    I tend to agree with Dave Meiland (#10) that a big, permanent jump in the price of energy is all that will work to open the resistant minds up significantly. And if Barron's is right, that will start to happen in another 8 years or so.

    Joe

  17. David Meiland | | #17

    Raters
    I have very limited experience so far with certification programs, but I've inspected (as a hired gun, not a rater) a couple of times in situations where someone was applying for certification. My observation in both cases was that the projects failed to meet blower door goals because (a) the insulator did not understand (or was not paid to do) air sealing and (b) the rater did not inspect for air sealing, so the walls were closed, the underfloor areas batted, and the attic blown before adequate air sealing was done. And of course the builder did some silly things like a loose piece of drywall for an attic hatch, etc.

    If a rater is working with an unproven builder, it seems they would have to inspect very carefully through the project to make sure nothing was missed.

  18. Jay Walsh | | #18

    RE Energy Star standards being behing current construction
    I have to totally dissagree withMartins statement:
    " By the time the federal bureaucracy establishes a set of guidelines for Energy Star homes, many of the practices that it has decided to mandate have become mainstream. Try as it might, the Energy Star program has always lagged behind its stated goal of promoting homes that use 30% less energy than baseline homes."
    Of the hundreds of Energy Star homes I have rated here in the northeast and contractors I've worked with I would have to say that no more than 10% of these contractors were doing anything but the minimum possible to meet code and using few if any of the details required of the Energy Star program, insulation levels, soffit venting, airsealing around doors and windows, min heating and hot water system efficiencies, foundation insulation, rim and band joist insulation, duct sealing .... Perhaps Martin you have been working too long with only those contractors and trades people who have great pride in their craft to see what is actually being build on average today.

    :

  19. Frank Baker | | #19

    Baseline?
    It appears that the debate on this study in Houston is based on the defintion of "Baseline Homes". It seems that the "thousands of comparable baseline homes" studied do not fit the Energy Star defintion of a baseline home. I have crawled about many homes built in the the last decade in the Southeast that do fit the defintion of "code minimum/baseline or the worst legal home that can be built". If these were the homes that the Energy Star Certified homes were measured against I have to believe the results would be significantly different. It would seem obvious that the non-ES certified homes in Houston are built to a higher standard which is excellence evidence that Energy Star is having a significant influence on what is getting built. Wisconsin has also had a very active program of energy efficient building for many years and one would expect that the average home in Wisconsin also would exceed the "baseline".
    Regarding the statement "Nobody can sell me on the idea that an OSB-foam sandwich house (SIP) will withstand the test of time", it is obvious that many builders have missed a huge body of research on "Sandwich Panel" (SIP)homes starting after WW2 at the Forest Product Lab in Madison, Wisconsin to measure the durability of these structures. To make a very long story short the FPL study showed that SIP structures showed excellent durability. There is way to much scientific and real world evidence of SIP durability to cover here, but I would suggest the Structural Insulated Panel Association as good place to start an education.
    I personally have lived in a SIP home for nearly 18 years. We just had an ice storm last week that took 6 days to restore power. This was in Michigan and outside temps were well below freezing during the day and in single digits at night. The house temperature was reported to be cool but comfortable by friends who checked on it after 4 days (we were on vacation). I never worried about the house during the outage (of course the Energy Star freezer was another matter), but after four days the things in the freezer were only beginning to to slightly soften. We have been without power many times over the years and I new the house would perform well from experience (we do get significant solar gain through passive solar design techniques). Yes the house was Energy Star compliant and then some, but not certified. So does that mean it is a baseline house? By the way SIP houses are exempt from a blower door test for ES Certification.

  20. User avater GBA Editor
    Martin Holladay | | #20

    Response to Jay Walsh
    Jay,
    While I agree with your basic premise -- Energy Star homes are better built, on average, than comparable homes without an Energy Star label -- they don't use 20% less energy or 30% less energy than homes without a label. That's what researchers have shown.

    So I stand by my statement, which you dispute: "By the time the federal bureaucracy establishes a set of guidelines for Energy Star homes, many of the practices that it has decided to mandate have become mainstream. Try as it might, the Energy Star program has always lagged behind its stated goal of promoting homes that use 30% less energy than baseline homes."

    If you can point to a single study that shows that Energy Star homes use 30% less energy than comparable homes without an Energy Star label, I'll eat my words and apologize. Many researchers have tried, and all have failed.

  21. Deniz Bilge | | #21

    energy star
    There are many points on this star which may contribute to these statistics. While I agree that Energy Star is almost a joke in terms of effectively rating a home and needs a fantastic overhaul, I think there are other less tangible factors which increase energy consumption of a home. For example, consider people's mental psyches-- here is a brief story to explain what I mean:

    I have a neighbor who was always complaining about his high electric bills (electric baseboard included). Finally, he decided to insulate. Instead of gutting his house, he ripped off the siding and installed rigid XPS. About 1 month later, electrically lit candles were installed in EVERY window of the house. Surprised by the installation of useless lights, I asked why. His answer was because the insulation would save so much money that he could afford the candles.

    With that mentality, even if a home was actually built to a 30% greater standard, the lifestyle of the occupants may not be a constant in this equation.

  22. User avater GBA Editor
    Martin Holladay | | #22

    Response to Deniz Bilge
    Deniz,
    Assuming that the electric candles were only used in winter, then leaving them on 24 hours a day will not add to your neighbor's electric bill. If he has 200 watts of candles, that just means he needs 200 watts less of electric baseboard heat. All of his electrical load in winter (except for exterior lighting and the garage door opener) goes to help heat his house.

  23. Trish Holder | | #23

    Energy Star
    I think that not all Energy Star raters are created equal. Some are lax, and some are very stringent. Energy Star raters I don't think are required to do a Manual J and can accept one by the HVAC contractor. But who is to say he did a good job? Maybe he was inclined to fudge on the numbers. And maybe the Energy Star rater didn't bother to look to closely. It happens. And homeowners (POOR HOMEOWNERS) don't understand any of this, so they assume everything is okay. Even more so, if the have an Energy Star certification. So much comes down to the individuals doing the work. Ultimately I think homeowners have to become a bit more savvy. Or at least realize how vulnerable they are.

  24. Karin Argeris | | #24

    Better Building Stock Needs Quality Assurance
    I agree with all those who have pointed out the general improvement in the baseline product. I do believe that, at least in the Raleigh NC area, Energy Star has had a significant influence. Even non-certified homes are using many energy-saving features, so treating them as "baseline" may distort the analyses described.

    I also agree that quality assurance is key to any certification process. If the verification is suspect, as some have suggested, then we have no reliable evidence of value. As appraisers, we rely on certifications as "proof" of value added. We ask for HERS ratings for both our subject and comparables, and capitalize a conservative savings estimate based on the HERS differential to determine adjustments in Energy Efficiency. Hopefully, this is a reliable figure, and can be independent of the certification reliability.

  25. User avater GBA Editor
    Martin Holladay | | #25

    Response to Karin Argeris
    Karin,
    You wrote, "I agree with all those who have pointed out the general improvement in the baseline product."
    But the figures cited in this article are not comparing 2002 Energy Star homes to 2006 baseline homes. The comparison is 2002 Energy Star Homes to 2002 baseline homes, and 2006 Energy Star homes to 2006 baseline homes.

    Of course all homes are improving. Any home built today beats Abe Lincoln's log cabin, hands down. So what?

    If the only way for an Energy Star home to show 30% energy savings is to compare today's Energy Star homes with baseline homes of a generation ago, I'm not impressed. Clearly, if baseline homes are improving, it's only reasonable to expect Energy Star homes to improve too.

    Energy Star homes are improving, but they are still only saving between 2% and 10% of the energy used by baseline homes. That's what studies have shown for a decade.

  26. Sam Rashkin | | #26

    There's journalism for the
    There's journalism for the use of informing the public and journalism for the purpose of just trying to get attention. I'm afraid the latter appears to be the case with this article. Here's why.

    Houston study cannot validate savings from ENERGY STAR:
    Texas has a very strong code and substantial ENERGY STAR market penetration in most major markets (e.g., 40% or higher). Obviously subcontractors are going to adopt better practices for non-participant homes as well as ENERGY STAR homes. Thus, it becomes virtually impossible to analytically isolate the true savings attributed to ENERGY STAR. In fact, ENERGY STAR savings impacts are substantially understated by limiting them to only participant homes and not non-participant homes as well. Thus, the study is interesting but provides no useful insights. In markets with very low ENERGY STAR market penetration, I would expect that empirical data for labeled homes would reveal savings consistent or greater than 15% above code. I would ask anyone to simply observe that the targeted measures for ENERGY STAR are consistently being delivered in new homes in all markets, including Houston, and therefore, the program is effectively transforming the industry. Data can be a very dangerous tool when misused.

    Article ignores real purpose of ENERGY STAR:
    I dare anyone to compare construction today with 1996 when ENERGY STAR began and not visibly observe a massive improvement in construction practices. Yes, some of impact can be attributed to better codes. But, by-and-by, ENERGY STAR has been one of the most effective voluntary tools for raising the energy efficiency bar across all markets in the country. In fact, authors of the new 2009 IECC attribute their ability to insert ENERGY STAR's Thermal Bypass Checklist into this code to the success of ENERGY STAR. Criticizing the ease of ENERGY STAR specifications is very disturbing because it fails to appreciate the challenge to find a sweet-spot that serves all markets across the country and their place in a long-term strategy for transforming the housing industry to comprehensive building science. I challenge anyone to look at ENERGY STAR Version 3 specifications and not be impressed with the complete transformation to comprehensive building science. Industry and building science experts have widely praised these specifications.

    Timing:
    Why attack ENERGY STAR for Homes now when it is finally poised to achieve it's original vision for comprehensive building science. Is the purpose of your article to create road-blocks for this critical and final step in the building science transformation process or just to call attention to a substantially flawed analysis for determining ENERGY STAR for Homes impacts. Again, this study is interesting, but just presents data that is substantially useless for truly evaluating the impact of ENERGY STAR for Homes. We should know; EPA funded this study.

  27. Frank Baker | | #27

    Sam Rashkin
    Thank you Sam. You said it all in a way few others can.

  28. Bob Coleman | | #28

    i see two issues that push...
    i see two issues that push the usage up in these homes, or in one word: Opulence

    1. people have the false sense that there energy star ratings is 'saving' so much that they can over indulge, say run the A/C at a lower temp or the heating at a higher temp. it's ok to run more small loads in the washer because it's energy star!

    2. the typical clientele that values the energy star rating and can afford the extra costs is likely to consume more than their counterparts driving up there usage. the number of electric gadgets and the occupancy level is much higher. they may pay less attention to utility bills as they don't suffer just to make enough to pay them.

    these are not the ONLY reasons, but you might see a 10% improvement if adjusted for them

  29. User avater GBA Editor
    Martin Holladay | | #29

    Response to Sam Rashkin
    Sam,
    You have a tough job, and I know you have to juggle input and pressure from a variety of industry sources, including production builders and lobbyists from the American Gas Association and NAHB. No matter what your agency decides, you are likely to get criticized. As I said, a tough job.

    I don't think I'm guilty of practicing "journalism for the purpose of just trying to get attention." I'm trying to fill one of journalism's traditional roles: challenging a government program to serve wider interests than the interests in Washington, DC, that are represented by powerful lobbyists.

    I'm just one voice. Consider my voice to be an attempt to balance the voices of the lobbyists from the American Gas Association and NAHB. My voice is not backed by a huge national organization with a big annual budget, but I hope you and the EPA can consider my voice -- especially when larger economic interests find it easier to have their voices heard.

    It is vitally important for the future of our planet that we move very quickly to find a way to build and renovate homes so that they use much less energy than they do now. Your program is in a position to make an important difference. My reporting urges you (and Energy Star Homes) to take a bolder position, and not to cave in as quickly when economic interests say that greater energy savings can't be achieved.

    I'm glad that Version 3 is raising the bar once more; I have reported on Version 3 in my latest blog, The Energy Star Homes Program Raises the Bar with Version 3.

  30. User avater
    Kent Mitchell | | #30

    variances
    As a rater & verifier for several programs I have seenthe whole range of builders trying to meet ES. The new V2.5 & V3 will raise the bar and create more efficient homes. Will they all be perfect ES homes? No. Baselineis hard to judge in reality as there are such a range of builders...most I deal with already exceed coode considerably and don't have far to go to get ES. I do know of raters that also rubber stamp projects as well.

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