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ENERGY STAR Qualified New Homes
ENERGY STAR qualified homes are independently verified to be
at least 30% more energy efficient than homes built to the 1993
national Model Energy Code or 15% more efficient than state
energy code, whichever is more rigorous. These savings are
based on heating, cooling, and hot water energy use and are
typically achieved through a combination of:
building envelope upgrades,
high performance windows,
controlled air infiltration,
upgraded heating and air conditioning systems,
tight duct systems and
upgraded water-heating equipment.
These features contribute to improved home quality and
homeowner comfort, and to lower energy demand and reduced air
pollution. ENERGY STAR also encourages the use of energyLook for this label when buying
efficient lighting and appliances, as well as features designed to
your next home.
improve indoor air quality.
Here are some questions commonly asked about ENERGY STAR
qualified homes:
How does a home earn the ENERGY STAR label?
The ENERGY STAR label is earned only after the home's energy efficiency is verified, either by
an independent third-party such as an accredited home energy rater or Builder Option Package
(BOP) verifier, or by adhering to the quality control procedures established for HUD-code
manufactured homes.
What types of homes can earn the ENERGY STAR label?
Any single-family or multi-family residential home that is three stories or less in height can qualify
to receive the ENERGY STAR label. This includes traditional site-constructed homes as well as
modular, systems-built (e.g., insulated concrete forms, structurally insulated panels), and HUDcode manufactured homes.
Can existing homes earn the ENERGY STAR?
Yes. Existing homes can be qualified for the ENERGY STAR label if they meet ENERGY STAR's
performance guidelines. However, it is not always practical or cost-effective to bring an existing
home to this level of efficiency. Nevertheless, the energy efficiency of existing homes can often
be greatly improved using cost-effective retrofit techniques. Visit Home Improvement to learn
Do energy-efficient homes look different?
No, builders and developers constructing ENERGY STAR qualified new homes do not have to
alter their architectural designs. An ENERGY STAR qualified new home can be built in whatever
style the consumer prefers or is most popular in a particular geographic region.
Does an energy-efficient home cost more?
No. An ENERGY STAR qualified new home actually costs less because you will spend less on
your new home's utility bill each month. These energy savings can more than offset any increase
in mortgage payments needed for the improved energy features and can result in a positive
monthly cash flow. Further, ENERGY STAR financing partners offer special mortgage packages
for buyers of ENERGY STAR qualified new homes.
How will I know if a home is labeled ENERGY STAR?
Look for the ENERGY STAR label, which should be prominently displayed on the circuit breaker
box. You can also ask your builder for the home's ENERGY STAR certificate. This optional
certificate indicates that the home has been verified to meet EPA's ENERGY STAR qualified new
homes performance guidelines.
How can I participate in ENERGY STAR as a home industry professional?
ENERGY STAR currently partners with four main types of home industry professionals:
homebuilders, home energy raters, utilities and other sponsoring organizations, and home
lenders. After completing and signing a partnership agreement, partners can take advantage of
the widely recognized ENERGY STAR name, logos, and a variety of other marketing resources.
Other home industry professionals can promote ENERGY STAR as well.
Features of ENERGY STAR Qualified New Homes
ENERGY STAR qualified new homes achieve their energy savings through a variety of reliable
and established technologies and building practices. Builders are free to select the energy
efficiency features used in their new qualified homes, tour the home below to learn more about
the technologies and practices that are typically included.
Tight Construction (Reduced Air Infiltration)
Tight Ducts
Improved Insulation
High Performance Windows
Energy Efficient Heating & Cooling Equipment
Verification of ENERGY STAR Qualified New Homes
Verification of a home's energy efficiency by a third party verifier is an integral step in acquiring
the ENERGY STAR label and certificate. Verification is generally dependent upon the
construction method used to build the home. Homes constructed on-site are typically verified
using one of two methods:
HERS Ratings
Builder Option Packages (BOPs)
The New Homes Partner locator can be used to locate HERS raters and available BOPs in your
Homes constructed off-site in a controlled environment, such as HUD-code based manufactured
homes, are verified and labeled using specially developed quality control procedures. For more
information on building ENERGY STAR qualified manufactured homes please contact Brian Ng
at [email protected] or at (202) 343-9162.
Home Energy Ratings Systems (HERS) Ratings
A HERS rating is an evaluation of the energy efficiency of a home, compared to a computersimulated reference house of identical size and shape as the rated home that meets minimum
requirements of the Model Energy Code (MEC). The HERS rating results in a score between 0 and
100, with the reference house assigned a score of 80. From this point, each 5% reduction in
energy usage (compared to the reference house) results in a one point increase in the HERS
score. Thus, an ENERGY STAR qualified new home, required to be significantly more energyefficient than the reference house, must achieve a HERS score of at least 86.*
HERS ratings are conducted by third party HERS raters. To find a rater near you, use the New
Homes Partner Locator.
HERS ratings involve the analysis of a home's construction plans and at least one on-site
inspection of the home. The construction plan review allows the home energy rater to attain
technical information such as orientation, shading area, proposed SEER rating, insulation levels,
etc. The on-site inspection includes a blower door test (to test the leakiness of the house) and a
duct test (to test the leakiness of the ducts). Results of these tests, along with inputs derived from
the construction plan review, are entered into a computer simulation program that generates the
HERS score and the home's estimated annual energy costs.
*Typically, ENERGY STAR qualified new homes are at least 30% more energy-efficient than
standard homes. However, depending on the rigor of an individual state's energy code, this
percentage may vary.
Builder Option Packages (BOP) Ratings
A Builder Option Package (BOP) is the other manner through which a home can be qualified as an
ENERGY STAR qualified new home. BOPs represent a set of construction specifications for a
specific climate zone. BOPs specify performance levels for the thermal envelope, insulation,
windows, orientation, HVAC system and water heating efficiency for a specific climate zone that
meet the standard. (For the purposes of using BOPs, the U.S. has been divided in 19 separate
climate zones)
To view BOPs for your climate zone refer to our BOP library, which is organized by state.
Tight Construction
Reduced Air Infiltration
Many ENERGY STAR qualified new homes feature tighter construction than that of homes built to
the Model Energy Code. Tighter house construction can improve the energy efficiency, air quality,
and comfort of your home by eliminating unwanted drafts.
Tighter home construction can offer you:
Improved comfort - reduces drafts, noise, and moisture.
Improved indoor air quality - keeps dust, pollen, car exhaust, and insects out of the
Lower costs - reduces escape of conditioned air.
Unfortunately, there are hundreds of penetrations through a typical home's exterior. These gaps
and holes are often incurred during framing, and from penetrations for wiring, plumbing, and ducts.
Air sealing the house's envelope combined with proper ventilation, can reduce your energy bills
and eliminate unwanted drafts and pollutants.
Reduced air infiltration combined with proper ventilation can not only reduces your energy bills but
it can also improve the quality of your indoor air. Outdoor air that leaks indoor makes it difficult to
maintain comfort and energy efficiency. In addition, air leakage accounts for 25-40% of the energy
used for heating and cooling in a typical home.
Today, off-the-shelf technologies such as house wraps, sealants, foams, and tapes reduce air
infiltration. In energy-efficient homes, builders use these tools to seal the myriad of cracks and
gaps in framing along with hundreds of holes for plumbing, mechanical equipment, and electrical
View the fact sheets below to learn more detailed information regarding proper air sealing and
Air Sealing
Air Sealing (32KB)
Value-Engineered Framing
Balanced Ventilation Systems (44KB)
Exhaust Ventilation Systems (44KB)
Supply Ventilation Systems (48KB)
If you own an existing home, find out how you can improve your home's air sealing
Home Sealing
Sealing your home's envelope is one of the most cost-effective ways to lower your home's energy
bills and improve your comfort. ENERGY STAR Home Sealing improves your home's envelope by:
Sealing air leaks to stop drafts
Adding Insulation
Choosing ENERGY STAR qualified windows when replacing old windows.
How to get Home Sealing
If your attic is accessible and you have a weekend to spare, do-it-yourself with help from our Guide
to ENERGY STAR Home Sealing. The Guide offers step-step instructions for sealing air leaks and
adding insulation. If you would rather get professional help, you may want to hire a contractor with
special diagnostic tools. See our recommendations for finding a contractor.
Questions About Home Sealing
What is a home envelope?
What is air sealing and why is it important?
Why is insulation important?
Can I over-seal my house? (Make it too tight?)
Is Home Sealing something I can do myself?
What is reflective insulation (a radiant barrier)?
What is a home envelope?
The exterior of your home is also called the "envelope" or shell. (See
the orange line showing the envelope in the diagram at left.) The
insulation, outer walls, ceiling, doors, windows, and floors all work
together to control airflow in and out of the structure, repel moisture,
and prevent heat from being lost or gained inside your home. A
high-performance envelope helps maintain a consistent temperature
even under extremely hot or cold conditions. The goal of Home
Sealing is to improve the home envelope to make homes more
comfortable and energy efficient.
What is air sealing and why is it important?
Air sealing is simply closing holes, cracks, and
gaps where air can pass into or out of your
home. On hot and cold days, you pay money to
run an air conditioner or a furnace to maintain
your home at a comfortable temperature. A
house that leaks air costs more to heat or cool
because your system must work longer to
"condition" the air. In addition, if you happen to
sit next to one of those leaks, you are
uncomfortable because the room feels hotter or
colder. Sealing those air leaks will help you
maintain your home at a comfortable
temperature all year long and help lower energy
Common air leaks.
The biggest holes are most often found in the
attic and the basement. Caulk, spray foam, and
weather stripping are the most common
materials used for air sealing.
Why is insulation important?
Insulation is designed to resist heat flow - that is, if it is hot outside, insulation greatly reduces the
amount of heat you can feel inside a house. Or, if it is cold outside, insulation helps keep the heat
inside the house. Without insulation, the walls of your house would be very hot to the touch
during the summer and your air conditioner must work harder to keep you cool. In the winter, a
lack of insulation makes walls very cold to the touch and the furnace must work harder to keep
you warm.
Insulation works best when air is not moving through or around it. Therefore, it is very important
that air leaks be sealed to ensure that you get the full performance out of any insulation that is
To get the biggest savings, the easiest place to add insulation is in the attic. When adding
insulation to your house it is important to first evaluate how much and what type of insulation you
currently have in you attic. The Recommended Levels of Insulation table can help you determine
what is most cost-effective for your home. For more comprehensive information, review the
Department of Energy's online Insulation Guide
The most common types of insulation are fiberglass (batt and blown), cellulose, rigid foam, rock
wool, and spray foam. If your house was insulated with vermiculite insulation it could contain
asbestos. Take special precautions if your home has vermiculite insulation.
Can I over-seal my house? (Make it too tight?)
While it is possible to seal a house too tightly, it is unlikely to happen in most
older homes because they generally leak more than newer homes. A certain
amount of fresh air is needed for good indoor air quality and there are
specifications that set the minimum amount of fresh air needed for a house. If
you are concerned about how tight your home is, you can hire an energy
specialist who can perform leakage tests using diagnostic tools, and make sure
all combustion appliances are operating properly If a home is too tight, fresh air
ventilation can be added.
Is Home Sealing something I can do myself?
Yes! There are air sealing and insulation activities you can do yourself and it is worth doing. A
handy homeowner can seal up holes, weather strip doors, caulk pipes and wires, and often
insulate attic floors, basements, and crawl space walls. Remember, it's important to always air
seal before adding insulation.
You can also hire an energy specialist who uses special tools, like a blower
door, to find hidden leaks and are experienced at sealing and adding
insulation. The blower door can also test how tight your home is after
sealing. A Home Energy Rater or other energy consultant can perform a
blower-door test and develop a plan for the most cost-effective measures to
improve your home. Also, blown-in and sprayed insulation are usually best
left to professional installers who have all the equipment. If you hire a
contractor, shop around and get several written bids. Remember that a
quality installation is more important than low cost. At the end of a job,
contractors that install insulation are required by the Federal Trade
Commission to provide you with a signed receipt that shows the R-value of
the insulation they added.
What is reflective insulation (a radiant barrier)?
Reflective insulation (also called a radiant barrier) is a metallic foil material
(usually aluminum) designed to block radiant heat transfer across open
spaces. According to the Dept. of Energy's (DOE) Radiant Barrier Fact Sheet, reflective
insulation can be effective at reducing cooling bills and, possibly, reducing heating bills in homes.
DOE also states that the performance and long-term cost-effectiveness of the product depends
on number of factors, including: where the product is installed, how the product is installed, and
the amount of existing insulation currently in the home. DOE and the Florida Solar Energy Center
(FSEC) have excellent and detailed web sites that explain how the product works, general
guidance on the best way to install the product, which climates the product is most cost effective,
and energy savings one could reasonably expect. Please read through these sites for more
information on this product category:
Tight Ducts
Many ENERGY STAR qualified new homes feature more tightly sealed ducts than those of a home
built to the Model Energy Code. Tightly sealed ducts are crucial to energy efficiency and
maintaining comfort.
Ducts carry air from the central heater or air conditioner to each part of the home and back again.
Unfortunately, ducts can waste a significant amount of energy and money due to improper
installation and poor materials. A number of factors can affect the functioning of ducts, including:
Duct Sealing
Typically, ducts are so leaky that more than 35% of the conditioned air is lost before it arrives at
the target room the duct is trying to reach. This means that more than 20% of the energy used to
condition the air is wasted. Improved duct performance depends on sealing the seams between
the ducts. Duct tape, which is commonly used, does not adequately seal the joints nor does it last
very long. UL listed tapes or duct mastic should be used to seal all joints and seams in the
Duct Location
Builders often place ducts in spaces that homeowners do not heat or cool, such as attics,
crawlspaces, garages, or unfinished basements. The extreme temperatures that can occur in
these spaces (attic air in the summer can reach above 150F) will affect the temperature of the air
moving through the ducts into the home. Installing ducts within the conditioned area of a home will
substantially reduce duct air losses.
Duct Insulation
As air moves through uninsulated ducts, its temperature is affected by the temperature of the hot
or cool space where the duct is located. To reduce these temperature variations, ducts need to be
insulated. If the ducts are located in the living area of the home, which tends to remain at a
reasonable temperature, then the need for insulation is reduced. However, some insulation is still
needed to ensure that the conditioned air is delivered at the desired temperature and to prevent
condensation on the duct walls.
Duct Sizing
Ducts that are not properly sized and designed can result in poor air distribution, unhealthy indoor
air, discomfort, increased noise, and higher utility bills. The best ducts are properly sized, run
minimally, have smooth interior surfaces, and the least number of direction and size changes. If
the home has tight construction, increased insulation, and advanced windows, the expense of
running ducts to the perimeter of the home is not necessary, since there will be less variation in
temperature throughout the home.
Tightly sealed ducts can offer you:
More consistent comfort - the proper amount of conditioned air distributes to each room.
Significantly improved indoor air quality - reduces intake of dust, pollen, and other
pollutants from unconditioned spaces.
Lower utility bills - reduces the amount of conditioned air needed to heat and cool your
In typical American homes, ducts leak 20-30% of the air being forced through them. This means
money is being wasted when heating or cooling your home. Duct systems should be properly
sealed and verified by a field test to reduce any leaks.
View these duct-related fact sheets to learn more detailed information.
Duct Insulation (28KB)
Duct Sealing (32KB)
Locating Ducts Within Conditioned Space
Duct Sizing/Compact Ducts (32KB)
Improved Insulation
Many ENERGY STAR qualified new homes feature improved insulation from that of a home built
to the Model Energy Code. Improved insulation not only keeps out excessive outside heat or cold,
but also maintains even temperatures between and across rooms inside the home.
In most climates it is easy and cost-effective to increase insulation levels beyond those required by
state building codes. This increase helps a home maintain a comfortable inside temperature while
using less energy. For a home to maintain temperature efficiently, a continuous boundary of
insulation is necessary between the inside and outside. Insulation must be installed carefully with
no gaps, crimping, or compression, as these can allow unwanted air and heat exchange between
the outside and inside. Careful attention must be paid in areas where the insulation has to fit
around obstacles such as pipes, electrical wiring, and outlets.
Learn more about how Increased Insulation
(32KB) can increase your home's comfort and
Improved insulation can offer you:
Improved comfort - maintains a constant temperature in the house and between and
across rooms.
Lower utility bills - proper HVAC equipment compensates for heat loss in winter and heat
gain in summer.
If you own an existing home, find out about improving your home's insulation
High Performance Windows
Many ENERGY STAR qualified new homes feature high-performance windows. Highperformance, energy-efficient windows can improve the energy efficiency of your home by
reducing heat loss in cooler climates and heat gain in warmer climates.
Window technologies have advanced dramatically and prices for these windows have dropped
significantly. Look for windows with the ENERGY STAR label. Heat gain and loss through windows
accounts for up to 50% of a home's heating and cooling needs. Many technological improvements
have been made in recent years that have advanced the insulating quality of windows including:
Improved Window Materials
Advances in window technology such as double glazing and low-e coatings substantially reduce
heat loss and gains. Look for ENERGY STAR or National Fenestration Rating Council (NFRC)
labels to be sure you are getting high-efficiency windows.
Improved Framing Materials
Low conductance materials, such as wood, vinyl, and fiberglass perform better than aluminum.
Look for "thermal breaks" where aluminum frames are used in heating-dominated climates to avoid
condensation. Insulated frames, including insulating spacers between glazings, also perform better
than uninsulated frames.
Air Tightness
High-performance or advanced windows need to be sealed around framing and other gaps that
may exist. Caulks, foams, and weather-stripping work well to keep drafts out.
High-performance, energy-efficient windows can offer you:
Quieter home interior - multiple panes and insulated frames block outside noise.
Reduced fading of curtains, furniture, and flooring - low-emissivity (solar window) coatings
can block up to 98% of UV rays.
Reduced utility bills - houses lose less heat in winter and absorb less heat in summer.
Improved quality windows are made from better-quality materials easier to operate and
carry extended warranties.
Windows typically comprise 10-25% of a home's exterior wall area, and account for 25-50% of the
heating and cooling needs, depending on the climate. Thus, it is critical to consider highperformance, energy-efficient windows when constructing a new home.
Learn more detailed information about high performance windows
Energy Efficient Heating & Cooling Equipment
Many ENERGY STAR qualified new homes feature a right-sized approach to high-efficiency
heating and cooling equipment. By paying proper attention to air and duct sealing, insulation, and
energy-efficient windows during construction, the size of an ENERGY STAR qualified new home's
heating and cooling equipment can often be smaller than the equipment needed in a home built to
the Model Energy Code.
Heating or cooling a home can account for over 50% of the home's total energy use. You can
significantly lower utility bills by choosing equipment carefully. Learn more about these moneysaving options by choosing the links below.
Heating a Home
By installing high-efficiency, heating and cooling equipment you can significantly reduce the
amount of energy used to heat a home. View the fact sheets below to learn more detailed
ENERGY STAR Labeled Boilers (32KB)
ENERGY STAR Labeled Furnaces (32KB)
ENERGY STAR Labeled Heat Pumps (32KB)
ENERGY STAR Labeled Programmable Thermostats
Cooling a Home
Properly sizing and installing high-efficiency heating and cooling equipment can significantly
reduce the costs of cooling a home. View the fact sheets below to learn more detailed information.
Right-Sized Air Conditioners (28KB)
ENERGY STAR Labeled Air Conditioners
Right-sized, highly-efficient heating and cooling equipment can offer you:
Lower utility bills - heating and cooling equipment doesn't "over-work"
Fewer maintenance problems - heating and cooling equipment consistently runs at its
optimal level.
A quieter home - oversized equipment isn't continually cycling on and off to meet
unnecessary heating and cooling demands.
Poor air and duct sealing dictates that typical home heating and cooling equipment be oversized
so it can quickly meet the typical home's heating or cooling demand. This oversized equipment
'short-cycles', failing to run long enough to reach its most efficient levels. Moisture problems can
result, as the system does not run long enough to properly pull moisture out of the air. Shortcycling also causes the system to run more frequently, which wears the equipment down quickly.
By reducing a home's heating and cooling demand through better air and duct sealing, the need
for oversized equipment can be avoided.