If you’re looking to buy a new home or rent a new apartment, it is well worth your time to become familiar with some of the basic terminology surrounding energy efficiency. Knowing what to look for in a home and being able to ask the right questions can help you to save money on your monthly utility bills, lessen any negative impact on our environment, and help you enjoy a better quality of home.
Each of the following terms can be used not only in conjunction with houses and apartments, but also commercial and industrial buildings. For the sake of homebuyers, we will focus on these terms as they apply to home and personal use.
Energy Star – The first term that many people may already be familiar with is Energy Star. Energy Star ratings can apply to both appliances and homes and can be seen on a variety of different products such as refrigerators, washing machines, and even windows. Energy Star is a voluntary program set up by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to help individuals and businesses save money and lessen environmental impact. To receive the Energy Star label, both homes and products must be third-party tested based on set guidelines. Homes can also receive the designation if they are built using a prescribed set of construction specifications. Products that meet the set standards have been proven to be more energy efficient then their counterparts. One example is that an Energy Star rated clothes washer uses about 70% less energy and 75% less water than a standard washer used 20 years ago. Homes built to today’s Energy Start requirements are at least 15% more efficient than homes built to the 2009 International Energy Conservation Code.
HERS rating– The Home Energy Rating System (HERS) is the industry standard by which a home’s energy efficiency is measured. It is also the nationally recognized system for inspecting and calculating a home’s energy performance.
The HERS index functions on a rating scale with standard new homes as the baseline for comparison. According to the U.S. Department of Energy, a standard new home is built to rate 100 on the HERS rating scale. The lower the score of the home on the index scale, the better the rating. A home with a HERS rating of 50 is 50% more efficient than a home with a rating of 100 where a home with a rating of 150 is 50% less efficient. The lowest the rating can go is 0 and these types of homes are known as Net Zero Energy Homes. These homes produce as much energy through renewable resources as they consume. This can be achieved through various methods including solar power and passive heating.
The HERS rating system can tell you how efficient your home is performing and allow you to diagnose problem areas to make your home more efficient, which can save money in utility bills and keep your home better climate controlled.
LEED Certification – Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEEDS) is a rating system for ‘green’ and energy efficient buildings, homes, and neighborhoods. LEED provides a framework for implementing practical and measurable green building design, construction, operations, and maintenance solutions.
LEED certification relies on independent third party verification. They verify that the building was designed and built using strategies focusing on high performance with human and environmental health in mind. Some of these areas include sustainable site development, water savings, energy efficiency, materials selection, and indoor environmental quality.
Businesses choose to become LEED certified for many different reasons. When buildings meet the criteria, they have been proven to lower operating costs, increase asset value, conserve energy and water, they are safer and healthier for occupants, and the builder can qualify for money saving incentives like tax rebates and zoning allowances. A willingness to achieve certification also demonstrates a desire for environmental care and social responsibility.
LEED certification comes in several different tiers: certified, silver, gold, and platinum.
While there is much more to be learned about energy efficient housing, knowing more about the three topics in this blog post can help you to make informed, money-saving decisions on your next home. Fahe members across five states build homes that conform to one or more of these building standards in order to provide the families of Appalachia with quality, affordable homes.
If you would like to learn more about energy efficiency and some of the homes already build by Fahe members, that information is available here: A Brighter Path Forward.