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History of the ENERGY STAR Guidelines for New Homes

The goal of the ENERGY STAR for New Homes program is to help homebuyers easily identify homes that are significantly more energy efficient than standard construction in the marketplace.� Over time, as mandated code requirements have become more rigorous and builder standard practices have become more efficient, EPA has periodically modified the ENERGY STAR guidelines for new homes to ensure that homes that earn the label continue to represent a meaningful improvement over non-labeled homes.

The ENERGY STAR for Homes Program

Timeline Notes

  1. For homes qualified under Version 3, the qualification date is the date of final inspection.
  2. Homes qualified to ENERGY STAR Version 1 met the HERS Score of 86 on the pre-2006 scale, which equated to 30% more efficient than a home built to the 1992 Model� Energy Code (MEC), or an applicable Builder Option Package (BOP).� Inspection checklists were not required for this version.
  3. The Rater may define the �permit date' as either the date that the permit was issued or the date of the contract on the home. In cases were permit or contract dates are not available, Providers have discretion to estimate permit dates based on other construction schedule factors. These assumptions should be both defensible and documented.
  4. All homes permitted on or after January 1, 2012 must be certified as Version 3. Previously homes could be certified under Version 2.5 at any time in 2011 at the discretion of builders and their raters.
  5. All multi-family homes financed through low-income housing agencies may earn the ENERGY STAR under the last iteration of the guidelines, Version 2, until January 1, 2013 as long as the application for funding for those homes was received by the low-income housing agency before April 1, 2011 and the housing project includes at least one unit reserved for low-income tenants. If the application for funding is received between April 1, 2011 and December 31, 2011, then the homes must earn the ENERGY STAR under the Version 2.5 guidelines if completed before July 1, 2012, and under the Version 3 guidelines if completed on or after July 1, 2012. If the application for funding is received on or after January 1, 2012 then the homes must earn the ENERGY STAR under the Version 3 guidelines.
  6. Prior to January 1, 2012, EPA allowed the labeling of ENERGY STAR Version 3 on a pilot program basis in areas in which a utility or state sponsor mandated or incentivized early adoption of Version 3 provided that they met certain requirements.

The ENERGY STAR label for new homes was first offered in 1995.  At that time, the ENERGY STAR guidelines focused on improvements in several key areas of the home, including high-performance windows, tight construction and ducts, and efficient heating and cooling equipment, along with third-party verification by a certified Home Energy Rater.  These initial guidelines stayed in effect for 10 years, with some regional modifications to reflect more rigorous local codes or construction practices.

In response to increased mandatory requirements in the national model energy codes and local requirements, as well as evolving construction practices, EPA developed more stringent guidelines (“ENERGY STAR Version 2”) in 2006.  The updated guidelines added a Thermal Bypass Checklist (TBC) inspection, a visual inspection of the insulation installation, a requirement for right-sized HVAC systems, and stronger promotion of incorporating efficient lighting and appliances into certified homes.  These guidelines became effective on January 1, 2007; however, the TBC was not required for certain homes until July 1, 2007:

  • For homes enrolled in a state or utility program before December 31, 2005 and for homes permitted before July 1, 2006, the TBC was phased in from January 1 to June 30, 2007, and then became mandatory starting July 1, 2007.
  • For Homes permitted on or after July 1, 2006, the TBC was phased in from July 1, 2006 to December 31, 2006 and then became mandatory starting January 1, 2007.

As codes and standard practices have continued to increase across the country, EPA recently released a third-generation of guidelines (“ENERGY STAR Version 3”) that will be phased in during 2011.  As with the Version 2 guidelines, some of the new inspection requirements will not be fully enforced until later.  Learn more about ENERGY STAR Version 3.