Complaints and Certification Review
ENERGY STAR certified homes undergo a process of independent inspections and testing to ensure that they meet strict requirements set by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). In cases where a homeowner has concerns about the ENERGY STAR certification of their home, the first and best option is to attempt a resolution directly with the home builder (typically through the builder’s home warranty process). If a homeowner is unsuccessful in resolving their concerns through the builder, they can request a Certification Review (CR) for their home, subject to the eligibility criteria below.
The purpose of Certification Review is to determine if a home should maintain its ENERGY STAR certification or if the certification must be withdrawn based on a review of the home’s current physical state. Homeowners should understand that making this determination is the limit of EPA’s purview in addressing concerns about home certifications. Below are several actions that the Agency has no authority to pursue (this should not be considered to be a comprehensive list of such actions):
- Sending EPA personnel to inspect a home in question;
- Acting as an intermediary between parties regarding disputes;
- Taking legal action to compel a builder to make modifications to a home;
- Pursuing financial compensation on behalf of the homebuyer;
- Pursuing criminal enforcement or other penalties against the builder beyond revocation of partnership; and
- Providing legal guidance to homeowners regarding litigation they are taking or may pursue against the builder.
Certification Reviews are administered by the EPA-recognized Home Certification Organization (HCO) that issued the home certification through a defined process. Homeowners that are unable to identify the HCO that certified their home or have other questions about the Certification Review process should contact EPA at email@example.com.
Once a Certification Review is initiated, the process is designed to move swiftly to resolution on a defined schedule and there will not be an opportunity to pause the process for negotiation between parties or to correct an issue that is subsequently discovered. Therefore, a Certification Review should only be requested once all other avenues for resolution are exhausted.
To be eligible for Certification Review, the following five conditions must be met:
- The homeowner must have attempted to resolve the complaint with the builder.
- The home must have been built and/or certified within the last two years and be owned by the original owner. For homes older than two years or not owned by the original owner, the Certification Review will be unable to determine whether discrepancies are due to homeowner modifications of the home or natural aging of construction materials.
- The home must have been ENERGY STAR certified or sold as such.
- There must have been no significant structural changes to the home since it was built. If such modifications have been made, the Certification Review will not be able to determine whether those modifications caused any discrepancies with the ENERGY STAR program requirements.
- There must be evidence that the home is not in compliance with one or more applicable ENERGY STAR program requirements. Homeowners are encouraged to be as specific as possible in identifying the program requirement that they believe was not met and providing evidence, including photos if possible.
Please refer to the HCO’s policies for additional conditions, if any.
Certification Review Process
Homeowners may submit an official request for Certification Review (CR) directly to the Home Certification Organization that originally certified the home. The HCO will review the request for eligibility and assign an appropriate individual to complete the CR according to the HCO’s policies. After collecting documentation of the original certification, the assigned reviewer will schedule a visit to the home to inspect and test the current conditions. Homeowners should coordinate a date and time for the visit at their earliest convenience.
The assigned reviewer will complete the CR and prepare a Certification Review Report within 60 days of assignment. A copy of the report will be shared with the HCO, which will in turn share the report with the homeowner and EPA.
- If the assigned reviewer determines that the home fails the Certification Review, the ENERGY STAR certification of the home shall be withdrawn.
- If the assigned reviewer determines that the home passes the Certification Review, the ENERGY STAR certification of the home shall be maintained. A homeowner will have an opportunity to appeal this determination, at their discretion (please refer to the HCO’s policies for details on the appeals process).
Detailed instructions and item-by-item guidance for performing Certification Reviews can be found in the Quality Assurance and Certification Review Checklists, available in the Additional Resources section of the Program Requirements page.
Destructive Testing and Third-Party Consultants
If requested by the homeowner, destructive testing may be used to inspect items that would otherwise not be visible during the Certification Review. For example, if it were suspected that no insulation was installed in an exterior wall, observation holes could be drilled in the interior gypsum board. The homeowner bears complete responsibility for arranging all demolition and repair for destructive testing that they elect to undertake. Before undertaking destructive testing, it is recommended that homeowners consult with a qualified expert who can use non-invasive methods, such as infrared imaging, to prioritize areas of concern. Demolition work, such as drilling observation holes, must occur in the presence of the assigned reviewer performing the Certification Review. Areas that are exposed outside the presence of the assigned reviewer cannot be considered for the purpose of the Certification Review.
An HCO’s appeals policy may provide the homeowner the opportunity to hire a qualified third-party, at the homeowner’s expense, to consult on the findings of the assigned reviewer. Due to the specialized nature of the ENERGY STAR program, consultants must have the requisite training and experience to offer informed advice on a Certification Review. Homeowners should closely review the HCO’s appeals policy for consultant qualification requirements and are encouraged to confirm a firm’s eligibility with the HCO before engaging them for services.
In some cases, a homeowner may wish to hire an expert consultant before filing a Certification Review request to assess which ENERGY STAR program requirements may be at issue and gather evidence. Again, homeowners are encouraged to seek consultants with the requisite experience noted above. Please note that while a consultant’s report will be accepted for the purpose of determining eligibility, the Certification Review itself will be based solely on the inspections, tests, and documentation review performed by the assigned reviewer themselves.