Become a Recognized HCO
Since its inception, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA)'s ENERGY STAR Residential New Construction Program has required third-party verification of homes and apartments that earn ENERGY STAR certification. In 2019, EPA undertook a comprehensive update of the oversight recognition structure, including changing terminology from Verification Oversight Organization (VOO) to Home Certification Organization (HCO). These changes are intended to better reflect the entire home certification process, rather than just verification oversight. The changes also provide for better consistency in EPA's approach across its residential home labeling programs (such as WaterSense). Effective May 26, 2020, the certification structure for homes and apartments using an Energy Rating Index or dwelling unit modeling compliance path is now defined by two documents:
- ENERGY STAR Certification System (PDF, 396 KB)
This document establishes the specific eligibility criteria, policy requirements, and certification procedures required of a Home Certification Organization (HCO). 1
- ENERGY STAR Certification Protocol (PDF, 179 KB)
This companion document identified the Standards and ENERGY STAR Residential New Construction national and regional Program Requirements required to be met for a home or apartment to earn the ENERGY STAR certification when an ERI-based path is used.
An organization seeking to become an HCO must submit an 'Application for Recognition' to EPA that demonstrates that it meets the program's eligibility criteria and has the capability, competencies, and proper controls to implement an ENERGY STAR certification program in accordance with the ENERGY STAR Certification System and the ENERGY STAR Certification Protocol. Organizations may apply for HCO recognition at the national level, in California only, or both nationally and in California. 2 The 'Application for Recognition' is included in the ENERGY STAR Certification System and also available as an editable document (WORD, 49 KB) for ease of use.
Completed 'Applications for Recognition' should be submitted to EPA at the physical address below, or via email at email@example.com.
Applications are accepted and reviewed on a rolling basis. EPA will confirm receipt of applications received within five business days and will use its best efforts to make determinations on applications received within 90 business days. Note that all applicants must also participate in a formal interview process with EPA staff, to be conducted either at EPA's offices or via conference call. EPA also strongly encourages organizations considering pursuing recognition to contact ENERGY STAR to discuss their interest before applying.
EPA will evaluate each 'Application for Recognition' and will either grant approval for an HCO to operate an ENERGY STAR certification program or provide written feedback to the applicant noting where the application did not meet EPA requirements and the opportunity to discuss identified issues with EPA. Applicants will be given 30 days to amend their application and resubmit for review. If the applicant does not resubmit within 30 days, the application will be terminated. Further, if EPA determines that the resubmitted application does not meet its requirements, the application will be terminated and the Agency will not review subsequent amendments to the application for a period of six months.
1 EPA's recognition of an HCO relates solely and specifically to the ENERGY STAR Residential New Construction programs for site-built single-family homes and multifamily buildings that are certified using an Energy Rating Index (ERI) or, in California, dwelling unit modeling approach, and does not qualify an organization to implement or participate in other aspects of the ENERGY STAR program. (e.g., ENERGY STAR certification of multifamily buildings using an ASHRAE-based approach or ENERGY STAR certified manufactured homes), nor federal tax credit verification (unless ENERGY STAR is specifically required for tax credit eligibility).
2 The requirement to certify through an HCO in California goes into effect for homes and apartments certified using ENERGY STAR Single-Family New Homes (SFNH) California Version 3.3 and Multifamily New Construction (MFNC) California Version 1.3. Visit www.energystar.gov/newhomesrequirements for more details including the Version implementation timelines. Applications for HCO recognition in California are currently being accepted and reviewed.