There is no "one-size-fits-all" approach to program design and implementation strategies because each market has unique characteristics. For example, some markets are represented by mostly small regional and custom builders, while others are dominated by large production builders. Some markets have a strong home energy rater presence, while others have minimal or no rater infrastructure. Therefore, the key to successful program design and implementation is having a thorough understanding of the market and effectively addressing the most important regional factors and potential barriers to program participation.
The program design and implementation best practices below were developed based on EPA's experience working with more than 100 utility partners to implement successful ENERGY STAR Certified Homes programs across the country for over fifteen years.
The following are four key steps to effectively design a residential new construction energy efficiency program that incorporates ENERGY STAR certified homes.
Step 1: Conduct Market Research
Consult national home builder publications for annual reports on top builders in your region, including housing starts, predominant builder size, type, and geographic distribution. The ENERGY STAR Partner Locator is a great resource for identifying existing builders, developers, verification professionals, and sponsor partners in your area. The ENERGY STAR website has information to identify credentialed HVAC contractors in your service territory. Research may also be needed to determine regional availability of key energy efficiency technologies (e.g., high-efficiency equipment, windows, etc.).
Step 2: Assess Local Energy Rating Infrastructure
Energy Rating Companies (ERCs) are third parties who inspect homes to earn the ENERGY STAR. Some programs need to establish a strong rater network while working with builders to construct ENERGY STAR homes and apartments. Consult the ENERGY STAR Partner Locator for a list of ERCs in your area or in nearby states.
Step 3: Assess Credentialed HVAC Contractors in Market
HVAC performance is critical to delivering efficiency, comfort, and durability. That is why HVAC systems in ENERGY STAR certified homes and apartments are designed and installed according to industry best practices by expert contractors. Only contractors who hold EPA-recognized credentials can complete parts of the ENERGY STAR HVAC requirements. HVAC credentialing makes it easy for builders and developers to identify contractors to help them achieve the ENERGY STAR, for contractors to market best practices, and for consumers to be confident in the comfort and performance of their ENERGY STAR homes. Some programs need to work with the HVAC industry to ensure that there are sufficient credentialed contractors in their service territories to support their program partners. Consult the credentialed contractor page for a list of eligible companies.
Step 4: Benchmark Construction Practices
Work with the rating industry to benchmark current construction practices (e.g., quality of insulation installation, HVAC duct sealing). Evaluate the availability of key energy-efficient technologies and construction practices and their costs, and determine the rigor of the prevailing energy code and how effectively it is enforced.
Step 5: Identify Potential Barriers to Program Participation
Many markets are characterized by one or more of the following barriers to greater adoption of energy-efficient homes: industry resistance to change and concerns with risk; first cost decision making which ignores utility cost savings and improved comfort, durability and indoor air quality; lack of skills selling energy efficient homes; lack of consumer awareness and demand; and lack of technical infrastructure for construction and verification.
Based on local market research and specific program objectives, develop a program design that proactively addresses barriers to participation. Key elements of a robust program include marketing, a strategic incentive structure, technical and sales training, a strong communications strategy, data collection and tracking, quality assurance processes, and continuous evaluation. This Best Practices Checklist (PDF, 69 KB) offers some specific tips on how to design a program that incorporates these elements.
Program implementation includes all activities needed to deliver the program, including day-to-day administration, marketing, a strategic incentive structure, technical and sales training, a strong communications strategy, data collection and tracking, quality assurance processes, and continuous evaluation. Prior to program launch be sure to submit a signed Partnership Agreement and Commitment Form to ENERGY STAR. Once you become a partner, you can create marketing materials with the ENERGY STAR logo and access additional resources that are useful in recruiting and training builders and raters.