The Deadline Looms for ENERGY STAR Version 3 New Homes
On 1 July 2012, the ENERGY STAR new homes program moves fully (well, almost) into Version 3. Currently, the ENERGY STAR team at the US EPA is up to Revision 5 of Version 3, and some items have been delayed, but Version 3 kicks in for good 10 days from now. Really!
If you're a home builder, HVAC contractor, or HERS rater, it's time to kick it into high gear and finish up any houses that have a chance of getting done before 1 July. As long as they were permitted before this year, they can still qualify under Version 2.5 of the program. The implementation schedule depends on two dates, in case you need a refresher: the date the permit was issued and the date of the HERS rater's final inspection. The chart below shows you the details.
So, what are the big issues with qualifying new homes under ENERGY STAR Version 3? There are a few, and they add up. We've qualified a lot of V2.5 homes and a few V3 homes through Energy Vanguard Energy Ratings, our HERS rating providership, and here are three obstacles that we're seeing:
- Bath fans - ES V3 requires bath fans to be able to exhaust 50 cubic feet per minute (cfm) of air. The HERS rater has to measure it, too, so when builders put in 50 cfm bath fans, they're probably not going to pass. The typical bath fan moves only half its rated air flow, so a 50 cfm fan won't cut it for ENERGY STAR. One problem is the duct that makes an immediate 180° turn (as shown in the photo at left), but there are other reasons bath fans underperform, too.
- HVAC contractors - ENERGY STAR V3 expects a lot of HVAC contractors. On the whole, they had great difficulty with the minimal V2 program requirements (Manual J, properly sized cooling system, coils matched according to AHRI standards). Now they have to do full HVAC design and commissioning and get certified through the Quality Assurance program of the Air Conditioning Contractors of America (ACCA). The fees for that are over $1000 to get started and then about $820 per year (not including ACCA membership) to continue. Not many have done it yet. There are only 12 Georgia HVAC contractors listed on the ACCA website as of today. Even in Texas, which has probably had more homes qualify for ENERGY STAR than any other state, only 63 HVAC contractors are listed.
- Cost - ENERGY STAR has a document that shows their projections for the extra costs and savings (pdf) associated with qualifying a home for Version 3 versus having it meet the 2009 IECC. They say it will cost a home builder in the range of about $3500 to over $9000, depending on location, to qualify for ENERGY STAR V3. The problem is that the builder doesn't realize the savings; the homeowner does. Also, they're comparing ES V3 costs to the costs to build to the 2009 IECC, which not everyone is doing yet.
Of course, these aren't the only things that builders are balking at and getting stuck on. The requirement that all homes must have mechanical ventilation systems and grade I insulation installation (or continuous insulation) are a couple of others.
So, with the deadline looming, what happens next? ENERGY STAR Version 3 is no longer an entry level energy efficiency program. What are you seeing out in the field?
5 Reasons Bath Fans Have Such Poor Air Flow
ENERGY STAR Version 3 vs. the HERS Index
ENERGY STAR Homes Version 3 - Lowering the HERS Index
ENERGY STAR 2011 - Version 3 of the New Homes Program (a bit oudated but still a useful overview)