Energy Efficiency



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Frequently Asked Questions :: Energy-Efficient New Construction

Q. What are the benefits for homeowners of building an ENERGY STAR-certified new home?

A: There are a number of important benefits, including:

    Home buying is complex enough without having to know all the details of energy-efficient construction. Instead, look for the government-backed ENERGY STAR label to easily identify homes that are truly energy efficient. Find the house of your dreams and enjoy peace of mind knowing that it also meets strict energy efficiency guidelines.
    Compared with standard homes, ENERGY STAR qualified homes use substantially less energy for heating, cooling, and water heating-delivering $200 to $400 in annual savings. Over the average 7 to 8 years you may live in your home, this adds up to thousands of dollars saved on utility bills. Additional savings on maintenance can also be substantial. Financing your home purchase using an energy efficient mortgage can also lead to savings.
    Properly installed energy-efficient improvements deliver better protection against cold, heat, drafts, moisture, pollution, and noise. An energy-efficient home helps ensure consistent temperatures between and across rooms, improved indoor air quality, and greater durability.
    To date, nearly 10,000 Partners have joined with EPA to construct more than 1.1 million ENERGY STAR qualified homes. By the end of the decade, more than 2 million homes are expected to earn the ENERGY STAR. The trend is clear. By choosing a home with the ENERGY STAR label, you can be confident that it will have an increasingly valued feature when the time comes to sell.
    Did you know that your home can be a greater source of pollution than your car? In fact, 16 percent of U.S. greenhouse gas emissions are generated from the energy used in houses nationwide.
    Energy used in our homes often comes from the burning of fossil fuels at power plants, which contributes to smog, acid rain, and global warming. Simply put, the less energy we use in our homes, the less air pollution we generate. (Source:

Q: What are the features of ENERGY STAR qualified new homes?

A: To earn the ENERGY STAR, a home must meet guidelines for energy efficiency set by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. These homes are at least 15% more energy efficient than homes built to the 2004 International Residential Code (IRC), and include additional energy-saving features that typically make them 20–30% more efficient than standard homes.

And with homebuyers increasingly interested in green building, energy efficiency is the place to start. That's because the energy used in homes often comes from the burning of fossil fuels at power plants, which contributes to smog, acid rain, and risks of global warming. So, the less energy used, the less air pollution generated. And the easy way to make sure a new home is energy efficient is to look for the blue ENERGY STAR mark, the government-backed symbol for energy efficiency. Learn more about how Green Begins with ENERGY STAR Blue).

Any home three stories or less can earn the ENERGY STAR label if it has been verified to meet EPA's guidelines, including: single family, attached, and low-rise multi-family homes; manufactured homes; systems-built homes (e.g., SIP, ICF, or modular construction); log homes, concrete homes; and even existing retrofitted homes.

ENERGY STAR qualified homes can include a variety of 'tried-and-true' energy-efficient features that contribute to improved home quality and homeowner comfort, and to lower energy demand and reduced air pollution:

1. Effective Insulation
Properly installed and inspected insulation in floors, walls, and attics ensures even temperatures throughout the house, reduced energy use, and increased comfort. Learn more about Properly Installed Insulation.

2. High-Performance Windows Energy-efficient windows employ advanced technologies, such as protective coatings and improved frames, to help keep heat in during winter and out during summer. These windows also block damaging ultraviolet sunlight that can discolor carpets and furnishings. Learn more about PDF iconQualified Windows.

3. Tight Construction and Ducts
Sealing holes and cracks in the home's "envelope" and in heating and cooling duct systems helps reduce drafts, moisture, dust, pollen, and noise. A tightly sealed home improves comfort and indoor air quality while reducing utility and maintenance. Learn more about PDF iconEfficient Duct Systems.

4. Efficient Heating and Cooling Equipment
In addition to using less energy to operate, energy-efficient heating and cooling systems can be quieter, reduce indoor humidity, and improve the overall comfort of the home. When properly installed into a tightly sealed home, this equipment won't have to work so hard to heat and cool the home. Learn more about:

5. Efficient Products
ENERGY STAR qualified homes may also be equipped with ENERGY STAR qualified products — lighting fixtures, compact fluorescent bulbs, ventilation fans, and appliances, such as refrigerators, dishwashers, and washing machines. Learn more about ENERGY STAR qualified products:

6. Third-Party Verification
With the help of independent Home Energy Raters, ENERGY STAR builder partners choose the most appropriate energy-saving features for their homes. Additionally, raters conduct onsite testing and inspections to verify the energy efficiency measures, as well as insulation, air tightness, and duct sealing details. Learn more about PDF iconIndependent Inspection and Testing. (Source:

What tax credits and incentives are available for energy-efficiency measures in my home?

A: There currently are a number of tax credits--both federal and state--available to consumers for improving their home's energy efficiency. For example, credits are available for energy-efficient windows and doors, insulation, roofs, heating and cooling systems, water heaters, and biomass stoves. For more information, see Tax Credits and Rebates, and Federal Tax Credits for Energy Efficiency.

What should I consider when choosing house plans for a new home?

A: If you are like many home buyers today, energy efficiency is an important concern when you’re looking for a new home plan. In fact, a recent survey1 found that more than 85 percent of Americans planning to build or buy a home within the next two years would choose one home over another based on energy efficiency. By choosing a home designed with energy efficiency in mind, you can help ensure that you will be more comfortable, have lower utility bills, and protect the environment.

How are home plans Designed to Earn the ENERGY STAR?

Home plans that are Designed to Earn the ENERGY STAR incorporate energy-efficient details and specifications to meet the rigorous ENERGY STAR for New Homes guidelines set by EPA. Click here for details about the features of an ENERGY STAR qualified new home that will be specified on the home plans.

To qualify, a plan is independently reviewed and verified to include energy-saving features and construction practices that will result in a home that is 20–30 percent more energy efficient than a standard home. A home built according to a Designed to Earn the ENERGY STAR home plan must also meet EPA field verification requirements to earn the ENERGY STAR qualified home label. You’ll need to make sure your builder follows the home plan’s ENERGY STAR construction specifications and works with a Home Energy Rater, who will conduct the onsite inspection and testing to verify that your home qualifies for the ENERGY STAR. For more information, read about the benefits of choosing a Designed to Earn the ENERGY STAR home plan?

Q: Where can I learn about "best practices" for new home construction?

A: DOE's Building American program offers Best Practices handbooks that help builders achieve whole-house energy savings in five major climates. Using the system recommendations and process improvements from the handbooks, all builders can re-engineer their designs to achieve improved energy performance and quality. Additionally, Building America provides case studies in all climate zones to further illustrate how these techniques and strategies.

Q: What is an energy-efficient mortgage (EEM)?

A: An EEM can help you purchase an energy-efficient home. The EEM recognizes that energy efficient homes cost homeowners less to operate on a monthly basis than standard homes because they use less energy. Home buyers who choose energ- efficient homes can afford to spend more on their mortgage loan because they will likely spend less on their For more information, visit costs.

Q: How does an energy-efficient mortgage benefit the borrower?

A: The EEM benefits the borrower in several ways. First, the estimated energy savings are added to the borrower's income to allow the home buyer to qualify for a larger total mortgage amount. Second, by increasing borrowing power, the EEM allows borrowers to include the costs of energy improvements into the total mortgage amount. 100% of the energy improvements, typically up to 15% of the value of the home, can be financed and paid for over the life of the mortgage, reserving the borrower's cash for more immediate, move-in costs. Third, the value of the home is adjusted by the value of the energy efficient improvements.

Q: What is a home energy rating?

A: The home energy rating is a standard measurement of the home's energy efficiency. An energy rating allows a home buyer to easily compare the energy costs for the homes being considered. Home energy ratings involve an on-site inspection by a residential energy efficiency professional - a home energy rater. Home energy raters are trained and certified by a RESNET accredited home energy rating system. The home energy rater inspects the home and measures its energy characteristics, such as insulation levels, window efficiency, wall-to-window ratios, the heating and cooling system efficiency, and the solar orientation of the home. Performance testing, such as a blower door test measuring door and duct leakage may be used. The home receives a point score between 1 and 100, depending on its relative efficiency. An estimate of the home's energy costs is also provided. A homeowner who wants to upgrade the energy efficiency can use the energy rating to evaluate and pinpoint specific, cost-effective improvements. For more information, visit and

Q: How do I choose the best insulation for my new home?

A: Your state and local building codes probably include minimum insulation requirements, but to build an energy-efficient home, you may need or want to exceed them. For maximum energy efficiency, you should also consider the interaction between the insulation and other building components. This is called the whole-house systems design approach.

To properly insulate a new home, you first need to know where you need to insulate and the recommended R-values for each of those areas. Use the U.S. Department of Energy's Zip-Code Insulation Program to determine where you need to insulate and the recommended R-values based on your climate and type of heating and cooling system, etc. The program also will provide cost estimates and a rate of return.

Once you know where you need to insulate and the recommended R-values, review our information on the types of insulation available to help you decide what type to use and where.

Before you insulate a new home, you also need to properly air seal it and consider moisture control.

Q: What do I need to know about air sealing in my new home?

A: Air sealing is an important factor when constructing an energy-efficient home. These are some air sealing techniques and materials:

Before developing an air sealing strategy, you should also consider the interaction between any air sealing materials and techniques with other building components, including the following:

This is called the whole-house systems approach.

Q: How would I get my new home ENERGY STAR certified?

A: There are a number of Montana ENERGY STAR Verifiers who can inspect your home to see whether it meets ENERGY STAR requirements. You should involve an ENERGY STAR verifier as early as possible in the design/construction process to ensure that the home will meet all requirements.

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