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July 18, 2013

Energy Star 3.0

Energy Star is an energy program developed by the EPA in the early 90s to help builders address persistent problems with energy conservation. Specifically things such as making sure there is insulation behind the tub, proper air sealing to prevent air infiltration, proper insulation installation, efficient appliances and windows, etc. Things that should have been done as a matter of course, but that consistently were found to be wanting, especially in sub-standard builders. The programs were an attempt by the EPA to make sure all builders are building to a consistent standard.
As Energy Star has evolved it has gotten more difficult to get certified and more costly. Having addressed, and to Energy Star’s credit, largely eliminated the low hanging fruit among quality builders, they are being more aggressive with Energy Star 3.0. Energy Star’s goal is to be 15% more efficient than the current energy code.  As the energy and building codes become more efficient so does the Energy Star program.
Energy Star (ES) recently upgraded from ES 2.0 to ES 3.0. As part of the transition they went from ES 2.0 to 2.5 and finally to the current version of ES 3.0. We have certified homes at all three levels of Energy Star. One of the major, and most difficult to achieve, advancements of ES 3.0 is its requirement of testing our HVAC systems to a much higher standard. Our heating and cooling systems use over 50% of our total home’s energy on average.  The fact that many home builders currently do not test their mechanical systems, which are huge energy sucker and very poorly understood, even by those in the industry is baffling to me.
What ES 3.0 does for HVAC systems is it tests them in many different ways to make sure they will perform to above the current Energy Code. It requires HVAC contractors to use the correct analysis to assure that they are sizing equipment and ducts properly to create comfortable and efficient homes, and then it checks their work. I applaud this advancement. We can and should expect more from our HVAC systems. Now we can expect more from these systems and we can prove the efficiencies and functionality of these systems through third party testing of our homes.