Is this the end of ENERGY STAR? I personally do not think so but it might be a hiccup for the EPA's popular program.
Builders offer MPG-like home efficiency labels
Just as cars are sold with miles-per-gallon labels, more new homes this year will sport labels estimating monthly energy bills.
KB Home, one of the nation's largest builders, announced Monday its plans to have an EPG (Energy Performance Guide) on each of its U.S. homes by the end of this month, and other production builders plan to follow.
"This is a game changer... Once it's out there, everyone will do it," says Jeffrey Mezger, the company' CEO. He says consumers will now understand that KB's homes, all of which meet Energy Star standards, will "perform better than resales down the street."
The push for an MPG-like label comes as U.S. home builders seek a competitive edge against low-price foreclosures, and as the U.S. government develops an efficiency score for existing homes.
"We're rolling that (label) out this year," says Jim Petersen of Michigan-based PulteGroup Inc., which includes Pulte Homes, Centex and Del Webb. He doesn't have a specific timetable but expects California, Phoenix and Las Vegas will be among the first markets to feature the label.
Meritage Homes has been marketing all its homes, which are built to Energy Star standards, with such a label since 2009, said C.R. Herro, the company's vice president of environmental affairs.
Lennar Corp. is taking steps as well to offer the label, says Steve Baden, executive director of RESNET, the Residential Energy Services Network, a private, non-profit industry group that has developed the label as part of its Home Energy Rating System (HERS).
The label features a home's HERS score, determined by an independent auditor, that shows its energy efficiency (the lower the score, the better) and projects utility costs. Its look may vary lightly by builder, but its data are based on a common standard that is used by the U.S. government.
While this label applies only to new homes, the U.S. Department of Energy is developing a home energy score for existing homes. DOE is beginning pilot projects as early as next week in 11 U.S. communities and will launch a national standard this fall, says spokeswoman Jen Stutsman. DOE will rate homes on a scale of 0 to 10 (the best) and will estimate how much money consumers will save annually by making certain upgrades. It will not estimate monthly utility costs.
The U.S. government currently requires its new Energy Star homes earn a HERS score of 85 or lower. This means they're at least 15% more efficient than homes built to a 2006 international code, which would earn a score of 100. Existing homes score an average of 130, while homes that produce as much energy as they use score a zero.
Some homes that meet DOE's Builders Challenge with HERS scores of 70 or less already carry efficiency labels, but the move by KB Home will increase the number of U.S. homes offering them.
How much energy a home actually uses depends on the occupants' lifestyle, so the label is no guarantee. "It's a comparison tool," says Petersen, adding: "Everybody uses their home differently."