Becoming an Energy Star

By Sandra Zunino 

With rising fuel costs and an overall concern for the environment, it’s no wonder consumers are seeking ways to conserve energy throughout their homes. While many have already invested in Energy Star appliances, it is now possible to have an entire Energy Star qualified home.

Since 1992, Energy Star, a joint program of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and the U.S. Department of Energy, has labeled energy-efficient products, helping consumers save money and protect the environment. The Energy Star label, traditionally on major appliances, office equipment, lighting and home electronics, now covers new homes. With help and recommendations from Stewart Protherto of Energy Services Group (ESG), local builder, Jeff Weese of Weese Homes Inc., recently constructed just such a home on 1819 Chester Drive in Chester, Maryland.

In 1981, ESG became the first commercial business trained and equipped to analyze and measure energy and comfort problem areas in residential and commercial buildings and recommend cost-effective repairs. Jeff consulted with Stewart during the building process of the house in order for it to receive the Energy Star label.

Through ESG’s affiliation with Energy Star, they provide third-party verification of an Energy Star home based on a series of tests and inspections throughout the building process. There are five categories reflected in the Energy Star label including effective insulation, high-performance windows, tight construction and ducts, efficient heating and cooling equipment and energy efficient lighting, appliances and water heater.

Stewart begins the process by evaluating the home’s plans and develops a rating based on factors such as square footage, total wall versus window surface, heating and air conditioning systems, water heating, lighting and appliances, and energy providers including gas, oil and propane. He also uses sophisticated tests such as infrared scanners to check for heat in sealed walls, and blower-door tests, which create suction throughout the home revealing energy leaks. 

One critical component of the evaluation is the Thermal Bypass Inspection Checklist. Here a visual inspection of framing areas is conducted to check for any air leakage or lack of proper insulation. A home that fails the checklist will not achieve the Energy Star label.

According to Stewart, ductwork is one of the most important factors when determining energy efficiency. Ducts, which distribute air throughout the home, are tested for leakage and verified for proper insulation because heating and cooling systems must work harder if ducts leak.

One economic advantage of purchasing an energy-efficient house is, it puts money back into the homeowner’s pocket, freeing those dollars for other products and services. “Historically, everyone has already understood that an Energy Star house saves money,” says Stuart, “but we are getting to critical mass in this country. People are loosing homes and jobs because of fuel costs.”

Additionally, homebuyers often ignore energy bills when purchasing a house. Energy costs; however, affect the affordability of the home. Jeff predicts that going the extra mile to achieve the Energy Star label will make this home easier to sell, as well as help the environment.

ESG also conducts energy audits for existing homes. For more information call 800-908-7000 or visit www.energysvc.com. For more information on Energy Star, visit www.energystar.gov. To view a Weese Home Inc., Energy Star home visit www.weesehomes.com or call 410-643-4663

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