Energy Star Homes 

 

Mike McGreevy

September 11, 2009

POS 233

 

Energy Star in Habitat Homes

Habitat for Humanity started using a system that would make their homes energy sufficient and great for the environment.  This system is called Energy Star.  With Energy Star ratings, houses are known to be efficient and safe.  With the program LEED in Habitat for Humanity McLean County is already using, Energy Star is an efficient way to make houses energy efficient and green.  The program LEED makes sure that the houses meet certain guidelines for the county’s zoning restrictions and also that it is within good standings with a standard home.  Energy Star is one way that LEED houses rank the houses that are built.  The system of Energy Star was introduced in the United States in 1992, but has only recently been effective on almost all homes that are built.  According to the U.S. Department of Energy, with the enactment of Energy Star, Americans saved enough energy to power 10 million homes and avoid greenhouse gas emissions from 12 million cars - all while saving $6 billion.  Although this statistic is also including the uses of Energy Star in other things than a house, it is a very impressive improvement in saving energy. 

For using the Energy Star system, Habitat for Humanity of McLean County has to make sure a house meets six specific guidelines.  They are: 1.) effective insulation, which keeps the temperature even throughout the year, 2.) high performance windows, which keeps heat in during the winter, 3.) tight construction and ducts, which seals holes in the house to keep unwanted toxins out, 4.) efficient heating and cooling equipment, which are energy efficient and reduces indoor humidity, 5.) efficient products, which are lightings and other efficient electrical necessities in the home, and third party verification, which are people who look at the homes when they are finished and make sure that all of the previous five guidelines are met.  Using these guidelines, according to the Energy Star website, these homes are at least 15% more energy efficient than homes built to the International Residential Code used in 2004, and are typically 20–30% more efficient than standard homes using energy saving products.  Energy used in homes often comes from the burning of fossil fuels at power plants, which contributes to air pollution like smog and acid rain and also risks of global warming. So, the less energy used, the less air pollution generated. A way to know if houses are energy efficient, the government gives them the Energy Star symbol.                                                                   

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Along with the guidelines listed before, the EPA also has guidelines for a home to receive an Energy Star label.  These homes include: single family, attached, and low-rise multi-family homes.  They also can be manufactured homes, systems-built homes, log homes, concrete homes, and even existing retrofitted homes.

Reasons why homeowners would want a Energy Star labeled home are: 1.) lower ownership costs, which according to our Habitat for Humanity program, homes cost only $810 a year in energy costs, 2.) better performance, which means protection from Earth’s elements and also air pollution, 3.) smart investment, which, according to the Energy Star website, 6,500 home builders have used Energy Star and nearly 940,000 homes have been constructed, and 4.) environmental protection, which means the house is very energy efficient and clean for the environment.

             Habitat for Humanity of McLean County has passed a 5 star certification test rated by Energy Star.  Energy Star rates homes on a 5 star basis, a 1 star is the worst, with the house getting 401-500 according to the HERS (Home Energy Rating System) Index.  The fewer amounts of points Energy Star gives you, the more stars that home receives.  The scores are based on the general information about the area of the home, the mechanical systems features, building shell features, and lights and appliance features.  The houses that Habitat for Humanity McLean County have built received a score of 56, which is gives them a 5 star plus rating.  That is a very good rating according to the HERS index.

            When it comes to the Energy Star program, I definitely would recommend it to any new homeowner looking for an energy efficient home.  The results of having an Energy Star rated home helps people out immensely and cuts down on air pollution.  Habitat for Humanity made a great decision to establish this program into their construction because it looks good for them in rating the houses they make and also looks good to the people who are going to be living in the houses to trust Habitat for Humanity for building their house. 

            There are not many alternative solutions to Energy Star.  Making your home energy efficient is pretty much a universal act and there cannot be many systems in ranking those statistics.  The government is coming out with a new system that will have more guidelines and more restrictions on what a house can consume in energy.  This could be good, but putting too many restrictions on a house could inevitably make it unsafe for humans.  Energy Star is a very efficient system on ranking energy saving houses and that is why there are not many alternatives to it.