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Energy Efficiency is also sometimes called efficient energy use, which simply said, is using less energy to provide the same level of performance, comfort, and convenience.  In general, efficient energy use is achieved by using more efficient technology or processes rather than by changing human behavior.  An energy efficient home is one that uses less energy and is more comfortable and healthier than before.  With today’s technologies and professional services, just about every home’s energy use can be improved in an affordable way. If you are familiar with the term energy efficient or energy efficiency you have also probably heard of a HERS score or rating, Energy Star, and Water Sense.  If not, we are going to discuss each of those now.

HERS:

  • The HERS (Home Energy Rating System) Index was established in 2006 by the Residential Energy Services Network (RESNET), a California-based national association of home energy raters and energy-efficiency mortgage lenders. The lower a home’s HERS Index, the more efficient the home.
  • The HERS Index accounts for on-site energy production, if any, and energy used for lighting and appliances.  To calculate a home’s HERS Index, a rater uses a computer program to compare the home being rated to a “reference home”.  The imaginary reference home is assigned a HERS Index of 100.  If a rated home gets a HERS index of 100, it can be expected to use the same amount of energy as a code-minimum home of the same size — a home equipped with “typical” lighting and appliances that are operated according to average American usage patterns.  If a rated home gets a score below 100, it will use less energy than a code-minimum home. A score of 0 corresponds to a net-zero-energy home.  Each 1 point decrease in the HERS Index corresponds to a 1% reduction in energy consumption compared to the imaginary HERS Reference Home.   So, a home with a HERS Index of 70 uses 30% less energy than a code-minimum home of the same size and shape.
  • Although this method of defining the reference house rewards the use of electrically efficient appliances, it does not give full credit to those adopting a simpler way of life.  It does not reward conservation; it rewards efficiency.  In addition, while the HERS Index is a useful metric; it doesn’t tell you how much energy a home will use. Of course, it’s a good sign if a home has a low HERS Index — but just because your house has a low HERS Index doesn’t mean that your energy bills will be low. Researchers who study residential energy use have long known that occupant behavior explains much of the variation in energy use from one house to another.

Energy Star:

  • Energy Star distinguishes energy efficient products which, although they may cost more to purchase than standard models, will pay you back in lower energy bills within a reasonable amount of time. energy s
  • Energy Star originated in 1992 as a joint program of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and the U.S. Department of Energy.  In 2007, the European Union adapted Energy Star, including related standards, for all of its members.  Australia and New Zealand has already adopted the program. As a result, the Energy Star symbol has become the international symbol for energy efficiency.  Any building or product that has received an Energy Star rating carries this blue logo.
  • Energy Star is a government-backed labeling program that helps people and organizations save money and reduce greenhouse gas emissions by identifying factories, office equipment, home appliances and electronics that have superior energy efficiency.  In recent years, Energy Star ratings have been extended to some new homes as well as commercial and industrial facilities.
  • Energy Star is a voluntary labeling system, though most manufacturers find it commercially desirable to display the logo if their products qualify. The standards themselves, however, are set by governmental agencies. Energy Star labels, for instance, are only awarded to homes that have been independently verified to be at least 15% more efficient than the standard mandated by the relevant state or local energy codes in a given area.
  • An Energy Star rating, also referred to as an “EPA rating” or “the Rating”, has become an important component of buying decisions for both consumers and businesses.  This rating system is a seamless, standardized national benchmark that helps architects and building owners assess energy use relative to similar buildings.
  • EPA’s energy performance rating is based on a scale of 1 to 100—with 100 being the most energy efficient—which provides a quick comparison of a building’s estimated or actual energy use to that of similar buildings throughout the United States.  Energy Star provides online assessment tools that allow businesses and consumers to rate the efficiency of homes and industrial facilities.  The EPA energy performance rating is used to establish and validate goals for industry groups as well as Federal, State, and local governments.  More efficient buildings, appliances and hardware mean significant savings over time on heating or power costs.
  • Tax credits: there used to be significant tax credit advantages to purchasing and using Energy Star qualified products; however, in 2012 the only Energy Star products eligible for tax credits are: Geothermal Heat Pumps, Small Wind Turbines (Residential); and Solar Energy Systems.  These qualify for a Tax Credit of 30% of cost with no upper limit.  It expires December 31, 2016.  Existing homes & new construction qualify.  Both principal residences and second homes qualify. Rentals do not.  Also covered are Fuel Cells (Residential Fuel Cell and Micro Turbine System).  These qualify for a tax credit of 30% of the cost, up to $500 per 0.5 kW of power capacity, expire on December 31, 2016 but are only eligible on your principal residence.  Existing homes, new construction, second homes, and rentals do not qualify.

WaterSense labelWaterSense

  • What Energy Star is for appliances, WaterSense is for products that have low water consumption such as toilets and shower heads.
  • Identifies a water-efficient product that has been independently tested and certified to meet EPA WaterSense criteria for efficiency and performance.  The product(s):
        • Perform as well or better than their less efficient counterparts.
        • Are 20% more water efficient than average products in that category.
        • Realize water savings on a national level.
        • Provide measurable water savings results.
        • Achieve water efficiency through several technology options.
        • Are effectively differentiated by the WaterSense label.

So now you know more about what it takes to have Energy Efficient products.  How many of the products in your home are Energy Efficient?

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