Energy Star Growing, Evolving

What is Energy Star, how long has it been around, and what types of products can become Energy Star qualified?

Energy Star is a government-backed program helping businesses and individuals protect the environment through superior energy efficiency. Introduced in 1992, Energy Star is a joint effort of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and the Department of Energy (DOE). Today, Energy Star encompasses more than 45 product categories commonly used by builders, designers and architects, including residential light fixtures and ceiling fans, heating and cooling equipment, home sealing products, appliances and more.

Have the standards that products must meet to be qualified been raised and toughened-up since the program’s inception? How often does this happen?

Only the most energy-efficient products can earn the Energy Star mark. As technology advances and the number of products in a given category qualifying for Energy Star increases, specifications are periodically revised and made more stringent to ensure that products bearing the Energy Star will always represent the most efficient in their category.

The frequency of revisions varies by product and depends upon a number of factors including technological advances within the industry, economic feasibility and manufacturer feedback.

What is new with the Energy Star New Homes program?

In response to significant changes in the field of residential energy-efficient construction, EPA is setting new performance guidelines for Energy Star Qualified New Homes to ensure that the Energy Star mark continues to represent a meaningful improvement in energy efficiency over code-built homes. Beginning in July 2006 the performance guidelines for Energy Star Qualified Homes will be 15 to 20 percent more efficient than code-built homes, depending on the region of the country. This performance is independently verified by a home energy rater.

Energy Star performance typically is achieved through a combination of building envelope upgrades, high-performance windows, controlled air infiltration, upgraded heating and air-conditioning systems, tight duct systems and upgraded water-heating equipment.

How can home builders take part in Energy Star New Homes?

By working with a home energy rater, builders can determine improvements and make plans to upgrade their homes to earn the Energy Star. A home energy rater also can provide inspection and testing throughout the construction process.

Those who are ready to join the EPA program can visit to download a partnership agreement, as well as to learn more about the program. As an Energy Star partner, builders have access to marketing tools and the Energy Star marks for their use.

How can home builders and architects take advantage of Energy Star qualified products?

There are several product categories that are not currently included in the Energy Star New Homes specification that can add to the overall efficiency of the home. For example, Energy Star qualified residential light fixtures and ceiling fans feature advanced technologies that offer the home builder an upsell opportunity to increase their profits while providing the homeowner with a higher quality product that leads to energy bill savings.

What’s new with Energy Star residential light fixtures?

On Oct. 1, 2005 the Energy Star Program Requirements for Residential Light Fixtures: Version 4.0 became effective. This revised specification requires all indoor fixtures to use an electronic ballast (what powers the bulb) for increased efficiency. The ballast also must be removable without the cutting of wires.

In addition, the pin-based compact fluorescent bulbs used in these fixtures must meet strict guidelines for lumen maintenance, lamp life, color rendering and color temperature. Energy Star qualified fixtures also must ship with the bulb (linear and recessed downlight fixtures excepted). Finally, EPA will randomly select fixtures for third-party testing on an ongoing basis.

Home builders can take advantage of Energy Star qualified lighting, both indoor and outdoor, as well as ceiling fans by installing the Advanced Lighting Package (ALP) in their new homes. The ALP is a package of Energy Star qualified fixtures and fans that, when installed, helps builders differentiate themselves in the marketplace, increase profits and tap into free marketing resources offered by the EPA as well as some limited technical assistance.

Architects and designers also can use the ALP to take advantage of the diversity of Energy Star qualified decorative fixtures and fans, including many new families of fixtures for every room in the house. To get a sample of available fixtures, visit

What are the incentives for builders and homeowners to participate in the program?

There are many reasons why builders participate, including: increased profits; association of their business with quality construction through third-party verification; increased customer satisfaction through upgrades leading to increased comfort, quieter environments and lower utility bills; leveraging a highly recognized brand (approximately 64 percent consumer awareness); marketing support; and recognition for environmental leadership.

President Bush recently signed the Energy Policy Act for 2005. What incentives are in it to encourage builders to make newly constructed homes more energy efficient?

The Energy Policy Act of 2005 provides tax credits up to $2,000 for new single-family and manufactured homes with annual heating and cooling energy consumption less than half of a comparable home (with other provisions). In addition, home builders can receive tax credits up to $1,000 for new Energy Star qualified homes manufactured with annual heating and cooling consumption less than 70 percent of a comparable home (with other provisions).

In some cases the bill specifies Energy Star qualified products to qualify for the rebates and in other cases the bill simply mandates minimum levels of efficiency. Regardless, in many cases using Energy Star qualified products in new homes will help to qualify for these rebates. Homeowners looking to remodel also can receive tax credits up to 10 percent of the total cost of energy-efficient upgrades made to their homes including windows, furnaces and various building envelope component upgrades.

How can home builders and architects learn which products are Energy Star qualified, and more about the program?

To find out more about the Energy Star mark and qualified products, please visit the Energy Star website at The pages contain specific contact information depending on what the builder, designer or architect wants to learn more about.