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Understanding Factors in Energy-Efficient Home Construction

According to research from NAHB, nearly half of home buyers are willing to invest between $1,000 and $10,000 in order to save $1,000 annually on their utility bills, and 37% are willing to spend upward of $10,000. But do prospective home owners know what an energy-efficient home is and the terminology surrounding the types of building practices and features they are looking for?

An energy-efficient home is one that uses less energy than a traditional home without compromising service to owners and occupants. Energy efficiency can be achieved through improved thermal envelopes, solar-oriented construction, low-e windows and efficient appliances.

Programs that measure energy efficiency include:

  • National Green Building Standard (NGBS)
  • Enterprise Green Communities
  • Green Globes
  • Living Building Challenge
  • LEED

There are also three categories of energy efficiency home owners should be aware of based on their current needs and interests:

  • Net Zero-Energy Home: A home that produces as much energy as it uses. The energy produced by the home must meet the household’s needs. This is often achieved through renewable energy such as solar panels. To achieve net-zero energy, the home should be designed using a holistic approach that strives for efficiency and reduces energy consumption without sacrificing service or comfort.
  • Net Zero-Energy-Ready Home: A home that is outfitted with the necessary structural and technological support to install energy-producing technologies in the future. Net zero energy-ready homes are appropriate for home owners who would like the option to install energy-producing technology in the future. It is also a Department of Energy program that partners with and recognizes builders and those professionals who build to specific requirements around energy savings, comfort, health, and durability.
  • Net Positive-Energy Home: A home that produces more energy than it needs. It is energy either produced by specific technologies or saved through energy-efficiency measures. Home owners may receive credit from their utility company for excess energy returned to the grid.

Home owners can get a general sense of how energy efficient the home might be using the following rating systems:

  • Home Energy Score (HES): This is a Department of Energy program often used for existing homes. A home receives a score of 1-10 based on its energy use, with 10 being the most efficient. As with a miles-per-gallon rating for a car, the HES is based on a standard assessment of energy-related assets to allow for easy comparisons across homes in the housing market.
  • Home Energy Rating System (HERS) Index: This is a Residential Energy Services Network (RESNET) program often used for new homes. A home receives a score of 0-150 based on an energy audit and report, with a lower score indicating a more energy-efficient home. The scoring system compares your home to a home built to code in 2006, which is known as the reference home. The reference home would score a 100 on the HERS index, whereas a newer home or one built to a green standard might score a 60.

More information on high-performance sustainability and green building practices is available at

For more information on about the latest green products and building techniques available to you, contact your local association here.