Energy star home building packages must meet guidelines set by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. An Energy Star home must be 15 percent more energy efficient than a home meeting the 2004 international residential code, or IRC. Further, it must have other features which make it 20 to 30 percent more efficient than homes built according to the 2004 IRC. There are over one million Energy Star homes currently in the United States, and each year more homes are built to meet those standards.
Today, the most important aspects of structure are durability and energy efficiency. These factors far outweigh style, size, and interior finishes. Therefore it pays to be discerning when talking about energy efficiency. While meeting Energy Star standards is a starting point, there are tougher standards, and you should clarify exactly how energy efficient your home will be and exactly what method of insulation and structural specifications will be used. Energy Star ratings do not tell the whole story of energy efficiency. In fact your home should exceed Energy Star ratings considerably, because as the years pass energy efficiency will require increasingly tougher standards.
The energy star philosophy is that any insulation, if applied properly, works. That may be true, if you are only looking for a 15 to 20 percent improvement in efficiency, but why not go for maximum efficiency and exceed Energy Star standards. The extra investment for closed cell insulation, instead of fiberglass, will more than pay for itself in 8 years. While homes built with 4 inch studs may qualify for an energy star rating, why not go with the six inch studs? Six inch walls, with at least 5 inches of closed cell insulation inside, are required for those maximum R-values, and for extra strength. Similarly, almost any SIP panel that is three inches thick will be somewhat energy efficient, and meet energy star ratings, but it is still not as energy efficient as a concrete insulated panel with 5 or 6 inches of polyurethane inside. Plus, the concrete is more durable. It is therefore important to clarify your R-values and insist that your contractor go above and beyond Energy Star requirements.
Most any sort of insulation will qualify as Energy Star, including open cell and fiberglass. We know however that closed cell insulation, polyurethane or polystyrene are much more energy efficient than an equal thicknesses of fiberglass. We also know that maximum efficiency is met only with at least 5 inches of closed cell insulation, or with 5 inches of insulation inside a concrete insulated panel.
A home can meet Energy Star ratings and still have room for improvement. LEED standards are much tougher. There is nothing wrong with your home meeting Energy Star requirements, it should, but in order to keep your home truly efficient one should exceed the minimum requirements. It is important to clarify how thick your insulation will be, and what type of insulation will be used. Always insist on the thickest and best insulation, and the thicker walls, for maximum efficiency.
It is important to understand insulation completely, when talking to your home builder or contractor. Don’t let the conversation end with the word Energy Star. Clarify exactly what your own standards are, and make sure those are met. For more information on what to look for in insulation, download our free 98 page book, and use our site’s search engine to find out more about insulation, windows, making a home air tight and energy efficiency. It is important to get Energy Star home building packages, but it is even more important to clarify to your contractor how far beyond minimal Energy Star home building packages your requirements are.