With all of the Green Building Buzz comes a ton of new Building Programs. There is USGBC LEED for Homes, Green Building Initiative, Environments for Living- Then some people throw Energy Star in to the mix…
In Houston, the two programs that are getting a lot of Buzz and being asked about is Energy Star and Environments for Living. Energy Star has done an amazing job branding itself as Energy Efficient. The Energy Star logo is now a common sight on products that use Electricity as well as more and more builders hopping in to use the program.
When it comes to homes, Energy Star primarily focuses on how much Energy the products in the home use. For example, the Dishwasher, lights, ceiling fans, hot water heater, etc. An Energy Star home uses Energy Star rated products. It is important to remember that Energy Star does not focus as much on the Envelope of the home. Absolutely I agree that as many products as possible in the home should have the Energy Star logo- but this is where Environments for Living hopped in to bridge the gap.
Environments for Living is a program that appears to be growing with Light speed in the Houston area, but what does it mean?
- Energy Star: “at least 15% more energy efficient than homes built to the 2004 International Residential Code (IRC)
- EFL: “seeking to achieve energy efficiency 50 percent above 2006 IECC“
EFL takes Energy Star as a basic minimum standard. There is a minimum requirement for products in the home that have to bear the Energy Star Logo…and then builds on top of that, so at the same time they focus somewhat on different features of the home.
In both programs, you will find a focus on Air Infiltration meaning the home will not ‘leak’ as much air in or out depending on your climate but their end goal for energy usage are using different Codes with different requirements.
As Craig Lobel with EcoEdge Consulting puts it:
EFL energy models the actual floor plan and then makes recommendations on R-Values, SEER and AFUE. I think it’s important to remember that floor to ceiling, wall to window, and wall partitioning differ from each home. Their energy modeling process also gives the annual electricity and natural gas BTU usage for the home. Also keep in mind, EFL backs their program up with a 3 year comfort and energy usage guarantee and geared towards being 50% more efficient on Heating and Cooling over a code built home in a given region.
Another part of the Thermal Envelope are the windows- how they are sealed and the minimum requirement for Solar Heat Gain. Air Ducts in the attic must have a minimum R-Value, holes in the homes sheathing must be sealed to not only help with Air Infiltration but moisture management which is a HOT topic in Gulf Coast Regions such as Houston
If you get up in to a higher rating of EFL, the home also focuses on Water Efficiency and other GREEN features.
Both Energy Star and Environments for Living are great programs, they just focus on different things in the end. Which one should a Homebuyer consider? Well, that depends on what your needs and wants are…maybe even what price range you are in.
Check out the links that I have placed throughout this post and it may help to explain more in detail the difference between the two. In my opinion, EFL focuses more on the envelope and the home as a system than Energy Star and should have a tighter blower door test rating in the end…if your focus is Energy Efficiency.