How Energy Star Works

New Energy Star Homes

A worker installs insulation in a demonstration during Energy Star's home-sealing initiative.
A worker installs insulation in a demonstration during Energy Star's home-sealing initiative.
Photo courtesy Energy Star

The Environmental Protection Agency and the Department of Energy state that any new home with fewer than three stories can earn the Energy Star blue label if it's at least 15 percent more efficient than the 2004 International Residential Code (see sidebar). It must meet guidelines for:

  • Effective insulation
  • High-performance windows
  • Tight construction and ducts
  • Efficient heating and cooling equipment
  • Efficient products (Energy Star labeled appliances)
  • Third-party verification (18 states require this)

A home may also qualify for an Energy Star Indoor Air Package label. The home must first have an Energy Star label, and then it has to meet 60 additional home design and construction standards that improve the indoor air quality. About 3,500 homebuilders have partnered with the EPA to construct 750,000 Energy Star-qualified homes.

If you're not building a new house but would like to improve the energy efficiency of your current abode, Energy Star also has suggestions for you. Hard-core environmentalists can get whole-house assessments by Energy Star third-party assessor, but that system is available in only 16 states. Some utility companies provide energy assessments. They can advise customers on home insulation and heating and cooling equipment, and many offer rebates to customers who go through their partners to install systems or repair their homes.

Sealing attic and basement air leaks, including ductwork, and adding attic insulation is the best way to cut energy costs, according to Energy Star, which assists homeowners by adding its label to insulation and doors that meet its criteria.

­Additionally, devices like the Kill A Watt EZ energy meter can connect to a device or appliance and measure how much energy the item uses. Then it's just a matter of how much you want to spend to replace those old energy hogs.

So, how much money can you save with Energy Star products? Read on to find out.