The U.S. government has an “Energy Star” program offering builders and owner-builders incentives for building to a high standard of energy conservation. A government-approved energy consultant must verify the airtightness and energy features of the home. (See our links page
for updated link to government site.) If you build to EPA standards, you may get an upfront state or federal tax credit, or possibly mortgage discounts, or special utility rates, or all three. According to the Center for Ecological Technology:
“Energy Star homes have a higher resale value. A study by the EPA concludes that energy efficiency substantially increases the market value of homes. Homeowners who invest in energy efficiency can expect to recover 2 to 4 times the initial cost of their investments when they sell their homes, or $8,400 for a typical ENERGY STAR® Home. The study also finds that a home’s value increases by $20 for every $1 reduction in annual utility bills.”
“ENERGY STAR qualified homes are independently verified to be at least 30% more energy efficient than homes built to the 1993 national Model Energy Code or 15% more efficient than state energy code, whichever is more rigorous. These savings are based on heating, cooling, and hot water energy use and are typically 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.
These features contribute to improved home quality and homeowner comfort, and to lower energy demand and reduced air pollution. ENERGY STAR also encourages the use of energy-efficient lighting and appliances, as well as features designed to improve indoor air quality.”
If anything characterizes owner-built homes, it’s the bulleted items on the Energy Star list above. Starting from scratch, O-B’s usually seek out building envelopes and mechanical systems such as geothermal that ensure comfort with operating efficiency. Energy-saving fundamentals like that are essentially prohibitive to retrofit.