Hamilton Herald Masthead


Front Page - Friday, July 10, 2020

Understanding various factors in energy-efficient construction

Recent research from the National Association of Home Builders shows nearly half of homebuyers 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.

If you’ve decided to build or upgrade with energy efficiency in mind, start with learning the terminology surrounding the types of building practices and features that will support your decision.

An energy-efficient home 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

• Energy Star

• Enterprise Green Communities

• Green Globes

• Living Building Challenge


There are three categories of energy efficiency that will be useful based on your current needs and interests: net zero-energy homes, net zero-energy-ready homes and net positive-energy homes.

A net zero-energy home produces as much energy as it uses. The energy the home produces 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.

A net zero-energy-ready home 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 homeowners 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 professionals who build to specific requirements around energy savings, comfort, health and durability.

A net positive-energy home produces more energy than it needs. It is energy either specific technologies produced or energy-efficiency measures saved. Homeowners might receive credit from their utility company for excess energy returned to the grid.

Homeowners can get a general sense of how energy efficient their home might be using the following rating systems.

Home energy score

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 index

This is a Residential Energy Services Network 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 nahb.org/green.

To find a homebuilder or remodeler who can help you incorporate the latest green products and building techniques, visit the online directory of the Home Builders Association of Greater Chattanooga at www.HBAGC.net.