Wisconsin and Energy Star take Separate Paths

Below is a summary of information that I reported on at the Metropolitan Builders Association Green Council on 8/12/2010.

Due to the overwhelming negative feedback from builders regarding the Proposed Energy Star® program changes directed by the EPA, Focus on Energy of Wisconsin will be developing it’s own energy certification and verification program. This is an excerpt from a Focus on Energy memo:

“Therefore, based on the builder feedback along with comments received from our network of building performance consultants, Focus on Energy has made the decision to design our own, “home grown” residential energy efficiency program. The core requirements are designated to be acceptable to the Wisconsin building community and appropriately designed with today’s struggling economy in mind.”

The program will feature many of the same standards as the current Energy Star® program but will not include the 10-12 additional (and controversial) items that Energy Star® 2.5 is moving to. The Focus on Energy Program will include the same third party testing and verification that made Energy Star® reliable. For a more detailed list of changes on 2012 Energy Star program visit this link. link.

Currently, you can continue on the current Energy Star® program until 6/30/2011. After that it becomes a crossroad. You can either adopt the new Energy Star® program which we anticipate will add approximately $5,000 to the cost of a typical home or you can use Wisconsin’s Focus on Energy Program which also features more obtainable standards and rebates. The new Energy Star® program currently does not offer any incentives/rebates.

Highlights of the Focus on Energy Program:
• 4 Levels of Certification: Bronze, Silver, Gold, Platinum with rebates ranging from $100 to $800 depending on the percent above standard efficiency your home tests out for.
• Rebates for using Certain levels of Windows, Insulation, Duct Sealing, Water Heaters, HVAC, and Renewable energy systems in your homes.

Focus on Energy’s proposed program changes:
•The entire foundation wall must be insulated with a minimum of R5 insulation.
•A manufactured sump pit lid designed to be air tight or A custom fit lid caulked in place
•Building air-tightness must be equal to, or less than 0.20 cubic feet per minute (cfm) of air infiltration when the home is depressurized to minus 50 pascals per square foot of building shell area. Previously .25 cubic feet per minute.
•Duct testing per ASHREA Standard 152 is required when an air-handler, or any ductwork, are located outside the thermal/pressure boundary of the conditioned space.
•Any plumbing “rough-in” in the slab must be completely air sealed. (Ex. Future bath plumb. in basement)
•Attic scuttles must have a sealed gasket with miniumum R-20 insulation above

They have opened up a 2 week comment period between August 2nd and August 16th and then will be coming to various Homebuilder Associations to discuss the new program.

Representatives from Belman Homes will be attending the September 28th meeting at the Metropolitan Builders Association. Belman Homes will offer both programs to customers but will likely adopt the Focus on Energy Program as a standard feature and make Energy Star® an optional feature after 2010. For more information about the changes to either program please feel free to contact Belman Homes at 262-544-4648 or email davidbelman@sbcglobal.net.

I just got back from that meeting and was impressed with the Focus on Energy People. They were informative and very friendly. It is nice to see an agency in the builders corner for a change. There were only 3 other builders at the meeting not including Belman Homes. Anyway on to the updates:
•June 30th 2011 is the deadline for completing original Energy Star® homes
•Builders will be required to have 1 hour online training to continue with Energy Star® 3.0
•Verifiers must have 2 days worth of training

The only other item that I did not pick up on for the Focus on Energy Home Certification was the addition of a sealed attic scuttle. Some creativity among builders is required to obtain this and yet keep the attic easy to open but we as builders are creative people and should be able to come up with something. Anything is better than spending $170 on a pre-made scuttle panel.

As of right now we will be including Focus on Energy Certification on all new homes and Energy Star will now be an optional package. Homes already under construction as of 10/1/2010 will remain Energy Star Certified.

I would once again like to give thanks to the Focus on Energy people, namely Andy Kuc for educating me and having the guts to starting a new program that will work well for builders and help consumers realize the dream of having affordable and energy efficient housing in Wisconsin.

Belman Homes

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