2014 October Newsletter

Message from David Wilson, Director, Utah Energy Conservation Coalition:

Check out the latest on ENERGY STAR facebook page!

Thousands of LED products have earned the ENERGY STAR. The mark indicates the product has been independently certified, undergoing extensive testing to assure it performs as promised, delivering on brightness and matching the light distribution of traditional lighting.

LED lighting can deliver outstanding energy efficiency. But not all LED lighting is the same when it comes to performance. To get energy efficiency and the performance you expect, always look for the ENERGY STAR label. LED lighting products that earn the label are independently certified to deliver on brightness, color and to shine light where you want it.

Learn more about exciting new ENERGY STAR certified LED lighting products and how they can brighten your home and save you money.

7 Steps to a Mainstream Net-Zero House

from Greenbuildermedia.com

Debut of integrated heat pump, hydronic air handler and solar hot water heater system helps desert home garner a jaw-dropping -17 HERS rating.

Fortunately for those of us concerned about the planet, net-zero-energy homes are not a new concept—and not even rare. What’s new about houses that produce at least as much energy as they consume is the systems they use to accomplish the goal. And when you can get there with mainstream stuff, you know net zero is coming to a neighborhood near you.

When John Wesley Miller designed a 2,267-square-foot mainstream net-zero home, his goal was to get the house’s HERS score into the negatives. And he succeeded. The VISION House Tucson—one in an illustrious line of high-performance demonstration projects presented by Green Builder Media—received an astounding -17 HERS rating. The HERS Index is a nationally recognized system for inspecting and calculating a home’s energy performance.

A net-zero energy home generates as much energy as the home needs over the course of a year. During the day, photovoltaic panels on the VISION House make electricity. Any electricity the home doesn’t need goes back to Tucson Electric Power (TEP). During the night, the electricity needed is taken from TEP. Electric bills for net-zero homes most months are less than $10, which is essentially a monthly connection fee for access to the power grid.

The total cost of owning a net-zero home (including mortgage and utilities) is less than the cost of owning a similarly priced home that only meets the minimum requirements of the building code.

Here’s the 7-step how-to guide for achieving an ultra-energy-efficient house. With tweaks for regional differences, this power combo of products and systems can be replicated by any builder for any market:

  • Structure. The structure is standard masonry concrete block filled solid with concrete. The walls are insulated with two inches of Johns Manville AP Foil-Faced polyiso foam sheathing, and then clad with a three-part stucco finish. This all sits on top of a 12”-thick steel reinforced slab. Walls and floor have thermal mass that holds and greatly slows temperature extremes, something Miller calls “the thermal flywheel effect.”
  • Insulation. Walls and floors store warmth during the winter, and they store “coolth” (a word Miller likes to use) in the summer. The house achieves roof R-ratings as high as 50 by using foamed-in-place insulation on the top of the ceiling, and filling the attic with blown-in Johns Manville fiberglas. Because the house is built so tightly, Miller spec’d Panasonic’s WhisperGreen Energy Star rated ventilation fans, with their highly energy efficient DC motors.
  • HVAC and Hot Water. Rheem’s Net-Zero Air and Water System was used for the first time at VISION House Tucson. The system includes a Rheem classic 15 SEER heat pump, a hydronic air handler and Rheem’s solar hot water heating system with storage tank and electric tankless water heater to serve as back up. “What’s innovative about this system is how it was custom tailored and integrated specifically for the Tucson Vision House,” says Tim Shellenberger, corporate vice president of product engineering for Rheem. “These are off-the-shelf products that make up the integrated system that helps drive down the cost of energy for the home using renewable solar energy as the primary source for domestic hot water and space heating. Soon Rheem will have even higher efficiency heat pumps and air conditioners that can be applied to further drive down energy use and achieve lower than a -17 HERS rating.”
  • Solar. Since the home uses approximately 5.5 KW of energy much of the time, a 7.4 KW grid-tied solar array, provided by Hanwha Solar, and its solar leasing partner One Roof Energy, with Schneider Electric’s Conext™ TX inverter, enables the home to sell energy back to the utility. Solar hot water panels supply most of the home’s water heating load. This system sits on durable Boral Madera cement tiles, which protect the roof.
  • Windows and Doors. MI EnergyCore windows are R-4, with a U-value of 0.25. Solar screens on west-facing exterior windows protect homes from heat without obscuring views. Window films can moderate damaging heat and light.
  • Appliances and Lighting. The home features Whirlpool’s Gold-Series Energy Star kitchen appliances and its Smart Front Load Washer and Electric Dryer. To further keep the energy load low, all lighting is CFL or LED.
  • Design. The house was sited for passive cooling. West-facing porches protect from afternoon heat gain and provide places to enjoy fabulous Tucson sunsets. North facing porches protect walls from summer heat gain, when the sun hits the north side of buildings on the longest, hottest days of the year.

For more about the VISION House Tucson project and Green Builder Media’s other VISION House projects, click here.


There will be an ENERGY STAR Webinar on Thursday, November 6, 2014 introducing EPA’s new sales training kit.  This is for builder’s sales managers, Utility Sponsors, and Raters.

Participate in this short webinar to learn about a brand new resource available to ENERGY STAR partners to help builder sales teams become well versed in selling the value of energy efficiency. The training kit is intended to be presented at a builder’s sales meeting over a 2–hour period. This webinar will review the components of the training kit and how to facilitate it successfully.

Check Utah Energy’s website for more webinar information.

RESNET Warns CAZ Testing Deadline Draws Near

From RESNET on 10/17/2014


RESNET Certified Rater,


This is a reminder that you must pass the RESNET CAZ tests before December 31st, 2014.


Don’t delay! Avoid the risk of suspensionby taking your CAZ tests now!


Remember, all raters will be subject to administrative suspension by their Rating Quality Assurance Providers and unable to register ratings under their RTIN if they do not pass their CAZ tests by December 31st, 2014.  Raters will remain under suspension until the tests are passed.


Please also note that RESNET will be only be able to offer limited support during the Holidays (Thanksgiving through New Year’s). 

Green is the new home decor trend
Posted October 18, 2014 – 6:01am on Las Vegas Review-Journal
By CATHY HOBBS, TRIBUNE NEWS SERVICEGreen is the new black.  In home decor, it is a trend and increasingly the go-to choice for those looking to rejuvenate their home and be healthier at the same time.
Buying products such as upholstery, textiles and rugs made of natural fibers that have not been treated with chemicals are all wonderful opportunities to incorporate green design into any space.  Love color?  Look to see if plant- and mineral-based dyes have been used instead of chemicals.

Furniture aficionados, be sure to keep a lookout for furniture made of reclaimed, salvaged or recycled materials, all eco-friendly buzz words.  As a Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design accredited professional ASID interior designer, I believe that environmentally-friendly choices can be integrated into every aspect of your home as well as your life and living green doesn’t mean you have to give up on good design.

First and foremost, think local.  There are numerous artists, artisans and furniture makers who use reclaimed, sustainably harvested local woods for their designs, as well as environmentally-friendly manufacturing techniques.

When purchasing an item, be sure to ask the manufacturer, retailer or designer specific questions about how their design is sustainable or green.  Inquire not only about the material a specific item is made of, but also about the process in which the product is made.

There are several nationally respected certifying entities that certify green products.  Among them, Greenguard Certification authenticates companies and products, and Green Seal, an independent nonprofit organization, certifies green products and conducts factory visits to oversee the manufacturing process of the products it certifies.

1. Take your shoes off upon entering your home to prevent tracking dirt and pollutants inside.
2. Turn off lights when you leave the room.
3. Unplug appliances when not in use — dormant appliances still draw power even when turned off.
4. Wash your clothes in cool water instead of hot.
5. Switch from carpet to hardwood — carpeting traps odors and dust mites.
6. Use a low or zero VOC paint.
7. Switch to low flow toilets, shower heads and faucets to conserve water in bathrooms and kitchens.
8. Switch all of your light bulbs to compact fluorescents or LEDs.
9. Purchase Energy Star appliances.
10. Toss your used coffee grinds into your household plants — they make a great fertilizer.
11. Buy a programmable thermostat and lower thermostat setting by five to 10 degrees.
12. Wash only full loads of laundry.
13. Capture and reuse rainwater to water household plants.
14. Source locally.
15. Recycle.

Cathy Hobbs, based in New York City, is an Emmy Award-winning television host and a nationally known interior design and home staging expert with offices in New York City, Boston and Washington, D.C. Contact her at www.cathyhobbs.com.

GreenBuilder Magazine Features RESNET and the HERS Index

The September 2014 issue of GreenBuilder magazine includes a seven page feature on RESNET and the HERS Index.  The article is “Working with RESNET, Production Builders are Using the HERS Index to Help Push Energy Efficiency of Their Homes”.

The story features homes built by Meritage Homes (HERS Index Score of 58), KB Home (HERS Index Score of 42) and David Weekley Homes (HERS Index Score of 58).

An interesting graphic in the story traces the progress that KB Homes has had in reducing the HERS Index Score of their homes since they started having their homes rated in 2007.  It has gone from an average HERS Index Score of 85 in 2007 to 65 in 2013.

This is remarkable progress and demonstrates how the HERS Index is driving market transformation.

The story concludes that “More than anything RESNET has helped to revolutionize the green building industry by creating awareness of best practices and methods for achieving desirable HERS scores.  Today many builders, including some well-known national production builders, routinely collaborate with RESNET to ensure their homes meet their energy performance goals and standards.”

7 Solutions for Improving a Home’s Energy Efficiency

Posted on 10/20/2014
Guest post by Larry Zarker:

You don’t need to be a mechanic to know that a car is made up of interacting components and systems, and that the failure of just one component can affect the overall performance of the vehicle.

Houses work the same way.

The thermal envelope, insulation, HVAC systems, appliances, lighting and more all contribute to the comfort, health and safety of a home. Rather than focusing on a single problem, like drafty windows or not enough insulation, hire contractors who are trained in the “house-as-a-system” approach to home maintenance and improvement. They know how to make a home’s systems work together to achieve optimal performance to save on energy and costs.

The following improvements can enhance a home’s overall performance:

1. An energy audit identifies how much energy a home is using and how much it’s wasting. Using a variety of diagnostic tools, the auditor will identify problem areas that affect a home’s overall comfort, health, safety and durability. Many gas and electric utility providers offer energy audits or keep a list of qualified contractors.
2. Air-sealing the building “envelope” is critical to preventing heat loss, which can end up costing hundreds of dollars a year in excess energy costs. Air sealing is also effective at keeping toxic fumes at bay, such as the carbon monoxide that can permeate from the garage after starting a car. Proper air sealing can ensure that a home is a safer, more comfortable and less costly place to live.
3. A well-insulated home can ensure that room temperatures are constant, balanced and comfortable. Since proper insulation can reduce annual energy costs and increase the longevity of an HVAC system, less power is needed to heat and cool the home.
4. A well-sealed air duct system enables the circulation of clean, fresh air throughout the home. Leaky ducts are costly and can introduce moisture, unfiltered air and toxins (such as mold) into the home’s air supply. Caution: Having ducts cleaned but not sealed is not a solution. Find a credentialed contractor trained to identify leaky ducts and execute proven methods to clean and seal them.
5. Installing Energy Star-rated appliances and LED lighting increase a home’s energy efficiency, which can result in significantly lower utility bills.
6. Replacing older gas stoves and ovens reduces the chances of dangerous gas and carbon monoxide leaks.
7. Sealing window frames and light fixtures will reduce drafts and improve air quality.

For more ideas about how to achieve improved energy performance in a house and make it a lifelong home, check out the AARP Home Fit guide at aarp.org/homefit, watch the 2014 Home for Life slideshow and take a virtual tour of the 2014 Home for Life at homeforlife2014.com.

Larry Zarker, CEO of the Building Performance Institute (BPI), is a national leader in certification standards for high-performance building and remodeling. Visit BPI’s website for additional information and homeowner resources.

How to Winterize Your Home in 5 Easy Steps — And Why You Should
Posted: 10/22/2014 3:23 pm EDT Updated: 10/22/2014 3:59 pm EDT
Contribution by Andrea Davis
Need to winterize your home quickly? While you can hire home improvement professionals for the big tasks, there are a few you can do easily and effectively. Here are some winterization tasks you should seriously consider to keep your home warm and safe:
Clean your gutters.
Cleaning your gutters is a MUST. If you don’t clean them out, the results could be catastrophic. Siding, foundation and ceilings can start deteriorating and hurt the rest of your home. So take the time on the weekend to climb up a ladder and clean the debris yourself or hire a professional gutter cleaning service. This will protect your home against water damage and save you hundreds to thousands of dollars on potential repairs.
Replace your furnace filter.
This is a project that’s especially important in the winter for warmth. By checking the filter on a monthly basis and replacing it as needed, your furnace will heat your house more efficiently, saving you money on utility bills. Regular filter maintenance also keeps your furnace running longer, which saves you money on installing a new one. It’s easy to replace furnace filters as long as you know what kind to buy and how to put it in. It’s an instant repair with long-term benefits.
Install a programmable thermostat.
If you live in a home with an outdated thermostat, it’s costing you a lot in utility bills because it flips your HVAC on a lot. So why not spend a couple hundred dollars and a few hours on the weekend installing a programmable thermostat? It’s efficient, regulates the temperature in your home and pays back in utility bill savings. You might have some issues with electrical wiring, depending on your old thermostat. If that’s the case, an electrician can help you safely wire the new one.
Check y our insulation.
Attic insulation is often overlooked by homeowners because it’s pre-installed in the home. During the winter, it keeps a lot of the cold air from seeping through the ceiling. If it’s degraded or missing in areas though, you’re going to have problems. So homeowners should go up to their attic and check to see if there are pests, mold or other issues and address them immediately. This may require a professional in such cases, because they have the connections and experience to repair or lay new insulation.
Insulate your windows and doors.
Your windows and doors potentially leak the hot air from your heater during the winter. You should lay your hand against their frames to feel for any cold air. In such cases, you will need to apply caulking or weather-stripping to seal the leaks. It’s easy, very affordable and a project you can complete on the weekend. By doing so, you will save money on utility bills and keep your home cozy.
Why Winterize?
Winterizing your home comes with a variety of benefits, the best of which is repair prevention. By taking steps to protect your home against possible dangers, you save thousands of dollars on repairs and potential replacements. Some dangers you otherwise face by not winterizing your home include:

  • Collapsed roof
  • Possibility of a fire
  • Carbon monoxide leak
  • Loss of electricity
  • Paying more for heating
  • Insurance claims
  • Flooding in rooms
    It may seem like a hassle, but it makes the difference in a safe winter versus a stressful and taxing spring.