Energy Adviser: Energy Star homes built for efficiency

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Clark County residents who want to build a new house are fortunate, because many builders here have embraced the federal Energy Star verification program.

“You’ve got some builders in Clark County who are passionate about energy efficiency,” said Lee Kuhl, who works for Northwest Energy Star Homes. The program is funded by regional public utilities such as Clark Public Utilities as well as the Bonneville Power Administration and Energy Trust of Oregon, and encourages energy-efficient housing construction in Washington, Oregon, Idaho and Montana.

According to Kuhl, more than 35 percent of all new homebuilding in Clark County in 2011 is certified Energy Star construction. That means building methods increase the overall energy efficiency of the home by at least 15 percent over what construction codes require. Within the Northwest region, fewer than 20 percent of new homes are Energy Star certified. That’s an improvement over the meager 2.4 percent rate just five years ago.

Vancouver homebuilder Steve Tapio said Energy Star certification really caught hold in Clark County in 2004 when his company, New Tradition Homes, took the lead.

“We saw Energy Star as the next step in home construction,” Tapio said. “Now most of the larger builders are into the program. We see a lot of advantages to Energy Star construction for homeowners and builders.”

What you get

Energy Star-qualified construction means that a new homeowner will see:

• Effective insulation throughout the house.

• High performance, energy-efficient windows.

• Tighter constructed duct work.

• Efficient heating and cooling equipment.

• Efficient lighting and appliances.

• And most important, a third-party verification, overseen by Northwest Energy Star (http://northwestenergystar.com).

A typical homeowner using 1,500 kilowatt hours of electricity per month will pay $1,436 for power consumption in a year.

An Energy Star home would reduce power consumption by at least 15 percent, or about 2,700 kilowatt hours per year — which adds up to $215 in annual savings.

As a bonus, Energy Star homes have “healthier” indoor air, as performance-tested duct work keeps the air inside your home clean by reducing the possibility of drawing unwanted air from your home’s attic, basement, crawl spaces and garage.

Tapio said building an Energy Star home will add $3,000 to $5,000 or more to the cost of construction.

Industry recognition

In June, Clark Public Utilities won the Energy Star Leadership in Housing Award for its sponsoring energy-efficient homebuilding in Clark County. The utility provides incentives of $1,500 for electrically heated homes to incorporate new technologies and optimize efficiencies floor to ceiling. Participation in the program has nearly doubled from year to year.

For information on the Energy Star program or other energy-efficiency incentives and rebates, customers can call a Clark Public Utilities energy counselor at 360-992-3355.

To find an Energy Star builder, go to http://www.northwestenergystar.com and click on “find a builder.”

Energy Adviser is written by Clark Public Utilities and relies on the expertise of utility energy counselors, who provide conservation and energy use information to utility customers. Send questions to energyadviser@clarkpud.com.