An innovative home performance pilot program is increasing insight into the most cost-effective ways to maximize energy savings in residential new construction. A partnership of builders and utilities across the Northwest is participating in the pilot, which aims to shape future energy efficiency standards for newly constructed homes throughout the region.
Since its inception in late 2012, the home performance pilot continues to grow with more than 40 participating homes and builders across Idaho, Montana, Oregon and Washington. Once a home is built and occupied, the program monitors it for 13 months to track its performance and to ensure it meets desired efficiency goals. Homes in the program are at least 30 percent more energy-efficient than a home built to state-specific energy codes, with many exceeding that number. The monitoring provides a trove of data that will push future building energy codes in the Northwest.
"It is important to PSE to create awareness among our customers about the benefits of energy- efficient homes," said Bob Stolarski, director of Customer Energy Management for Puget Sound Energy, one of the utilities involved in the program. "We can help our community and builders enter a new stage in home energy performance, leading to lower energy use and, therefore, lower energy costs for our customers."
A number of energy-efficient features and strategies are used to achieve this new level of home efficiency. Advanced air-sealing techniques help create a tighter home envelope, which incorporates advanced framing, more efficient windows and increased insulation. Additionally, the pilot homes leverage highly efficient heating and cooling strategies, using innovative technologies, such as heat recovery ventilators and ductless heat pumps. This leads to homes that are considerably more efficient than a standard home, with optimal comfort levels, better indoor air quality and dramatically reduced energy costs.
"Our last house was built in the 1940s, and while we weatherized it, it still had hot and cold spots," said Cheryl Bayle, owner of a pilot home in Olympia, Wash. "It was an old home. And with our new home, we got the look I was seeking and desiring – beautiful craftsman style and quality – along with all these wonderful energy-efficient features."
The pilot is conducted in partnership with a select group of builders across the Northwest who are dedicated to building better homes. "The joy of doing what I do is seeing the customers ecstatic about their home when they first see it," said participating builder Scott Bergford, founder and president of Scott Homes, Inc. "Many current or future homeowners don't think they can live in a house that can be so comfortable and so energy-efficient at the same time. Through this pilot program, and thanks to support from utilities like Puget Sound Energy and programs like Northwest ENERGY STAR® Homes, I'm helping community members recognize that they too can fulfill their dreams of living in a super energy-efficient home. A yearly heating bill of only $200 can, in fact, be their reality."