by Jonathan Passe, Director of EPA’s ENERGY STAR Residential Branch
Picture this. It’s Saturday morning. The smell of coffee fills the air inside your home, and you fold back a crisp corner of the newspaper as the sun peers through an open window. It’s a moment of appreciation; a moment of calm.
In this moment, you could also be fighting one of the most pressing issues facing our country, the threat of climate change.
More than 17 percent of the greenhouse gases emitted in the United States are attributed to the energy we use to heat, cool and light our homes, and to power the appliances and electronics in them. So, simply by purchasing and living in more energy-efficient homes, homeowners can play a big role in helping to protect our planet from climate change. As reflected in President Obama’s Climate Action Plan, the urgency to act on climate change is clear.
When the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency introduced the ENERGY STAR label for newly-constructed homes in 1995, many people weren’t aware of the environmental impacts of their home. But over the past 20 years, ENERGY STAR has helped drive real change by implementing a voluntary energy efficiency program for homes that has spurred the market to change. Today, the same blue label that stands for energy efficiency for thousands of products, such as light bulbs and appliances, also provides homebuyers a simple way to identify and purchase better-built, more comfortable and energy-efficient homes.
Each home that earns the ENERGY STAR label is designed and built for energy efficiency from the ground up and follows a rigorous certification process that verifies each energy efficiency feature, many of which are hidden behind walls, in the attic, and under the foundation. These features include:
A thermal enclosure system with comprehensive air sealing, quality-installed insulation, and high-performance windows to deliver improved comfort and lower utility bills.
A high-efficiency heating, ventilating, and cooling system that’s designed and installed for optimal performance.
A comprehensive water management system to protect roofs, walls, and foundations from moisture damage.
Energy-efficient lighting and appliances that keep utility bills low while providing better performance and longevity.
As a result of these features, ENERGY STAR certified homes are up to 30 percent more energy efficient than a standard new home.
As we celebrate 20 years of ENERGY STAR certified homes this year, we have a chance to truly see the difference these homes make. Each ENERGY STAR certified home is responsible for 3,700 pounds fewer greenhouse gas emissions than a typical home. Since EPA began labeling new homes, American homeowners have saved more than $4.7 billion on their energy bills and reduced greenhouse gas emissions by over 53 billion pounds.
To put that into perspective, this is equal to the carbon dioxide emissions from consuming over 61 million barrels of oil.
As we’ve seen, simple choices made by everyday homeowners help move us forward on our journey towards a better environment. And ENERGY STAR is here to help by making it simple for homeowners to make energy efficient choices.
Accompanying image: ENERGY STAR Certified New Homes Better is Better Infographic