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Guidelines for Participating in the DOE Zero Energy Ready Home

The DOE Zero Energy Ready Home is a new and compelling way to recognize builders for their leadership in increasing energy efficiency, improving indoor air quality, and making homes zero energy ready.

The program builds upon the comprehensive building science requirements of ENERGY STAR® for Homes Version 3, along with proven Building America innovations and best practices. Other special attribute programs are incorporated to help builders reach unparalleled levels of performance with homes designed to last hundreds of years.

DOE Zero Energy Ready Homes are verified by a qualified third-party and are at least 40%-50% more energy efficient than a typical new home. This generally corresponds to a Home Energy Rating System (HERS) Index Score in the low- to mid-50s, depending on the size of the home and region in which it is built.

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DOE Zero Energy Ready Home Requirements

DOE Zero Energy Ready Homes must meet all DOE Zero Energy Ready Home National Program Requirements (Rev.05) for homes permitted on or after 8/11/2015.  Homes permitted prior to this time have the option of using the Rev.04 specifications.

They must:

  • Comply with ENERGY STAR for Homes and the Inspection Checklists for
    • Thermal Enclosure
    • HVAC Quality Installation (Contractor and HERS Rater)
    • Water Management
    • The target home/size adjustment factor used by ENERGY STAR
  • Feature energy efficient appliances and fixtures that are ENERGY STAR qualified.
  • Use high-performance windows that meet ENERGY STAR specifications.  Note that the ENERGY STAR window criteria have been updated, and that DOE Zero Energy Ready Home has established an extended phase-in period for the new window specs (see End Note #12 of the Rev.05 specs).
  • Meet 2012 International Energy Conservation Code levels for insulation.  In some states 2015 IECC insulation levels are required – see End Note #15 of the Rev.05 specs
  • Follow the latest proven research recommendations by installing ducts in conditioned space or using a high performance alternative as defined in the program specs.
  • Conserve water and energy through an efficient hot water distribution system that provides rapid hot water to the homeowner.
  • Provide comprehensive indoor air quality through full certification in EPA’s Indoor airPlus Program
  • Accomplish savings on the cost of future solar PV installations by following the PV-Ready checklist for climates with significant solar insolation.  This checklist references EPA's solar electric guide.  (Note that the solar-hot water provisions of the checklist are no longer mandatory and can be found below with encouraged items.)

DOE Zero Energy Ready Home Builders are encouraged to:

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100% Commitment

Commit to constructing 100% of your homes to the U.S. DOE's Zero Energy Ready Home Requirements.

PH

PHIUS+

Take the next step on the continuous path to Zero Energy Ready Home by meeting the additional requirements of the Passive House Institute US.

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WaterSense

Minimize water use by participating in the EPA WaterSense for New Single-Family Homes program.

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Fortified for Safer Living

Embrace disaster resistance by following the Institute for Business and Home Safety (IBHS) FORTIFIED for Safer Living or FORTIFIED Home provisions for regionally specific natural hazards.

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Quality Management Program

Implement comprehensive quality management practices.

  Solar Hot Water Accomplish additional savings by using the solar hot water-ready checklist and EPA's solar thermal systems guide.  These requirements are no longer mandatory but encouraged.
   

Ask buyers to sign a waiver allowing DOE Zero Energy Ready Home access to one year of utility bill data.

 

Certify Zero Energy Ready Homes

Builders can follow two different paths in qualifying a home for the DOE Zero Energy Ready Home initiative.

Prescriptive Path

To use the prescriptive path, follow the DOE Zero Energy Ready Home National Program Requirements. A registered verifier should submit the prescriptive compliance report after verification that the home meets the challenge.

Performance Path

Registered verifiers can now use REM/Rate V14 and EnergyGauge USA 3.1.00 to qualify homes to meet the DOE Zero Energy Ready Home.  The software will create a DOE Certificate specific to the certified home.

IMPORTANT: Raters must email the DOE Zero Energy Ready Home Verification Summary report to zero@newportpartnersllc.com for builder recognition in the DOE Zero Energy Ready Home program and on the locator tool.

State-Specific Requirements

State energy codes that exceed this program's requirements always take precedence to determine compliance. In states where the residential provisions of the 2012 International Energy Conservation Code (IECC) have been adopted, qualifying homes must instead meet the envelope insulation requirements of the 2015 IECC, effective 12 months after the effective date of the 2012 IECC in that state.  The exact date at which time a state will migrate to 2015 IECC envelope compliance may vary based on the timing of RESNET rating software updates, but will not be any sooner than 12 months following the effective date of the 2012 IECC in that state.  In the following cases, there are additional state-specific requirements:

Washington State Requirements

To continue adding value beyond code, while including ENERGY STAR Northwest, we now have specific requirements for homes certified in Washington State. This customized program for Washington helps leading builders continue to differentiate their homes in a very competitive market. For homes permitted after January 1, 2014, the Washington DOE Zero Energy Ready Home Requirements apply.

California Requirements

DOE has updated its original California-specific requirements for the program, with the release of DOE Zero Energy Ready Home California Requirements – Revision 5, which goes into effect for homes permitted after August 10, 2015.  Revision 5 for California adds numerous clarifications which have also been added to the national specifications.  The revision also offers more flexibility in terms of air tightness requirements (attached dwellings have a higher ACH50 spec), and alignment with upcoming Title 24 provisions such as recognition of the High Performance Attic (HPA) design strategy as a method for optimizing the duct system (see End Note 15 H).

Under Rev.05 of the DOE Zero Energy Ready Home California Requirements, builders certifying homes in California continue to have the options of prescriptive compliance, a performance option using national HERS software, or two performance options using California Title 24 compliance software.

Notes:

  1. Revision 5 of the California specifications jumped up from Revision #1.  This jump in the revision number was implemented to align the rev # with the national program specifications, which are currently at Revision #5.
  2. While homes permitted after August 10, 2015 must follow the Rev.05 specs for California, builders may utilize aspects of these specifications – such as the ability to utilize a High Performance Attic design (see End Note 15 H) – immediately.
  3. DOE is continuing discussions with California stakeholders to align the DOE Zero Energy Ready Home program with advanced building practices being developed and implemented by the CA building industry.

Policy Record

The DOE Zero Energy Ready Home Policy Record contains a description of 1) issues that have been received and resolved since the release of the last revision of the National Program Requirements, and 2) program updates that have been implemented by DOE but did not result in direct changes to the DOE Zero Energy Ready Home National Program Requirements document.

Savings & Cost Estimate Summary

The DOE Zero Energy Ready Home Savings & Cost Estimate Summary gives builders, contractors, utilities, energy programs, and other stakeholders a general sense of the magnitude and type of added costs for constructing DOE Zero Energy Ready Homes and how these costs compare to the energy savings. Actual energy savings and incremental costs will vary.

Public Input

The rationale for the DOE Zero Energy Ready Home program requirements are:

  • Sound science
  • Sound data to back-up provisions
  • Widespread availability of required products/systems
  • Reasonable adaptability to typical builder practices

Draft requirements were published for public review and comment, and responses were viewed through this framework.  In response to these comments multiple changes were made to the final requirements. Interested parties can review DOE's responses to public comments.