I was recently reading a study by Advanced Energy on their findings regarding Energy Star's performance claims on their certified Energy Star homes.
The study was ultimately between standard homes built in Houston vs those built to the Energy Star standard. Their findings and details are in the report but this was ultimately their conclusions:
The data indicate that ENERGY STAR does deliver savings in Houston but the amount of savings appears to be fairly small – about 5 percent of summer/cooling loads. The installation of similar building practices and products by all builders contributed to the smaller-than-expected savings between the different groups of homes.
It is important to clarify that these results do not mean ENERGY STAR homes are using more energy than predicted. ENERGY STAR homes perform very close to the predictions of the HERS models, but baseline homes perform much better than the reference homes defined by the HERS standard. The better-than-code construction practices of baseline homes substantially reduced the difference between ENERGY STAR and baseline homes.
Ultimately while the savings and reduction in Energy is nowhere near the 30% claim that Energy Star uses to market their program the study concludes that Energy Star's programs have an impact and are leading to raise the bar on overall homes energy efficiency. The extent of improvements in standard construction practices and energy savings in residential buildings as a result of spillover effects from the ENERGY STAR program in Houston is unknown.
However, market transformation from ENERGY STAR appears to have taken place and resulted in very positive benefits to consumers and electricity savings. Therefore, the narrowing gap between ENERGY STAR and baseline homes may be a sign of bigger program impacts rather than smaller program impacts. Thus, it makes sense for utility planners and policy makers to determine how programs can get credit for the savings achieved by non-program homes.
But Energy Star, NAHB Green Build Certified Homes, LEED among others are all suffering from growing pains. And like others Energy Star's new program 2011 is to address some of those issues. And like its predecessors they will need better measurements of how accurate the claims are. But this also why I no longer participate in third party verifications. I cannot easily sign off on something for which I have no guarantee. A verifier simply checks off a list of requirements our role is sleight but our responsibility is not.
I appreciate all efforts by LEED, by Energy Star among others furthering the mantra of green and energy but they are not the panacea and should simply be an educational and research group - save the awards and certificates for the classroom and the Oscars.