Energy Star Qualified Homes Version 3 Was Effective 4/1/2011

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Most homeowners are familiar with the Energy Star Label because it is on so many of our day-to-day appliances, water heaters, TVs and other household items that use electricity.  Energy Star was created by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and the U.S. Department of Energy in order to promote energy efficiency.  What you may not know is that Energy Star program also qualifies entire homes as well. 

 “To earn the ENERGY STAR, a home must meet strict guidelines for energy efficiency set by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. These homes are at least 15% more energy efficient than homes built to the 2004 International Residential Code (IRC), and include additional energy-saving features that typically make them 20–30% more efficient than standard homes” according to the Energy Star website

Starting on April 1, 2011 the Energy Star Qualified Homes Program incorporated a newer, tougher standard referred to as Energy Star Version 3.0.  On January 1, 2012 Version 3 will be mandatory and prior versions will no longer be accepted.

What does this mean to potential Energy Star Qualified homeowners?  Essentially, the government has decided to raise the bar of Energy Star qualifications so that it remains above the basic building codes which have been raising their bar as well.  While the core of the Energy Star program remains the same, under Version 3.0 the inspection lists used by new-home builders in order to get the Energy Star Qualified Label have been revised and expanded.  There is increased focus on three areas: Air Flow or what they call “Thermal Enclosure Systems”, (Controlling air flow with insulation, air barriers), Thermal Flow through “HVAC System Quality Installation”, (Heating, Ventilation, Air Conditioning), and Moisture Flow through “Water Management”.   Builders, HVAC contractors and other subcontractors are going to have to acquire new Energy Star training since they have to work as a team in order to successfully use and pass the Rater Checklists.  I recently attended such a class sponsored by the Lake Norman Home Builders Association.

Great sources for more information:

EcoHome…Counting Down to Energy Star 3.0


Actual Energy Star Checklists For Contractors


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Lake Norman Green Homes: EPA Launches Indoor airPLUS to Increase Focus on Indoor Air Quality

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EPA Indoor Air Plus logo


Imagine what it would be like to have to breath through a straw.  That is how one of my clients’ daughters, who has severe asthma, describes how she feels when she is exposed to even the slightest bit of toxins in the air…including the ingredients in popular air fresheners and scented candles.  While I was recently showing her family some Lake Norman waterfront homes, she had two serious asthma attacks triggered by just that.  Each time it took her over a day to recover from just seconds of exposure to an air freshener or lingering cigarette smoke. 

I must admit, despite my avid focus on “green” or “high performance” housing in Lake Norman  I don’t think I totally grasped the seriousness of indoor air quality until I met this family.  It is one thing to learn about the latest low or no VOC (Volatile Organic compounds) paint products and the amount of organic gases like Formaldehyde that are emitted from such solid and liquids as hardwood floors, cabinets, sealers, paints, pressed wood products…the list goes on and on.  It is quite another to watch this young woman gasping for air.

The good news is that indoor air quality is an important part of the “green” housing movement nationally and right here in Lake Norman.  So much so, that the US Environmental Protection Agency recently created Indoor airPLUS  which is designed to work in partnership with their more well known ENERGY STAR  program. Just as ENERGY STAR is an accreditation program for energy efficiency, Indoor airPLUS is a program designed to encourage home builders to “employ a variety of construction practices and technologies in their new homes to help address” such air quality issues as:

  • Moisture Control
  • Radon Control
  • Pest Management
  • HVAC
  • Ventilation and Filtration
  • Combustion Venting
  • Building Materials

At the Indoor airPLUS’s first outreach webinar they explained that 19% of US households have a member with Asthma, 40% of households have a member with a respiratory problem and that they have found that typical indoor air chemical pollution levels may be 2-5 times higher than what is considered “safe” levels.

Including these pollutants and sources of indoor air pollution:

  • Asbestos
  • Biological Pollutants
  • Carbon Monoxide
  • Formaldehyde/Pressed Wood Products
  • Household Cleaning and Maintenance, Personal Care, or Hobbies
  • Lead
  • Nitrogen Dioxide
  • Pesticides
  • Radon
  • Respirable Particles
  • Secondhand Smoke/Environmental Tobacco Smoke
  • Stoves, Heaters, Fireplaces, and Chimneys

So, how does a home in our Lake Norman area earn the Indoor AirPlus label?  “A home must first be designed to earn the ENERGY STAR label, the government-backed symbol for energy efficiency.  By adding up to 30 additional home design and construction features, an Indoor airPLUS qualified home helps protects residents…” from indoor air pollution.  During the Lake Norman home-building process testers or “HERS” raters will visit the build site and verify the required construction specifications.  The Indoor airPLUS label will be placed on the electrical panel along with the ENERGY STAR label when it has passed the certification process.

Knowledgeable Lake Norman “green” home builders view ENERGY STAR ratings as the lowest/less stringent when compared to such “green” rating systems as North Carolina’s Healthy Built Homes, the National Association of Home Builders Green Home Building Guidelines and the very toughest LEED certified homes.  However, while ENERGY STAR and Indoor airPLUS may not be as comprehensive as these, I am excited to be an early Lake Norman supporter or “ally” of the new Indoor airPLUS program in hopes that it will lead to an increased focus on indoor air quality throughout the building industry and by consumers both here in the Lake Norman area and throughout the country. 

For more information  “The Inside Story: A Guide to Indoor Air Quality”.

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Posted in Building a Green Home, Green in the News, Green Resources, How to Improve Health and Comfort, Indoor Air Quality, Miscellaneous | Tagged , , | 1 Comment

Lake Norman Green Homes Celebrates Blog Action Day 2009!

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Lake Norman Real Estate Celebrates Blog Action Day 2009

Blog Action Day  is an annual event that unites the world’s bloggers in posting about the same issue on the same day on their own blogs with the aim of sparking discussion around an issue of global importance. Blog Action Day 2009 will be the largest-ever social change event on the web. One day. One issue. Thousands of voices.”

Lake Norman Green Homes is proud to be one of 7108 blogs are participating in over 136 countries with an expectation of 11,214,552 readers today, Oct. 15th!

Climate Change + Lake Norman “Green” Homes

While climate change  may conjur up images of melting icebergs, floods and droughts, if we focus on reducing emissions and renewable energy it is quite important and proper to write about “green” homes and the exciting trends in “high performance” homes that are cropping up in and around our Lake Norman communities.

As a Certified Green Professional, EcoBroker and Green Realtor I have been a member of the Lake Norman Home Builders Association’s Green Building Council for over a year and I am witnessing on a weekly basis the growth and emphasis on using eco-friendly building materials and environmentally-conscious techniques in home building.  With over 50 members, our Lake Norman Green Building Council is comprised of builders, contractors, energy auditors, and suppliers of green building products and services ranging from insulation to formaldehyde-free cabinetry and flooring to environmentally friendly landscaping.

In an article in the Lake Norman Business Magazine:  “Green Goes Mainstream” Gail Minter made a great statement:  “Green building – using eco-friendly building materials and environmentally-conscious techniques–has moved from being an oddity into the mainstream.”   I am convinced that once our recession is over and home-builders begin building again, there will be a significant change in the design and components of new homes in Lake Norman just as there will be around the country.  We will see an increased emphasis on green technology, sustainability and factors that affect a home from the planning stages through completion including:

  • Site selection (placement on lot to take advantage of passive solar energy, minimize storm water run off, maximize use of  natural light, protection/minimal disruption of the natural habitat)
  • Use of recycled or re-used material include old wood, bricks and glass
  • Use of sustainably-harvested or rapidly renewable wood products
  • Use of materials and products that are made locally or as close as possible to minimize energy use related to shipping/the carbon footprint
  • Recycling of on-sight construction waste or minimizing waste through more efficient building practices
  • Use of insulation, design and fixtures and applicances to minimize heat loss and maximize energy efficiency
  • Increased use of alternative materials like cement, low-VOC paints, stains and glues to reduce chemical emissions

If you are interested in finding out more about green homes,  There is a great new book out:  Green From The Ground Up by David Johnston and Scott Gibson.

Or, go to Mother Nature Network to get their list of the 15 best carbon calculators   for individuals or households.

Finally, Fine Homebuilding has a great Payback Estimator for different types of insulation.

Honestly, this has been a bit of a rambling article.  The subject of “green” housing has become so broad and encompasses a large and diverse range of topics that I have just tried to wet your appetite and hope you will return to this blog for ongoing articles about Lake Norman’s green housing market.  It’s going to be exciting!

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Lake Norman Green Homes: How to make a ‘green’ kitchen

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Cooking Green in the Kitchen

Incorporating environmentally friendly building products and practices into your kitchen will give you a recipe for a greener kitchen. What shade of green would you like to cook? Are you a deep green and looking to achieve a gold rating set by standards of the National Green Building Program (NAHB) through new construction? Are you a light green by working on a remodel and incorporating some green practices? Whatever shade of green you desire it will provide you with long-term energy saving, demonstrated return on investment and environmental and health benefits.


Appliances – select ENERGY STAR® qualified appliances (overseen by the U.S. Department of Energy and U.S. Environmental Protection Agency). Some manufacturers offer an alarm on refrigerators to alert you when the door is left open. Energy efficient appliances cost less to operate. Also look for ENERGY STAR® water-conserving appliances – dishwashers and washing machines. When possible vent your kitchen range exhaust to the outside to reduce pollutants and improve the indoor air quality.

Cabinets – select cabinets that use “certified” wood and wood-based materials and products from third party-certified sources. Look for no added urea-formaldehyde plywood and particle board, ultra-low VOC (volatile organic compounds) water-based finishes and low-VOC sealants. Incorporate a cabinet with waste bins for a recycling center. Cabinets are available with single or even three waste bins for the extreme recycler. Environmental Programs and certifications to look for when choosing cabinetry:

· Environmental Stewardship Program certification (ESP)

· Kitchen Cabinet Manufacturers Association (KCMA)

· Forest Stewardship Council (FSC)

· Composite Panel Associations’ Environmentally Preferable Product Downstream Program (EPP)

Countertops– select recycled content building materials. There are many choices today of counter tops that are made from 100% recycled glass and cement which are very durable. Choosing a light colored countertop can help brighten a kitchen and open the opportunity for lights to be ran on dimmer switches which conserve energy. Environmental Programs and certifications to look for when choosing countertops:

· GREENGUARD Environmental Institute (GEI)

· Scientific Certification Systems (SCS)

· Cradle to Cradle Certification

· National Science Foundation (NSF)

The Key Ingredient is to look for trusted certifications. This is the best way for manufacturers to demonstrate their commitment to being green. Also look for members of the U.S. Green Building Council.


5214 Slanting Bridge Road

Denver, N.C. 28037


“Let us bring your vision home.”

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LEED High Performance Green Home Tour April 23 – May 10, 2009

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High Performance Home

If you are interested in learning more about green or high performance homes, one of the best ways is to tour an actual certified home.  Schreiner Custom Homes is offering the public a rare opportunity to tour the highest level, a LEED Certifed home, from April 23 – May 10th.

In order to help visitors to understand the highlights of the homes, there will be 28 signs throughout the tour pointing to specific high performance elements of the home.

Here is what Steve Schreiner of Schriener Custom Homes wrote about this project:

The High Performance Home is located in a community called Overlook on Mountain Island Lake. This area is one of the most environmentally sensitive areas of Charlotte. So it only seems fitting that this home with environmental conserving characteristics be located there.

The High Performance Home consists of a coordinated program incorporating numerous systems and products working together to produce a home that will be very energy efficient and therefore environmentally sensitive. The US Green Building Council’s LEED for Homes program has been implemented in this project, using an integrated design approach and incorporating sustainable procedures and products. This overall program is built upon a series of systems.

· Water Efficiency focuses on water use and water re-use through plumbing fixtures, rainwater reclamation, landscaping irrigation.

· Energy & Atmosphere addresses energy efficiency, tightness of the building envelope, insulation materials, house orientation, energy-demand (appliances, lighting, heating/cooling).

· Materials and Resources focuses on materials used in the home as to what they are comprised of, how energy consuming was it to produce them, how far away from the house site are they shipped, comprised of re-cycled materials.

· Indoor Environmental Quality addresses the critical living environment of the home. Since the house is now very tight it will also seal air from escaping as well and this could lead to air quality issues for the occupants; this is where low VOC paints, fabrics, and air exchangers become important.

· Education and Awareness is what the High Performance Home event is all about. We propose to provide an opportunity for the public to see for themselves what these different systems are all about and the products and procedures used to make them effective.

Our intent is for everyone to take with them some knowledge of how to implement a similar program into their own personal project, a new home, or renovation of an existing home.

More Information:

Charlotte, NC – High Performan Home
TV Partner – WCNC
Network Affiliate – NBC
Builder Partners – Schreiner Custom Homes
Charity Partner – Our Towns Habitat for Humanity
Tour Dates – April 23rd – May 10th
Tour Days & Times –Thurs. – Sat. 10am-5pm; Sun. Noon-5pm
Ticket Price – $5 at the door

Map and Tour Information


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