Frequently Asked Questions about BGE's New Homes Program

For Homebuyers

  1. Why should I buy a home built to meet the ENERGY STAR® guidelines?
  2. How can I find an ENERGY STAR® builder?
  3. Does an ENERGY STAR certified home cost more?
  4. How do I know my home is ENERGY STAR® certified?
  5. Are ENERGY STAR® certified homes built too tight?

For Homebuilders

  1. How will we benefit from selling ENERGY STAR® certified homes?
  2. How much money will consumers save on utility bills for an ENERGY STAR® certified home?
  3. How does a HERS Rater determine if a home qualifies for the ENERGY STAR®?
  4. What happens if a home does not pass the tests to receive the ENERGY STAR®?
  5. Are there any rebates for multi-family residential construction?
  6. What is the BGE ENERGY STAR® for New Homes Program policy on modular home builders?

For Raters

  1. Who receives Program Incentives?
  2. Will energy rating software other than REM/Rate be accepted?
  3. What does the Program QA/QC process entail?
  4. What sampling protocol is allowable under this BGE program?
  5. What are Raters responsible for in terms of HVAC verification?

Homebuyer FAQs

1. Why should I buy a home built to meet the ENERGY STAR® guidelines?
Your home is probably the biggest investment you’ll ever make. Why not purchase one that meets high energy performance guidelines? Not only can you save money every year on reduced utility and maintenance costs—your home will also be more comfortable and have improved indoor air quality. If you resell the home later, it will be ENERGY STAR certified. That’s one powerful marketing tool!

2. How can I find an ENERGY STAR® builder?
Visit the Find a Builder page of this web site for a list of builders participating in the BGE Program. You can also visit www.energystar.gov/partnerlocator to find a complete listing of the participating ENERGY STAR homebuilders in Maryland.

3. Does an ENERGY STAR® certified home cost more?
No, an ENERGY STAR certified home does not have to cost more than one built only to code. The price is determined by the construction practices of your homebuilder. In most ENERGY STAR certified homes, even if the initial cost is higher, the monthly utility savings are greater than the increase in a monthly mortgage payment—thereby reducing your total monthly costs!

4. How do I know my home is ENERGY STAR® certified?
Look for a blue ENERGY STAR label on your circuit breaker box or elsewhere in the utility room. If you don’t see one, contact your builder and request documentation that your home has earned the ENERGY STAR—either with an ENERGY STAR certificate or a Home Energy Rating (HERS) report.

5. Are ENERGY STAR® certified homes built too tight?
No, ENERGY STAR certified homes utilize mechanical ventilation, which ensures appropriate circulation of fresh air for safe, healthy living—while helping remove odors, moisture, and other indoor air pollutants.

For a list of other ENERGY STAR Homes FAQs, visit: www.energystar.gov/faqs.

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Homebuilder FAQs

1. How will we benefit from selling ENERGY STAR® certified homes?
Partnering with ENERGY STAR distinguishes builders as leaders in energy-efficient construction and environmental stewardship. It’s the coveted symbol that provides you with valuable peer and public recognition—as consumers increasingly ask for ENERGY STAR. Furthermore, as homebuyers across the country become increasingly interested in “green” building, energy efficiency is the best place for them to start. As their builder, the easy way for you to demonstrate the energy efficiency of your new homes is with the blue ENERGY STAR mark, a U.S. Government-backed symbol. What’s more, BGE will help you promote and sell your ENERGY STAR certified homes, thereby giving you a competitive advantage over non-participant builders in your market.

2. How much money will consumers save on utility bills for an ENERGY STAR® certified home?
In Maryland, ENERGY STAR certified homes must be built to be at least 15% more energy-efficient than the state code requires. Therefore, consumers can expect to save at least 15% on their energy bills compared to a home built just to code. However, we do not recommend quantifying the amount of money consumers may save because utility costs depend upon many factors such as a household’s lifestyle

3. How does a HERS Rater determine if a home qualifies for the ENERGY STAR®?
Prior to construction, HERS Raters work with their builder clients to conduct a plan analysis to determine the most cost-effective energy efficiency measures for the home. At the pre-drywall stage, a visual inspection is conducted to ensure that the air and thermal barriers in the home are continuous and complete. Toward the end of construction, the HERS Rater inspects the home and performs diagnostic tests (e.g., blower door and duct blaster) to assess the home’s energy performance. The Rater then incorporates the results of the inspections and diagnostic tests into the plan analysis software that determines the home’s HERS Index, for which the qualifying threshold is unique for each home. 

For more information about the national ENERGY STAR for New Homes specifications, please visit www.energystar.gov/homes.

4. What happens if a home does not pass the tests to receive the ENERGY STAR®?
Your HERS Rater will work with you to identify problems that are not allowing the home to meet ENERGY STAR guidelines. Once these problems are addressed and corrected, the home can be re-tested.

For a list of other ENERGY STAR Homes FAQs, visit www.energystar.gov/faqs.

5. Are there any rebates for multi-family residential construction?
Yes, on May 28, 2014, the Maryland Public Service Commission approved the addition of a Multifamily Low-Rise New Construction subprogram under BGE’s ENERGY STAR for New Homes program. The subprogram is part of BGE’s partnership with the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to promote the ENERGY STAR for New Homes Program. The overall goal is to create a market for ENERGY STAR certified low-rise multifamily units in BGE’s service territory. Financial incentives are available for each energy-efficient new low rise multifamily unit built. Click here to learn more.

6. What is the BGE ENERGY STAR® for New Homes Program policy on modular home builders?
The BGE ENERGY STAR for New Homes Program welcomes applications from modular home builders following ENERGY STAR guidelines. However, no modular homes purchased prior to June 1, 2009 will be accepted into the Program. Any modular home selected for a quality assurance inspection under the Program will receive in-field testing during assembly as opposed to the rough-in and final inspections conducted for stick-built homes.

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Rater FAQs

1. Who receives Program Incentives?
Program incentives for qualified homes are paid only to the participating homebuilder.

2. Will energy rating software other than REM/Rate be accepted?
Yes. All RESNET accredited software will be accepted for use in this Program. At this time the energy rating software programs accredited by RESNET are OptiMiser, EnergyGauge USA Version 2.8, EnergyInsights TM V% and REM/Rate v.12.96. This list and more details on these software programs can be found at: http://www.resnet.us/professional/programs/energy_rating_software.

3. What does the Program QA/QC process entail?
Quality Assurance and Quality Control (QA/QC) will be conducted for 10% of homes enrolled in the Program. This process will have two key components.

  1. The QA/QC process starts with a complete review of the architectural plans, verification of the HERS software file for inputs and accuracy, and certification that the HERS Index score is accurate.
  2. Evaluation, measurement and verification is conducted utilizing onsite inspections.

a. The first onsite inspection will be performed at rough framing, with insulation installed and prior to drywall installation (modular homes excluded). This is a narrow window and coordination between the Builder/Rater and the third party inspector is critical. If the home is selected for QA/QC it is the responsibility of the Builder/Rater to give prior notification as to when the unit is available for inspection. The following inspections may be performed at that time:

i. Duct Leakage (Measurement Verification)
ii. Thermal Bypass Inspection (Visual Inspection)
iii. Window U-Factor Values (Visual Verification)
iv. Gas Furnace Make and Model # (if split A/C system – Visual Verification), or
v. Heat Pump Indoor Unit Make and Model # (Visual Inspection)

b. The second onsite inspection will be performed at permanent meter set, once all weather-stripping and door hardware are in place, mechanical equipment is fully operational, and just prior to homeowner occupancy. If the home is selected for QA/QC it is the responsibility of the Builder/Rater to give prior notification as to when the unit is available for inspection. The following inspections may be performed at that time:

i. Air Leakage (Measurement Verification)
ii. A/C Condenser Make and Model # (Visual Verification)
iii. Heat Pump Outdoor Unit Make and Model # (Visual Inspection), or
iv. Airflow Supply and Return Delivery (Measurement Verification)

4. What sampling protocol is allowable under this BGE program?
The BGE ENERGY STAR for New Homes Program allows the same sampling protocol as approved by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency's (EPA) ENERGY STAR for New Homes Program and Chapter Six of the Mortgage Industry National Home Energy Rating Standards (aka RESNET standards) which governs sampling rating and Sampling Provider accreditation with the following exception:

  • The unit tested for sampling purposes has to meet all of the BGE QA/QC requirements for that unit (i.e. the Rater cannot perform duct leakage testing on one unit, Thermal Bypass Checklist on another and air leakage testing on another). All required measures must be completed on the same unit.

In order to utilize the Sampling Protocol, the rater must use a RESNET-approved Sampling Provider, an entity accredited through these standards that oversees the sampling process and issues the sampling certifications that homes meet a particular set of threshold specifications such as the ENERGY STAR specifications adopted by EPA.

Sampling is intended to provide certification that a group of new homes meets a particular threshold such as ENERGY STAR, energy code compliance, or qualification for an energy efficiency lending program. It is based on pre-analysis of building plans meeting the intended qualification (e.g., a HERS Index threshold), and subsequent random testing and inspections of a sample set of the as-built homes. Certifying a group of homes by sampling entitles the customer to documentation certifying that the homes meet the desired threshold; it does not constitute a confirmed HERS rating on any home. A worst-case REM/Rate file must be submitted for all sampled residential units.

5. What are Raters responsible for in terms of HVAC verification?
Raters participating in the BGE ENERGY STAR for New Homes Program are expected to follow the requirements of the EPA ENERGY STAR for New Homes Program performance path guidelines with regard to HVAC verification. Raters are expected to complete the ENERGY STAR HVAC Quality Installation System Rater Checklist.  Raters are also required by ENERGY STAR to file the HVAC Quality Installation System Contractor Checklist for each home that receives the ENERGY STAR certification.  This checklist needs to be completed by a credentialed HVAC contractor

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