The (Energy Efficient) Homes of the Future

Six tips for building an energy-efficient new home—and maximizing your rebate potential

Building a new house? Congratulations! There are few life events as significant or exciting as breaking ground on a home of your own making. Sure, the sheer scope of such a project can be overwhelming, but the payoff is priceless: a home of one’s own, a place to grow and nurture your family, and a financial investment whose[s1] [iC2]  value can greatly appreciate over time—especially when built right. 

Making your new home energy efficient is an easy way to preserve and even increase the value of your home over time, but the benefits can be reaped long before you decide to sell or refinance. Energy-efficient choices during construction mean lower utility bills and year-round comfort. Many people spend a lot of money down the road to remodel and upgrade their homes to be energy efficient, but new home builders have the opportunity to get it right the first time. 

Beyond the financial and comfort benefits, why is energy efficiency so important? Put simply, making your home energy-efficient helps keep electricity affordable for everybody. The more homes that are built to be energy efficient now, the less likely it is that our state will need additional energy supply through new power stations (which lead to higher energy costs) in the future. 

To help you along in the process, PSO offers significant rebates when you build a PSO-certified or ENERGY STAR certified new home. Here are six important things to know when embarking on this exciting journey.

1.     To qualify for rebates, enroll in the PSO new home rebate program before the walls are framed. 

Certifying a new home as energy-efficient is a multi-step process that starts from the beginning of construction. The first step is to contact us here or at 1-888-776-1366. Once you’ve officially qualified with PSO, you or your builder will need to contract with a local independent HERS rater in the early stages of design and construction. HERS is short for the Home Energy Rating System Index, which is the nationally recognized industry standard by which a home’s energy efficiency is measured. To learn more about HERS and find a home energy rater near you, click here.

2.     Find the right builder for you. 

To be certified as energy efficient, new homes must pass several inspections and tests, including thermal bypass inspection, building envelope testing, and duct pressure testing. It’s important to work with an experienced builder who you trust to make the right choices throughout the construction process to maximize your energy efficiency—and your rebates. PSO works with a variety of area builders who are seasoned pros at building for energy efficiency. See PSO-certified builders near you using our Find A Builder tool.  

If your builder of choice isn’t yet PSO-certified, that’s no problem. Homeowners also have the option of registering as a builder themselves.

3.     When designing your new home, first consider the surrounding environment.

Which direction will your home face? Where does that put the sun? Are there any trees or buildings nearby that could block the sunlight or soften the wind? 

The orientation of your house is integral to maximizing its energy efficiency. From Forbes

Both the shape and the construction of your home will greatly influence the heating and cooling requirements. For example, a building in a hot, arid climate experiences a large load from the sun in the summer. If the building is shaped in a way that reduces exposure to the sun—the glass is shaded by a large overhang and the walls are well insulated—the solar gain can be minimized and cooling requirements can be decreased, saving energy. 

Consult with your builder to make sure your new home can work with the environmental conditions, not against them. 

4.     Efficiency is in the details. 

This is your home, an extension of your personality, designed and built to your specifications from the ground up. That’s a lot of decisions to make, and each one matters, from lighting and windows to ductwork, insulation and HVAC. Work closely with your builder to make sure that each decision is made with the larger goal of efficiency in mind. To get started, here’s a handy printable checklist of some energy-saving features to discuss with your home builder.

5.     Know your rebate potential. 

When considering the cost of energy-efficient products versus conventional products, remember that PSO offers thousands of dollars in rebates on a variety of new home components, which you can see here.

To be eligible for new home rebates, all builders must complete the mandatory PSO PowerForward Package, a baseline set of six upgrades that automatically gets you an $800 rebate: 95% CFL lighting, 100% ENERGY STAR certified windows, home infiltration (6 ACH50), increased wall (R-15) and attic (R-38) insulation levels, ducts with 6% or less infiltration (leakage to outside), and an HVAC with a SEER efficiency rating of at least 15. 

Additional bonus rebates on top of the $800 are available for things like investing in an HVAC with a higher SEER rating ($400-$800) or 95% LED lighting ($200).

6.     Enroll early.

New Home Rebate funds are limited, so the earlier in the calendar year you register, the higher your chance of being accepted. You or your builder can contact one of the account managers below to get started. 

Jason Fisher: jason.fisher@icf.com or 918-519-0214

Curtis Maxwell: curtis.maxwell@icf.com or 918-734-3578