Wisconsin Focus on Energy Debuts New Homes Program

New program addresses energy-efficiency and quality-control needs specific to Wisconsin homes

Apr 13, 2011, 15:39 ET from Focus on Energy

MADISON, Wis., April 13, 2011 /PRNewswire/ -- Focus on Energy, Wisconsin utilities' statewide program for energy efficiency and renewable energy, recently debuted the Focus on Energy New Homes Program.  The program pairs Wisconsin builders with leading energy experts in order to construct new homes that are safer, more durable, and are 10 to 100 percent more efficient than typical homes built to the state's Uniform Dwelling Code. Builders throughout Wisconsin can enroll in the program, and prospective homebuyers can work with participating builders to choose one of four levels of efficiency.

ENERGY STAR® Roots – An Evolution for Wisconsin Homes

Focus' New Homes Program is a natural progression from the national ENERGY STAR Homes Program that Focus sponsored locally in the past. When the ENERGY STAR Homes Program overhauled its criteria in 2010, Focus collaborated with state builders to determine if the changes were appropriate for Wisconsin.

"When the new ENERGY STAR requirements were released, we realized that while they provided some great general building standards, not all criteria addressed the unique needs of Wisconsin homeowners," said Sara Van de Grift, residential programs director for Focus on Energy. "A home in Wisconsin isn't going to need the same features as a home in California. This is why we created the Focus New Homes Program, to provide a customized, cost-effective option for Wisconsin residents looking to build safe, smart, energy-efficient homes."

With builder support, Focus decided to forego ENERGY STAR requirements that weren't applicable to Wisconsin homeowners, and instead develop standards that could yield superior energy savings at a more affordable price. For example, the following are just a few of the Focus on Energy New Homes Program requirements that homeowners will benefit from:

  • Air tightness. Air leaking into and out-of a home is major source of energy loss and can make a home feel drafty and uncomfortable. Homes certified by Focus' New Homes Program must meet a stringent air tightness standard, dramatically reducing uncontrolled air leakage.
  • Whole house ventilation. Because the home is air tight, it is important to manage its indoor air quality. This is why whole house ventilation is required in a home certified by the Focus New Homes Program.  The program has adopted the American Society of Heating Refrigeration and Air Conditioning Engineers (ASHRAE) standard 62.2, allowing a homeowner the ability to manage their home's indoor air quality.
  • Space heating and water heating design standard. Because homes certified by Focus' New Home Program have such strict requirements when it comes to air tightness and ventilation standards, as a safety precaution, the program does not allow atmospherically ventilated space heating or water heating appliances. Reason, in a home that is more air tight the ventilation fans can cause an atmospherically ventilated combustion appliance such as a natural gas water heater or furnace to back draft, drawing carbon monoxide and other combustion by-products into a home.

Construction Standards – Building Peace of Mind

In order for a home to become a certified Focus New Home, builders must meet up to 14 standards that have been created to enhance comfort, safety, durability, and energy efficiency, ensuring the home is a sound investment. All of these standards address the demands of Wisconsin's climate zone—a climate marked by humidity and extreme temperature variations throughout the year. And while meeting these standards may seem like a daunting and expensive undertaking, it doesn't have to be. This program will help homeowners and builders make informed and cost-effective decisions that will result in a more energy-efficient home.

In order to protect homebuyers and substantiate energy-efficiency claims, Focus requires a third-party building performance consultant to work with the builder. The consultant also performs two site visits to confirm the home meets Focus' standards and energy-efficiency requirements.

A Better Home – Results You'll Want to Live With

According to the National Association of Realtors' 2010 Profile of Home Buyers and Sellers, almost nine in 10 homebuyers said that a home's heating and cooling costs factored into to their purchasing decision. Therefore, the energy savings of a Focus New Home could increase resale potential, appealing to prospective buyers and helping homeowners offset long-term housing costs. Other resale benefits include the home's tested safety and durability, as well as increased homeowner comfort.

"I was able to notice the difference right away in the home," said Brooke Skidmore, Focus New Home owner. "The windows, outlets, and doors did not leak air and my energy bills were less."

Homebuyers can visit finditwithfocus.com to find a local builder affiliated with Focus' New Homes Program. More information is also available at focusonenergy.com/newhomes.

About Focus on Energy

Focus on Energy works with eligible Wisconsin residents and businesses to install cost-effective energy efficiency and renewable energy projects. Focus information, resources, and financial incentives help to implement projects that otherwise would not be completed, or to complete projects sooner than scheduled. Its efforts help Wisconsin residents and businesses manage rising energy costs, promote in-state economic development, protect our environment, and control the state's growing demand for electricity and natural gas. For more information, call 800.762.7077 or visit focusonenergy.com.

SOURCE Focus on Energy