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EnergyStar Homes - Careful What You Wish For

Updated on December 19, 2009

Everyone wants their home to be perfect.  To come home to a comfortable, relaxing place where you and your family are happy and healthy.  EnergyStar has strived to make this dream a reality, but in the process has faltered in it's own right by approving certain products with energy star labels that are not properly tested by their manufacturers.  This creates a house that is unhealthy and will not last. 

Building Envelope

The building envelope is the entire exterior of the building.  It is what you want to insulate.  EnergyStar lets certain product manufacturers put their logo on products that meet or exceed a certain criteria.  You would think this criteria for insulation would be high.  It is not.  Fiberglass insulation that has been tested by third party facilities has shown this the be a product that REQUIRES air movement in order to not have issues like condensation, mold, and indoor air pollution.  Many of these tests can be confirmed from publishings by the University of Illinois and Oakridge National Laboratories.  Both are well know for their unbiased testing methods. 

Fiberglass insulation simply should not be an EnergyStar approved product.  With all of the problems that are caused by using fiberglass along with the extreme standards of air sealing a home, this recipes is unfortunately one for disaster.

ARV (Air Recovery Ventilators)

These are a great product that works well in tightly sealed homes by bringing new air in while removing old stagnant air.  Fresh air brings with it natural moisture eliminating the need for a humidifier in the winter time.  The only problem with many of the units that are installed is that they are never balanced.  Unfortunately,  the HVAC companies are supposed to go through the equipment and test certain aspects.  Supply temp, return temp, duct static pressure, CFM output of all supply and exhaust fans, things of that nature along with any auxiliary equipment. This is common on commercial work, but it is hardly ever performed for residential.  When sealing a home this tight, the equipment should go through a full range of testing to make sure that the equipment functions as engineered.  This is impossible to tell without thorough testing.

EnergyStar Policies

There are hundreds of thousands of inquiries every year from people who have started their home building project and would like to build a home to EnergyStar standards.  This is not possible with the current program setup.  Unless you consult with EnergyStar BEFORE you start your project, you may not use their program.  This rule is ridiculous since every measure taken for efficiency has very little to do with the actual construction of a house and can easily be incorporated into a structure that is partially complete. 

By taking this stance on their process and their product use and implementation, EnergyStar has crippled it's program and it's reputation with contractors who are afraid to build a home so tight with sub-par insulation and hope that the air intake equipment will be able to handle the extra moisture load.  This is not the way the program was supposed to work.  So if you own an EnergyStar home that is insulated with fiberglass, you may have moisture and indoor air pollution.  If this does happen to your home, alert EnergyStar right away so that maybe these policies will be amended.  The program, after all, has the right idea in terms of efficiency.  They just need to tighten us their product restrictions.

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