Energy Efficiency in New Homes- What You Need to Know

A new Capstone Home in Cannery Village, Milton.
May 1, 2012

Delaware new home builders have many things to say about the energy efficiency of new homes. How can someone make sense of it all? At Capstone Homes, we're less into hype and more into reality, so here's a quick breakdown of what you need to know about new home energy efficiency.

Energy Star:

This is the most popular program for new home builders. Energy Star was created by the federal government, and it is administered by the Department of Energy. Energy Star creates standards that that builders have to meet and then have verified by a trained Energy Star rater. If the house passes, then it is called an "Energy Star" home. While the common assumption is that an energy Star house is more efficient than a home that is not qualified as Energy Star, that may no longer be the case.

In 2012, Energy Star mandated the 3.0 Energy Star code. Many builders have a difficult time with this standard because Energy Star 3.0 imposes mandates on things like landscaping and drainage, as well as limits on the size of the home. Energy Star 3.0 is the first version of Energy Star that addresses issues NOT related to Energy Efficiency. Over time, it is likely that you will see builders drop out of the Energy Star program because of these new regulations.

HERS Index:

The Home Energy Rater's Score (HERS) Index is a creation of Resnet, a non-profit company that monitors energy efficiency in residential homes. A HERS Index can be created for each new home, and a HERS Index must be verified by a third-party inspector. Generally speaking, a HERS Index that is lower is better- the lower the score, the more energy efficient the home is. A home that qualifies for Energy Star 3.0 should score below a 75 on the HERS Index. The HERS Index is a good way to compare new homes from different builders.


In early 2012, Capstone Homes created the EnergySmart program. EnergySmart takes the HERS Index an applies it in a real world setting. The main difference in the Capstone Homes EnergySmart program is that Capstone Homes factors in the cost of energy into the rating of the house. For example, a home that has fossil fuel heat may earn a lower HERS rating, but the price of the energy will actually make the new home MORE expensive to operate than a home with a heat pump (and a higher HERS Index score). Capstone Homes' EnergySmart program can demonstrate that a new Capstone Home has a higher HERS index but can cost $900 less PER YEAR to own. Capstone Homes is more focused on the total cost of ownership for our customers. Capstone Homes is the only builder who has EnergySmart, and we think people would rather have the money than the sticker with the low HERS score on their home.