New homes that meet Energy Star standards will save you money

Melissa McGrath  - The Idaho Statesman

Edition Date: 10/31/06

When Kevin and Liz Duesman built a home in Boise last year, they knew they wanted it to be energy efficient.

"I just like to be efficient," said Kevin Duesman. "I also think that it has a resale value."

So the couple decided to build an Energy Star home. Energy Star is a national program that certifies newly built homes as energy efficient after a lengthy inspection.

The Duesmans researched the energy efficient program in detail before building their home, but state officials worry that many people still don't know about the program that could help them save on utility bills

To help spread the word, officials at Idaho Power and the Idaho Energy Division put together a free 12-minute promotional DVD, which was filmed in the Duesmans' new home off Warm Springs Avenue on Boise's east side.

Copies will be handed out to builders and real estate agents at the 2006 Idaho Builders Energy Conference on Thursday in the hopes the information will be passed on to clients.

"We've got people moving in (to the Treasure Valley) by the hundreds, by the thousands, and I'm not convinced that they know about Energy Star," said Michael Keckler, spokesman for the Energy Division.

More than 1,700 Energy Star homes have been built in Idaho, according to the Energy Division. Two-thirds of those are in and around the Treasure Valley. But that represents less than 1 percent of the total number of houses in the state.

Energy Star homes are 30 percent more energy efficient than a home built to standard building codes, according to officials at Idaho Power and the Energy Division.

The homes are built with thicker insulation, highly efficient heating and cooling systems, compact fluorescent light bulbs and sealed ducts, to name a few of the Energy Star specifications.

An Energy Star home costs more to build — about $1.50 to $2 extra per square foot — but homeowners will earn that money back through reduced utility bills, said Celeste Becia, an energy efficiency program specialist with Idaho Power.

If you built a typical 2,200-square-foot Energy Star home, you might pay an extra $30 a month in mortgage, but you'll save $40 to $50 a month on your utility bills, Becia said.

Keckler likened building an energy efficient home to driving a hybrid car.

"Some people are taking the step to reduce their impact (on the environment), and the same goes for Energy Star," he said.
The Duesmans have also noticed that the thicker insulation in their home has kept it quieter even when the wind is whipping around outside.

Every Energy Star home is certified through a rigorous inspection process.

A specialist checks the home several times during construction to make sure everything meets Energy Star standards.

The Energy Star program is only available for newly built homes, but you can improve the efficiency in an older home, too. Energy Star has a retrofit program for people interested in remodeling or adding on to their homes.

Share your tips on helping the environment at work by contacting reporter Melissa McGrath at or 377-6439.

Get tips on things you can do around the house to contribute to a healthier environment. Read Joe Kolman's column Monday in Local.