U.S. Department Of Energy’s (DOE) Zero Energy Ready Home Program

us department of energy

U.S. Department Of Energy’s (DOE) Zero Energy Ready Home Program

The United States Department of Energy’ Zero Energy Ready Home program was initiated in 2008 to recognize leading builders for their achievements for becoming energy efficient, leading to millions of dollars in savings.  This represents a whole new level of home performance with rigorous requirements to ensure high levels of comfort, energy savings, durability and health.

The DOE Zero Energy Ready Home is a good way to recognize builders for their leadership in the zero energy homes sector. This program is based on the comprehensive building science requirements of Energy Star along with the best practices and innovation by Building America Research. There are many aspects of the program designed to help builders reach unparalleled levels of performance with homes to make them last hundreds of years.

If you compare DOE Zero Energy Ready Homes with a typical new home, they are at least 40 to 50 percent more energy efficient. This usually corresponds to a Home Energy Rating System Index Score lying somewhere in the mid-50s based on the region and place where it is built.

Requirements

There is a list of requirements that need to be met for homes such as:

  • Thermal Enclosure
  • HVAC Quality Installation
  • Water Management
  • Use of high-performance windows
  • Meet International Energy Conservation Code levels of 2012 for insulation
  • Provide comprehensive indoor air quality

Path for Qualifying for DOE Zero Energy Ready Home Initiative

There are two different ways:

Prescriptive Path

The DOE Zero Energy Ready Home National Program Requirements are utilized for this path where a registered verifier needs to submit a prescriptive compliance report once the verification is complete.

Performance Path

RESNET-accredited software programs can be used by verifiers to meet the DOE Zero Energy Ready Home requirements. A DOE certificate will be created by the software specific to the certified home.

State-Specific Requirements

In order to determine compliance, a precedence is always taken by State energy codes that exceed the requirements of the program. In those states where the residential provisions of either 2012 or 2015 International Energy Conservation Code (IECC) have been implemented, homes that qualify must meet the envelope insulation requirements of 2015 IECC. This is effective at the time of the 2015 IECC effective date in that state or one year after the effective date of the 2012 IECC in that state.

There are additional state-specific requirements in the following cases:

California Requirements

The original California-specific requirements for the program have been updated by the DOE along with the release of the fifth revision of DOE Zero Energy Ready Home California Requirements. This revision includes many clarifications also added to the national specifications. There is additional flexibility in terms of air tightness requirements and alignment with upcoming Title 24 provisions. This includes recognition of the High-Performance Attic design strategy that is one way of optimizing the duct system.

Under the fifth revision, builders certifying homes in California have the choice to continue prescriptive compliance that is a performance option using California Title 24 compliance software or the national HERS software.

Policy Record

The DOE Zero Energy Ready Home Policy Record comprises of

  • Issues that have been received and resolved since the release of the previous revisions of the National Program.
  • Program updates that have been implemented by DOE, but did not lead to direct changes to the DOE Zero Energy Ready Home National Program Requirements document.

Savings & Cost Estimate Summary

Contractors, builders, energy programs, utilities and other stakeholders get a general sense of the type and magnitude of the additional costs for constructing DOE Zero Energy Ready Homes through the DOE Zero Energy Ready Home Savings & Cost Estimate Summary. It also compares the cost to energy savings and the incremental costs and actual energy savings vary.

Public Input

The requirements for the rationale for the DOE Zero Energy Ready Home program include:

  • Sound science
  • Sound data to backup provisions
  • Widespread availability of required products/systems
  • Reasonable adaptability to typical builder practices

The first revision was published for the public to review and the framework was used to view the responses. After receiving feedback and comments, many changes were made to the final requirements. You can view DOS’s responses to the public comments as well.

Want to learn more about how Zero Energy Homes work? Read more here!