Small Change in Software may have a Big Impact on Compliance with the Xcel Energy’s New Homes Program Builder Incentive Payments

The ENERGY STAR® New Homes (ESNH) Program provides incentives for builders to build homes that exceed local energy code requirements for energy efficiency by at least 10%. Homes must be evaluated by a RESNET® accredited Home Energy Rating System (HERS®) Rater. HERS Raters help builders achieve energy savings by providing plan review analysis and on-site verification throughout the construction process.

Software, program, and standard changes are converging in 2018 with a requirement to begin using a new version of the software to demonstrate compliance with the percentage above code requirement for receiving incentive dollars from Xcel Energy.  Codes are advancing and it has already been more difficult to achieve the percentage above code that is required to get an incentive payment.  Now, with the new version of the software, which more accurately models the home’s performance, it will be a little more difficult.  EnergyLogic is expecting fewer homes that we work with to achieve a level that qualifies for a builder incentive.

The Energy Efficiency Business Coalition (EEBC), an intervener in the Public Utility Commission DSM plan, is trying to offer ideas for more relevant builder incentive programs.  The two ideas being floated now are a HERS Index-based program and an a la carte program that could offer builder incentive payments for specific energy specifications installed in a home.  If you would like your voice to be heard in this process contact the EEBC.

If you are interested in having EnergyLogic re-analyze your plans to see if there are specification changes that will help you achieve a more consistent incentive payment, please reach out to or We will be happy to give you peace of mind with these changes.

Furnace Efficiency Rating (FER) Changing in 2019 – Here’s What You Need To Know!

Fans in residential furnaces will be subject to new Department of Energy (DOE) efficiency standards in July of 2019. Specifically, the fan motors will be targeted for change.  Carrier and other manufacturers are ensuring they will be ready to meet the new requirement. Manufacturers are currently planning to phase out older induction motors for newer constant torque ECM motors between March and April of 2019, in order to meet the new DOE Standards.

In July of 2014, the DOE established final standards for residential furnace fans. These standards outlined new technologically feasible energy conservation resulting in significant conservation of energy along with being economically justified.  Rich Bardgett, market manager for Nidec Corp., said, “the fan energy rating (FER) standard is essentially designed to regulate the efficiency of the fan in gas-fired furnaces, but that really means the motor;” hence the move away from induction motors to constant torque ECM motors.

The standard accounts for power consumption in heating, cooling, and constant circulation modes. The DOE predicts the new furnace fans will save approximately 3.99 quads of energy, reduce carbon pollution by up to 34 million metric tons (equivalent to the annual electricity use of 4.7 million homes), and save Americans more than $9 billion in home electricity bills through 2030. Although the savings have an increased initial cost, which is worrisome for many builders, the cost for homeowners is predicted to be dramatically reduced as power consumption of the motor will be reduced by as much as 46%.

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Sustainability, Support, and Success – Helping Academic Minds Reach Their Goals

The US Department of Energy Solar Decathlon is a competition between 13 collegiate teams competing in 10 different categories to determine who has built the most sustainable home.

The contest itself evaluates the homes in the following categories:
– Cost-Effective Design
– Innovation Balanced with Market Potential
– Water & Energy Efficiency
– Energy Production and Time-of-Use Energy
– Communications Strategies.

Logicians Volunteer Their Time to Support Each Team’s Vision

EnergyLogic’s plans analyst, Peter Oberhammer, was tasked with creating SketchUp models of all of the homes. “The importance of the SketchUps is that they produce the shell area calculation which is essentially the square footage of all the exterior walls, envelope floor, and ceilings.  Not all of the plans had flat ceilings, so vaults and clerestories had to be accounted for in the shell area calculations as well,” says Peter.

On October 2nd and 3rd, three of EnergyLogic’s energy raters volunteered their time to perform blower door tests on each home. These tests were part of the scoring matrics in the competition. To get these numbers, raters Neal Girard, Matthew Anthony, and Zach DeWolfe divided the blower door results by the square feet of the shell area to get a CFM/Sq Ft Shell Area result.

October 10, 2017, 61st and Pena Station Denver, Colorado, the University of Maryland team’s house called “reACT” emphasizes water reuse and home gardening with Native Americans in mind as the school has ties with the St. Croix Chippewa band of the Ojibwe tribe located in Wisconsin. Interior: (Dennis Schroeder/US Department of Energy Solar Decathlon)

Each rater was drawn to a different team’s story. Neal Girard was “so excited that [he] got the opportunity to work closely with most of the teams at this year’s Solar Decathlon.” Neal appreciated the University of Maryland’s “illusion of space with their horseshoe-shaped house surrounding their greenhouse.”

Rater Matthew Anthony had this to say about working with the teams:

“I enjoyed working with the Alabama and Missouri teams – this was the first year that infiltration was a point category, so there were several learning opportunities for most of the teams. For example, with the Alabama team we were able to identify substantial leakage coming from the safe room that was using a new and developmental material. With the Missouri team, we eliminated the ducts from the blower door to illustrate the impacts of ducts outside the building envelope. As always, it was a pleasure to see a lot of the concepts we learn about in concept being applied to real homes – what a great group of folks all around!”

October 3, 2017, the Swiss École Polytechnique Fédérale de Lausanne, School of Engineering and Architecture Fribourg, Geneva University of Art and Design and University of Fribourg team presents their “NeighborHub” house, designed to be multi-purpose, at 61st and Pena Station, Denver, Colorado. Exterior: (Dennis Schroeder/US Department of Energy Solar Decathlon)

Zach DeWolfe, who worked closely with the winning team, stated, “My most memorable time spent at the Solar Decathlon was with the Swiss team. I got to work with them on converting their plans from the metric system and went over some areas to address air leakage prior to testing the home. It ended up being one of the tightest homes I’ve tested as a rater.”

The Swiss team took the first place prize, winning $300,000, while Maryland came in second and UC Berkeley/U of Denver came in third.

Click here to view all 13 team’s standings in the 2017 Solar Decathlon!