Each year, the ENERGY STAR® program honors a group of businesses and organizations for outstanding contributions to environmental protection through energy efficiency. As part of the 2021 ENERGY STAR awards, held in conjunction with the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) is awarding 2021 ENERGY STAR Partner of the Year and Contractor of the Year Awards to 30 participating sponsors and contractors in the Home Performance with ENERGY STAR® (HPwES) program.
Home Performance with ENERGY STAR is a national program administered by DOE that focuses on improving the comfort, health and energy efficiency of American homes. HPwES’s 32 sponsors, such as utilities, government entities, or other energy-efficiency organizations, implement Home Performance with ENERGY STAR programs through a network of over 1,300 home performance contractors offering households advice about how to improve the energy efficiency, comfort and indoor air quality of their homes. HPwES projects can lower household energy costs by 25% or more.
The 2021 awards include HPwES sponsors and contractors who demonstrated their commitment to safely delivering energy-efficiency services and improvements during the COVID-19 pandemic through innovation and adaptability. Here are some highlights:
- Many of the winners implemented remote-assessment methods using mobile phones and other videoconferencing tools to evaluate home insulation levels, HVAC equipment, appliances and other features with the homeowner’s assistance. By including homeowners in the assessment process, this year’s winners provided many of them with their first opportunity to see their home’s systems up close, empowering them with a much better understanding of their home’s energy performance. The benefits of involving homeowners in remote and virtual options, combined with operational efficiencies of performing assessments remotely, were compelling enough to become a permanent option for many sponsors and contractors.
- Several award winners joined forces to create COVID-19 safety guidelines for the home performance industry so that workers and customers could rely on science-backed and safe work practices as restrictions were lifted.
- Sponsors adjusted incentives and introduced new offerings that helped households participate in their programs, including shipment of energy-efficiency kits, 100% rebates for insulation measures, and additional incentive and financing options for low- and moderate-income households.
- Sponsors and participating contractors introduced advanced energy-efficiency measures, such as smart thermostats, HVAC system monitoring and diagnostic software, and high-efficiency heat pump technologies to achieve deeper energy savings and enable load flexibility within participating homes.
- When the COVID-19 pandemic forced suspension of in-home services, a large number of HPwES partners used the time to allow staff to improve their skills through online training and obtain certifications and continuing education units (CEUs).
Director David Nemtzow of DOE’s Building Technologies Office said the resilience of the HPwES award winners, including multiple small contractors, underscores the importance of these skilled workers in the energy-efficiency industry.
“HPwES sponsors and participating contractors overcame enormous challenges posed by the COVID-19 pandemic to continue delivering home energy-efficiency improvements to 70,000 homes last year, saving more than $35 million in household energy costs annually and reducing carbon emissions by 3 million tons over the lifetime of the home upgrades,” Nemtzow said. “DOE is proud to recognize their achievements, which serve as leading examples for how improvements can help homeowners and renters save energy, improve home comfort and reduce their carbon footprint.”
Since the program’s launch in 2002, Home Performance with ENERGY STAR has completed 950,000 energy upgrades for households across the country. These improvements have saved consumers more than $7 billion in lifetime energy costs and reduced CO2 emissions by 40 million metric tons—equivalent to the amount of CO2 produced by 10 coal fired power plants in one year.