Guidelines for Participating in the DOE Zero Energy Ready Home Program

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The DOE Zero Energy Ready Home is a compelling way to recognize builders for their leadership in increasing energy efficiency, improving indoor air quality, and making homes zero energy ready.

The program builds upon the comprehensive building science requirements of ENERGY STAR® for Homes Version 3, along with proven Building America innovations and best practices. Other special attribute programs are incorporated to help builders reach unparalleled levels of performance with homes designed to last hundreds of years.

DOE Zero Energy Ready Homes are verified by a qualified third-party and are at least 40%-50% more energy efficient than a typical new home. This generally corresponds to a Home Energy Rating System (HERS) Index Score in the low- to mid-50s, depending on the size of the home and region in which it is built.

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DOE Zero Energy Ready Home Requirements

DOE Zero Energy Ready Homes must meet all DOE Zero Energy Ready Home National Program Requirements (Rev. 06) for homes permitted on or after 7/20/2017. Note that the Rev. 06 program requirements may also be used for projects permitted before 7/20/2017. 

Homes permitted prior to 7/20/17, but on/after 8/11/2015, have the option of using the Rev. 05 specifications. Homes permitted prior to 8/11/2015 have the option of using the Rev. 04 specifications

DOE Zero Energy Ready Homes must:

Chart graphic of program requirements for hot climates, mixed climates, and cold climates.
  • Meet 2012 International Energy Conservation Code levels for insulation. In some states 2015 IECC insulation levels are required – see End Note #15 of the Rev. 06 specs.
  • Follow the latest proven research recommendations by installing ducts in conditioned space or in an optimized location as defined in the program specs.
  • Conserve water and energy through an efficient hot water distribution system that provides rapid hot water to the homeowner.
  • Provide comprehensive indoor air quality through full certification in EPA’s Indoor airPLUS Program
  • Accomplish savings on the cost of future solar PV installations by following the PV-Ready checklist for climates with significant solar insolation. This checklist references EPA's solar electric guide. (Note that the solar-hot water provisions of the checklist are no longer mandatory and can be found below with encouraged items.)

DOE Zero Energy Ready Home Builders are encouraged to:

100% Commitment

Commit to constructing 100% of your homes to the U.S. DOE's Zero Energy Ready Home requirements.


Take the next step on the continuous path to Zero Energy Ready Home by meeting the additional requirements of the Passive House Institute US.


Minimize water use by participating in the EPA WaterSense for New Single-Family Homes program.

Fortified for Safer Living

Embrace disaster resistance by following the Institute for Business and Home Safety (IBHS) FORTIFIED for Safer Living or FORTIFIED Home provisions for regionally specific natural hazards.

Quality Management Program

Implement comprehensive quality management practices.

Solar Hot WaterAccomplish additional savings by using the solar hot water-ready checklist and EPA's solar thermal systems guide. These requirements are no longer mandatory but encouraged.

Ask buyers to sign a waiver allowing DOE Zero Energy Ready Home access to one year of utility bill data.


Certify Zero Energy Ready Homes

Builders can follow two different paths in qualifying a home for the DOE Zero Energy Ready Home initiative.

Prescriptive Path

To use the prescriptive path, follow the DOE Zero Energy Ready Home National Program Requirements. A registered verifier should submit the prescriptive compliance report after verification that the home meets the challenge.

Performance Path

Registered verifiers can use RESNET-accredited software programs to qualify homes to meet the DOE Zero Energy Ready Home requirements. The software will create a DOE certificate specific to the certified home.

IMPORTANT: Raters must email the DOE Zero Energy Ready Home Verification Summary report generated by the rating software to for builder recognition in the DOE Zero Energy Ready Home program and on the locator tool.

State-Specific Requirements

State energy codes that exceed this program's requirements always take precedence to determine compliance. In states where the residential provisions of the 2012 or 2015 International Energy Conservation Code (IECC) have been adopted, qualifying homes must instead meet the envelope insulation requirements of the 2015 IECC, effective 12 months after the effective date of the 2012 IECC in that state or at the time of the 2015 IECC effective date in that state.  

In the following cases, there are additional state-specific requirements:

California Requirements

DOE has updated its specifications for California to stay current with recent changes to the California energy code and ENERGY STAR Certified Homes for California. The DOE ZERH – California Rev.07 requirements are posted here and go into effect for buildings with a permit date and a plan approval date on or after 10/1/2018. The plan approval date is the date that a jurisdiction approves a home plan and its efficiency features for use on a specific lot or tract. The permit date may be defined as either the date that the permit was issued or the date of the contract on the home.

Policy Record

The DOE Zero Energy Ready Home Policy Record contains a description of 1) issues that have been received and resolved since the release of the last revision of the National Program Requirements, and 2) program updates that have been implemented by DOE but did not result in direct changes to the DOE Zero Energy Ready Home National Program Requirements document.

Savings & Cost Estimate Summary

The DOE Zero Energy Ready Home Savings & Cost Estimate Summary gives builders, contractors, utilities, energy programs, and other stakeholders a general sense of the magnitude and type of added costs for constructing DOE Zero Energy Ready Homes and how these costs compare to the energy savings. Actual energy savings and incremental costs will vary.

Public Input

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

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

The initial (Rev. 01) draft requirements were published for public review and comment, and responses were viewed through this framework. In response to these comments multiple changes were made to the final requirements. Interested parties can review DOE's responses to public comments.

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