I am a builder and I want to build and certify a Zero Energy Ready Home. What should I do first?
Most ZERH builders initially build and certify homes under the ENERGY STAR Residential New Construction program. Because ENERGY STAR certification is a prerequisite for ZERH certification, this is a good place to start.
Next, builders should review the ZERH program requirements, which include the mandatory requirements of ENERGY STAR and Indoor airPLUS from the EPA along with other requirements established by DOE. Once you understand these components, you can become a program partner by registering here. Next, find a rater to work with you throughout your design and construction process. DOE has a public list of program partners, including raters (called verifiers on the listing) here. Your rater will walk you through the process of building and certifying a Zero Energy Ready Home!
Finally, builders new to the ZERH can review program training resources on the program website.
I see that I need an ENERGY STAR certification to be eligible for a ZERH certification. Is there any guidance on ENERGY STAR?
If you're brand new to the ZERH program, it's great to first work towards an ENERGY STAR certification! EPA provides lots of resources for builders who want to get started with either a single family or a multifamily project. Take a look at the Introduction to the ENERGY STAR Single-Family New Homes Program and the Introduction to the ENERGY STAR Multifamily New Construction Program to get started!
How do I get my home through the ZERH certification process?
After you have designed a home according to the ZERH program requirements, work with your rater to ensure that the home will qualify for ZERH certification based on your design. After the home’s construction, the rater will come on site to perform site testing and inspections, ensuring that the as-built home matches the modeled design and meets all mandatory requirements. If the rater determines that the home fulfills these requirements, they will send their report to their rating company’s oversight organization (an HCO or MRO for ZERH). The oversight organization approves the rater’s documentation and will send the rated home information to DOE to be recorded. After the oversight organization approves the rater’s documentation, the rater may give the builder or homeowner their ZERH certificate.
Do I have to pay to participate in the program?
DOE does not charge fees to become a ZERH program partner or to certify projects under the ZERH program. Builders and/or developers will work with Raters throughout the ZERH design and certification process, and raters can charge varying amounts for their services related to ZERH certification. Raters perform a third-party verification, which is an essential part of quality assurance for ZERH certifications. While it is an added cost, this quality assurance allows builders to confidently market ZERH-certified homes to buyers.
I heard the new builder tax credit is $5,000 for certified DOE ZERHs. Can manufactured homes qualify for the full credit?
Yes. DOE launched the new DOE ZERH Manufactured Homes National Program Requirements Version 1 as a pilot program in December 2022. See detailed requirements on the ZERH website.
How much will it cost a manufacturer to build manufactured homes to DOE ZERH requirements?
The additional cost to build certified DOE Zero Energy Ready Homes will depend on a variety of factors that can only be determined by the manufacturer. DOE estimates the cost premium will be well below the $5,000 tax credit per home, once a manufacturer commits a factory to building to this new high-performance level and implements the required changes. The incremental hard costs – additional material and high-efficiency equipment cost premiums - can be below $5,000 and may be partially off-set by volume purchasing and process efficiency improvements. While the short-term costs associated with changing designs and production, QA process modifications, and training factory workers can add up, most of these “learning” costs are temporary and result in superior homes. With the $5,000 federal tax incentive, there’s never been a better time for manufacturers to improve their product lines.
How do DOE ZERH requirements for manufactured homes compare with ENERGY STAR?
DOE Zero Energy Ready Home requirements for Manufactured Homes (ZERH MH V1) are based on the new ENERGY STAR for Manufactured New Homes Version 3 (ES MH V3) program requirements and certification process. Both programs were launched in December, 2022. ZERH MH V1 requirements were developed to be about 10% more stringent than ES MH V3, which were developed to be about 10% more energy efficient than the energy standard for manufactured homes, scheduled to go into effect in May, 2023.
How much does a manufactured home certification cost?
DOE does not charge a certification fee for Zero Energy Ready Home certification. As with the ENERGY STAR for Manufactured New Homes program, the certification processes were designed to fit seamlessly with HUD Code inspection processes. Additional certification inspections required for ENERGY STAR and Zero Energy Ready Home certification are conducted by EPA/DOE recognized Quality Assurance Providers (QAPs). Fees for these services are negotiated between the manufacturer and their QAP.
How can multifamily building projects taller than 5 stories participate in the DOE Zero Energy Ready Home Program?
DOE is in the process of developing the “ZERH-Multifamily V2” program in which multifamily buildings of any height will be eligible, however this program version is not yet available. There are, however, some steps that builders and developers can take now to prepare for the launch of the ZERH-Multifamily V2 program:
- Assess the ability of multifamily projects to meet the ENERGY STAR Multifamily New Construction (ESMFNC) program. ENERGY STAR certification is a prerequisite for DOE ZERH certification, so projects meeting ZERH-MF V2 in the future will also need to meet ESMFNC Version 1.2. Builders and developers not already participating in ESMFNC V1.2 can begin this process now.
- Assess the ability of multifamily projects to meet the EPA’s Indoor airPLUS (IAP) program (Version 1). ZERH-MF V2 is likely to require certification under the IAP V1 standards, just like the ZERH Version 2 program for single family homes does.
- Participate in the stakeholder comment process for ZERH-Multifamily V2. This will allow stakeholders to review the draft ZERH-MF V2 requirements and provide feedback. DOE will announce the draft program requirements and solicit stakeholder feedback in Q2 of 2023. To receive updates on the ZERH-Multifamily Version 2 public comment process, please sign up for the ZERH mailing list (at the bottom of the main program page).