New and Notable

May 01, 2011
May/June 2011
A version of this article appears in the May/June 2011 issue of Home Energy Magazine.
Click here to read more articles about New and Notable

A Common Knowledge

It’s not easy to tell how energy efficient your home is—well, it didn’t used to be. Making it easier is the newfound partnership between PulteGroup, Incorporated, and RESNET, who are teaming up to expand the use of energy efficiency labels on new homes. The two companies’ Memorandum of Understanding is intended to increase consumer knowledge by placing a modified HERS index label on every new PulteGroup home—further differentiating homes built by Centex, Del Webb Communities, and Pulte Homes from others in the home-building industry.

The PulteGroup’s label is an adaptation of RESNET’s HERS index, a measure of energy performance recognized by DOE and EPA, among others, and will provide simple, straightforward energy ratings. The labels, which have been compared to the miles-per-gallon ratings available for new cars, show just how energy efficient the home is, and will help buyers compare the value and operating costs of homes with various levels of energy efficiency.

“We find that consumers increasingly are scrutinizing energy savings, but it can be difficult to make apples-to-apples comparisons,” says Jim Petersen, director for research and development at PulteGroup. “A tool like this that measures home energy efficiency in a consistent way can help home buyers make more knowledgeable choices about their purchase.”

The collaboration promotes the construction of new, energy-efficient homes through a two-year pilot program in which the efficiency of these homes is tested and reported. “Innovative home builders like PulteGroup are issuing a call to action to the industry,” says Steve Baden, executive director of RESNET. We can only hope that other large production builders follow suit.

learn more:

To learn more about RESNET’s HERS index, visit

For more information about PulteGroup, Incorporated, go to



The New Wave of Water Heaters

Rheem, a manufacturing company known for its innovative residential and commercial heating-and-cooling systems, has launched its latest: the Rheem condensing tankless water heater. But how does it work? Unlike the standard water heater, tankless versions provide hot water only as it is needed (rather than using a storage tank). So when someone turns on the hot water, the cold water travels to the appliance, which then heats it immediately with a gas burner. This eliminates the use of standby energy, which would be necessary in a heater with a storage tank.

What makes the Energy Star-qualified Rheem version stand out is its industry-best minimum flow rate of 0.26 gallons per minute (gpm), and its minimum activation flow rate of 0.40 gpm. This means that homeowners with low-flow fixtures will still receive hot water without having to increase their flow rate, further reducing energy usage in the home.

In addition, this compact tankless water heater can be paired with other Rheem products for a whole-house approach, which can make the entire system up to 94% efficient. Rheem products that it can be combined with include the hydronic air hander (as part of the company’s integrated heating and water-heating system) or the SolPak system, which allows the tankless heater to serve as the home’s secondary water source, in the case of need.

The Rheem condensing tankless water heater can also vent with PVC piping or eco-friendly polypropylene material, as opposed to stainless steel, making installation affordable and easier overall. Speaking of easy, homeowners can also adjust the water temperature with a remote control from inside the home. “It’s a smart addition to any contractor’s portfolio of water-heating products,” says Shaun Thomas, Rheem Tankless marketing manager. The Rheem tankless water heater is currently available in the United States and Canada.

learn more:

To learn more about Rheem’s products, go to


28.3-nnn_stillwater-kitchen(Stillwater Dwellings)

Prefab(ulous) Homes

Stillwater Dwellings runs on the basis that high-quality, contemporary, prefabricated homes do not need to be expensive. More importantly, this home builder feels that “eco-friendly building isn’t a luxury, but rather, our responsibility.” To further make its case, it has recently announced two new home designs—the sd225 and the sd232—created specifically to meet the growing need for contemporary prefab homes that maximize existing narrower urban sites.

The project broke ground in the Ballard neighborhood of Seattle, Washington, on a lot measuring 40 feet wide. The lot suited the sd225 perfectly, requiring only a few modifications to the window placement. Neighborhoods like Ballard, once considered suburban and served by the new streetcar lines of the early 20th century, have many of these lots, often only 40 or 50 feet wide. When built, these lots allowed people to live outside the often-squalid urban core. Now, however, these neighborhoods are considered close to modern city centers, but despite much gentrification, they still have many poorly constructed and inefficient homes.

Because builders can utilize the existing infrastructure, and because they are close to work, shopping, and recreational areas, older lots that are close to city centers are intrinsically greener than lots in new, sprawling subdivisions. Local construction costs in these neighborhoods are typically more expensive than average, making off-site facility-built construction compelling from a financial, as well as an environmental, standpoint.

In addition, all Stillwater homes are built with energy-efficient practices in mind, including high-efficiency lighting, a passive cooling system, and high-
performance insulation, among others. The new designs are geared toward urban families, and the homes are available in any of Stillwater Dwellings three easy-to-modify finish packages (Fundamental, Modern, and Natural).

learn more:

For further details on Stillwater Dwellings, go to


28.3_RebuildingTogether-2(Rebuilding Together)

Leading the Energy Charge

The National Center for Healthy Housing (NCHH) is joining forces with Habitat for Humanity International, Rebuilding Together, and CLEARCorps to form EnergyPlusHealth. In an effort to make healthy and energy-efficient housing more accessible across all income levels, the new coalition will equip volunteers with the tools needed to make the critical health and energy-efficient repairs many low-income homeowners need but can’t afford. The pilot program will provide training, tools, and technical materials for the volunteers performing the rehabilitation and repair work.

“There is certainly interest in energy efficiency among many volunteer organizations, but they are at different stages of evolution. The challenge is to integrate it into the home repair, which is what HomeEnergyPlus is designed to do. We aim to make it easy and inviting for volunteer-based organizations to tackle energy efficiency in homes,” says Don Ryan, senior advisor for NCHH.

Many homes in the greatest need of energy upgrades do not receive federal assistance, because they pose serious health and safety hazards that must be addressed before they can be upgraded. These hazards may be structural or may be caused by the presence of lead paint, mold, or moisture. EnergyPlusHealth will construct a volunteer-based program model to repair these homes, enabling them to receive federal assistance.

“With EnergyPlusHealth’s expertise and networks, we will set the stage for low-income homeowners to receive the assistance they need by integrating energy efficiency and healthy homes principles into volunteer-based home repair programs,” says Rebecca Morley, NCHH executive director.

NCHH is leading the effort by developing a two-day training course, which includes an assessment checklist for volunteers to use when evaluating homes for health hazards or energy deficiencies. The training will provide instructional work sheets with step-by-step instructions for repair, maintenance, or rehabilitation work that can be done on-site by volunteers. The work sheets will also show volunteers how to identify which tasks must be done by skilled professionals.

NCHH and EnergyPlusHealth are working on tool development with the following seven partners: Rebuilding Together Philadelphia, Pennsylvania; Rebuilding Together Roanoke, Virginia; Habitat for Humanity in the Roanoke Valley, Virginia; Rebuilding Together Montgomery County, Maryland; Omaha Healthy Kids Alliance, Nebraska (CLEARCorps); Rebuilding Together Omaha, Nebraska; and Habitat for Humanity of Council Bluffs, Iowa. The first pilot program in which the informational tools are to be used will take place in late May in North Carolina. “We will be piloting the training, and then after that we’ll hopefully have the training tools available to local affiliates by mid-to late summer,” Ryan says.

learn more:

For more information about NCHH, go to

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