While more single-family homes than ever carry the designation, some states lag far behind
"We have some codes that (are) approaching or, in some cases, exceeding current Energy Star levels, so we must raise the bar to maintain the Energy Star promise," Passe said.
Generally, here's what to expect: more stringent equipment efficiency requirements in regard to windows, HVAC and building envelope performance, and for the first time an HVAC system quality installation inspection.
"We are requiring that homes earning an Energy Star certification have HVAC systems installed by specially trained and qualified HVAC contractors, who are installing systems in accordance with national recognized standards," Passe said.
Passe considers a 25 percent penetration as a tipping point in terms of builder recognition. However, Energy Star requirements will probably continue to become more stringent, so attaining a 50 percent penetration is probably going to be unattainable.
Although about 1.3 million homes are Energy Star-certified, the interesting detail is that Energy Star penetration on a state-by-state basis is widely divergent. The results are literally all over the map.
At the top of the list with 77 percent penetration is Hawaii, followed by Nevada at 66 percent, Iowa at 57 percent, Arizona at 52 percent, Ohio at 50 percent, Colorado at 45 percent, Texas at 44 percent, and Maryland and Oklahoma at 42 percent.
Going toward the bottom of the list with Energy Star-qualified new homes indexed with a penetration of between 3 and 11 percent are: Arkansas, Georgia, Illinois, Kansas, Mississippi, Missouri, Montana, North Dakota, Oregon, South Carolina, South Dakota and Tennessee.
Believe it or not, even today there are a handful of states where new-home Energy Star penetration is less than 3 percent: Alaska, Louisiana, Maine, West Virginia and Wyoming.
To be last on the list has to be strange because becoming an Energy Star partner means gaining a market differentiator when selling homes.
These days, a new home is not just competing with another builder on the next block -- mainly because that builder is probably out of business. No, the real competition is with existing homes that are selling at bargain-basement prices because of the economy or that it's a REO or short sale.
Why buy new? Well, one of the reasons is that a new home is much more energy efficient.
Steve Bergsman is a freelance writer in Arizona and author of several books. His latest book, "Growing Up Levittown: In a Time of Conformity, Controversy and Cultural Crisis," is now available for sale on Amazon.com.
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Daily market update: Oct. 8, 2015