EEBA's High Performance Home Blog

Posts From June, 2019

Zero Energy Ready Home Communities

A Virginia builder takes his long-time passion for energy efficient homes to Zero Energy Ready Home communities.
Zero Energy Ready Home Communities

Builder/Developer, Jay Epstein, owner of Health E Community Enterprises first began creating efficient homes in the 70’s. He won the very first Energy Value Housing Award for affordable homes in 1997 - the first year the program was offered. And after hearing about the U.S. Department of Energy Zero Energy Ready Home program in 2015, he built a home that eventually received a 2016 Housing Innovation Award.

Epstein’s first Zero Energy Ready Home community, Rocketts Landing, in Richmond, VA, consisted of 28 homes that all had solar panels installed. He was so convinced his customers would see energy savings that his company guaranteed to pay buyers’ energy bills if they exceeded $1.50/day averaged over the course of a year.

To achieve the Zero Energy Ready Home label, homes are required to have the following (as of May 1, 2019):

  1. ENERGY STAR for Homes Baseline
  2. Envelope - Fenestration shall meet or exceed ENERGY STAR requirements
  3. Duct System - Duct distribution systems located within the home’s thermal and air barrier boundary or an optimized location to achieve comparable performance. HVAC air handler is located within the home’s thermal and air barrier boundary
  4. Water Efficiency - Hot water delivery systems (distributed and central) shall meet efficient design requirements
  5. Lighting & Appliances - All installed refrigerators, dishwashers, and clothes washers are ENERGY STAR qualified. 80% of lighting fixtures are ENERGY STAR qualified or ENERGY STAR lamps (bulbs) in minimum 80% of sockets. All installed bathroom ventilation and ceiling fans are ENERGY STAR qualified
  6. IAQ - Certified under EPA Indoor airPLUS 10
  7. Renewable Ready - Provisions of the DOE Zero Energy Ready Home PV-Ready Checklist are Completed

Epstein’s current venture is Walnut Farm, a 75-home community in Virginia’s Williamsburg area that will be a Zero Energy Ready Home community. Homeowners will have three solar options: zero energy-ready, $1.50/day (with 5.4 kW of solar panels installed), or net zero (with 6.8 kW of solar panels installed). Without PV installed, the homes will have HERS ratings in the 40s.

Jay also recently made the switch to Trane’s XV20i and has taken advantage of the benefits of energy efficient variable speed mechanical equipment. Trane recognizes Epstein as a builder who understands it is no longer practical to separate the mechanical design from the building enclosure design.

“These systems are interrelated and therefore they must be designed simultaneously,” says David Maruna, Marketing Leader, Trane Residential. “The result is that we can build healthier homes, homes where people don’t get sick, where they feel comfortable, where they have very low utility bills and that have a lighter touch on the environment. Trane is proud to celebrate High Performance Home construction as it aligns with our overarching sustainability goals.”

Besides Virginia, Zero Energy Ready Home communities have also been built in Washington, Oregon, Massachusetts, Florida, and California. Learn more about Zero Energy Ready Homes.


Photo: Health E Community

Energy Updates

If you subscribe to various newsletters you probably find your inbox overflowing with emails every week. Here’s a quick update of some interesting energy happenings.
Energy Updates

Finding the time to read everything you’ve subscribed to can be stressful (because you want to read it all, but rarely have time). This week we’re going to do a quick recap and look at who is making interesting moves in the energy realm.

Tech Giants

No matter how you feel about Facebook as a company, CEO Mark Zuckerberg has a goal for all their data centers and offices to utilize 100% renewable energy by 2020. They’ve already signed deals to buy wind and solar power near their other data centers around the world. This latest move will be to build a solar farm on land in West Texas, named Prospero Solar, which will be about five times the size of Central Park with a capacity of 379 megawatts. The project has a financing package alone of $416 million.


ASHRAE president, Sheila Hayter, and Assistant Secretary for the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy (EERE), recently signed an agreement to collaborate, “in the development and implementation of the safe use of next-generation refrigerants and concurrently improve equipment energy efficiency." Here are some of the goals found in the agreement:

  • Encouraging the continued development of voluntary consensus-based standards related to energy efficiency
  • Encouraging the use of advanced energy design concepts
  • Cooperation to provide and encourage the use of clear and consistent information to the building industry about building energy rating and labeling
  • Work within the building community and related professions to encourage the interoperability of building related software and integrated solutions


New Jersey released its roadmap for the conversion of its energy profile to 100% clean energy by 2050. It features a series of seven strategies:

  • Reducing transport sector energy consumption and emissions
  • Accelerating deployment of renewable energy and distributed energy resources
  • Maximizing energy efficiency
  • Reducing energy use and emissions from the building sector
  • Modernizing grid and utility infrastructure
  • Supporting and incentivizing community-level energy planning
  • Leveraging economic and environmental opportunities of clean energy

In 2018 New Jersey generated 75.255 million MWh of electricity, mostly through a combination of natural gas (51.6%) and nuclear (42.5%) power sources.

Cool Stuff

The University of British Columbia (UBC) is improving upon a biogenic (produced by living organisms) solar cell made with dye-producing bacteria. Previously, these types of cells were created using expensive and very complex processes and toxic solvents were used in the dye-removing process. The new approach leaves the dye as-is which makes it “higher yielding and about 10 times cheaper.”

The biogenic material used by UBC, in this case, was E.coli bacteria that were engineered to produce lycopene - a natural dye. Apparently, lycopene is great at harvesting light and turning it into electrical energy.

The new solar cells supposedly work well in cloudy skies or in full sun. In early testing, the solar cells have generated an electrical current “twice as strong as any from similar devices, its capacity is constantly being increased.”

What else are you seeing out and about that’s worthy of noting?

Trek In to High Performance Homes

The first step is sometimes the most difficult. Are you ready for the Trek In to High Performance Homes?
Trek In to High Performance Homes

It’s hard to believe but we’re just 4 short months away from the next EEBA High Performance Home Summit, October 1-3 in Denver. This year’s theme, Reach for the Summit, focuses on looking towards a future where every home is high performing, healthy, and resilient.

Getting to that goal though can sometimes feel like you’re literally climbing a mountain!

In the next months leading up to the Summit, we’ll look at the different levels of climbing that High Performance Home mountain and how you can prepare for each part of the journey. We’ll be your sherpas and offer guidance, support, and teamwork as you prepare to ascend the mountain.

The first step is the Trek In. It seems easy enough but the Trek In is often identified as “a long and difficult journey, especially in the mountains, as an adventure.” You may not like the word “difficult” in there, but what’s great about the Trek In is that it doesn’t have to be alone! And if you’re reading this and ready to commit to defining and building high performance homes, you’re there! You are on the Trek In.

EEBA is dedicated to helping you work through any roadblocks you may encounter on this journey by offering an array of educational sessions covering topics from healthy homes and water efficiency, to Zero-Energy homes, resiliency and affordable high performance products. And it doesn’t stop there. Network with the brightest minds in building science and get firsthand knowledge from some of the best in the industry including builders, raters, analysts, and architects.

After the conference ends you can continue your journey by signing up for an educational session in an area near you. These courses are designed to further your high performance home education. We hope to see you in Denver!