Net Zero Energy Homes

Introducing…. Pro Tech Builder net-zero and net-zero ready homes!

You have got an email today introducing the latest overhaul of the Pro Tech Green program, and announcing the new net-zero energy and net-zero energy ready options. We have been “test driving” the new versions of the checklist for several months with some of our brave and dedicated sub contractors, and are excited to roll it out to everyone.

So, what’s a Pro Tech “net-zero energy” home? It’s a home that meets all the requirements of Pro Tech Green (which has above code standards for materials use, site sustainability, water conservation, indoor air quality, and appliances) plus one more: it has enough renewable energy (typically in the form of solar photovoltaics) to achieve a HERS rating of 15 or lower. The HERS rating is a “miles per gallon” type label that homes can earn.

A HERS score of 100 corresponds roughly to code-minimum a few years ago. Code-minimum today is probably around 90. Most Energy Star homes without solar earn HERS scores between 50 and 75. Technically, a net-zero energy home (one that produces as much energy annually as it uses) should have a HERS score of zero. But Pro Tech has decided to recognize homes with less than HERS 15 as net-zero because the HERS index is based on typical American usage of the home and its plug loads. Research has shown that up to 30% of home energy usage can be reduced by user behavior, and local experience with several net-zero energy and near net-zero energy homes tells us that an efficiency-minded homeowner can usually operate at net-zero energy with a HERS index of about 15. Since these are the people who most often build or buy net-zero energy homes, it seemed like a great target for the program.

Pro Tech will also be recognizing “net-zero ready” homes. These are homes that achieve HERS scores of 58 or lower, and have suitable roof area and a conduit installed for future solar power. The practical lower limit for energy efficiency is usually between 45 and 58 HERS score. Below that, solar starts to be the less expensive option for increasing efficiency. Some of these homes has an amazing geothermal heating/cooling system and one of the most efficient water heaters on the market.

Guidelines For Participating In The Doe Zero Energy Ready Home

The DOE Zero Energy Ready Home is a new and 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.

Become a leader today!

Doe Zero Energy Ready Home Requirements

DOE Zero Energy Ready Homes must meet all DOE Zero Energy Ready Home National Program Requirements (Rev.05) for homes permitted on or after 8/11/2015. Homes permitted prior to this time have the option of using the Rev.04 specifications.

They must:

  • Comply with ENERGY STAR for Homes and the Inspection Checklists for

    • Thermal Enclosure

    • HVAC Quality Installation (Contractor and HERS Rater)

    • Water Management

    • The target home/size adjustment factor used by ENERGY STAR

    • Note: Revision 08 of EnergyStar V3 is now available and can be used by all partners effective immediately.

  • Feature energy efficient appliances and fixtures that are ENERGY STAR qualified.

  • Use high-performance windows that meet ENERGY STAR specifications. Note that the ENERGY STAR window criteria have been updated, and that DOE Zero Energy Ready Home has established an extended phase-in period for the new window specs (see End Note #12 of the Rev.05 specs).

  • 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.05 specs

  • Follow the latest proven research recommendations by installing ducts in conditioned space or using a high performance alternative 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.)

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 now use REM/Rate V14 and EnergyGauge USA 3.1.00 to qualify homes to meet the DOE Zero Energy Ready Home. The software will create a DOE Certificate specific to the certified home.

IMPORTANT: Raters must email the DOE Zero Energy Ready Home Verification Summaryreport to for builder recognition in the DOE Zero Energy Ready Home program and on the locator tool.