Those building an energy-efficient house in Alaska could qualify for a greater rebate from the state as of July 1. Homes that meet the highest energy standards can be rewarded with a $10,000 rebate, up from $7,500.
The New Home Energy Rebate Programwww.ahfc.us/efficiency/energy-programs/new-home-rebate is managed by the Alaska Housing Finance Corporation and provides incentives to build energy efficient new homes. An infusion of $300 million in state funding took place in 2008 and included money to fund rebate programs specific to both new and existing homes. Since 2008, the rebate programs have received more than $500 million in legislative funding.
The energy standards used in the program (called the Building Energy Efficiency Standards, or BEES) cover thermal performance, air leakage, moisture management strategies and ventilation. Typically builders and homeowners verify that they meet these standards by having an energy rating done from plans before construction begins, followed by a series of inspections during construction, and finally another energy rating upon completion, which also includes an air leakage test. Energy ratings and inspections are performed by a state certified energy rater: www.ahfc.us/pros/energy-programs/energy-rater.
As part of the initial energy rating done from plans, the home receives a certain score based on how energy efficient the building is. Using the rating as a guide, people can then make informed decisions in selecting measures which will reduce energy use, including (but not limited to) options such as adding more insulation to different parts of the structure, increasing air tightness, upgrading windows, or installing more efficient heating devices.
Previously, the highest rating possible was “5-star plus,” which came with a $7,500 rebate. Starting next month, there’s a new level called “6-star.” You must achieve a higher score (95 points or higher) but you also qualify for a bigger rebate — $10,000. The 5-star plus rebate continues to be in effect, however the rebate amount will now be $7,000.
The updated BEES standard also affects anyone applying for home financing through AHFC. To qualify for a mortgage, you need to reach at least 5-star (89 points). Before, you only had to meet 4-star plus (83 points).
These standards appear to be having a significant influence on new home performance. A recent analysis by the Cold Climate Housing Research Center found that about 60 percent of new homes built in Alaska between 2005 and 2009 (those that had an energy rating done) met the old BEES standard.
“It appears that BEES has become an industry standard here in Alaska,” said Dustin Madden, policy researcher at CCHRC. “This update means we should be seeing more energy efficient construction in the state, saving people money on fuel for years to come.”
What would a 6-star house look like in Fairbanks?
A 6-star energy rating can be achieved in a wide variety of ways. For example, a 1,900-square-foot home in Fairbanks could reach this bench mark with R-50 walls, an R-54 ceiling, R-20 rigid foam insulation on the exterior of a below grade floor, U-0.22 windows, a Heat Recovery Ventilator (HRV) and an 86 percent AFUE oil-fired boiler with an indirect fired hot water tank.
Every home will have issues specific to that structure which will affect the rating, including variables such as the exterior surface area to volume ratio, heating system type and efficiency, foundation type, and square footage of windows.
Consequently, getting on board with the rating process while still in the planning stages allows for maximum flexibility in making changes and adjustments to meet the 6-star (or 5-star plus) standard.