How to Sell ENERGY STAR Qualified Homes

Uploaded by EPAENERGYSTAR on 18.02.2011

Hello and thank you for joining our recording on Best Practices for Selling ENERGY STAR
Qualified Homes.
Today weíre going to talk about a few things related to selling qualified homes. First,
weíre going to review the basics of the ENERGY STAR program, what ENERGY STAR is and how
it can fit into your own companyís business model. Second, weíre going to take you through
a five step sales process and teach you how to incorporate the ENERGY STAR branding and
logo into your pitch to your customer. And third, weíre going to talk about some resources
that EPA has available on their website and in their offices in bulk to help you sell
your qualified homes.
So, first, letís go through the basics. Now, this may be a review for you, some parts of
it, but it is useful information to keep in the back of your mind when talking to prospective
First, ENERGY STAR is an EPA-sponsored program helping us to save money and protect the environment
through energy efficient products and practices. Qualified products mean a couple things: First,
they deliver the same or better performance as comparable models without the ENERGY STAR
label. Second, they do use less energy, and third, they save the consumer money. So, recently
energy prices have become a hot news topic and a major concern for consumers and ENERGY
STAR can provide a lot of great solutions here.
There is true brand advantage associated with the ENERGY STAR logo. When consumers see this
logo they trust that a product that is labeled with it is truly energy efficient. The logo
also conveys credibility and environmental responsibility and consumers can feel empowered
to make a decision to buy an ENERGY STAR qualified product because they know these things. This
is important because a recent survey has shown that 76% of households recognize this ENERGY
STAR logo, so thereís really great brand recognition throughout the United States.
In the early 1990ís computer monitors were the first products to be labeled with the
ENERGY STAR and now there are over 50 product categories with thousands of different models
to choose from for both the home and the office. And also commercial and industrial buildings
can be qualified. But, today weíre going to be talking specifically about the ENERGY
STAR for New Homes Program, which is a separate program in itself. And this means a couple
things: First, EPA designs this program specifically based on tried and true construction practices,
government backed means that the label is trustworthy and provides a source of authority.
Youíll see that homes are at least 15 to 20% more efficient than local code, and this
just depends on what climate zone the homes, the home is built in. So, homes in climate
zones 1 through 5 require 15% savings while climate zones 6 to 8 require 20% savings.
A home energy rater tests and inspects each home to make sure that it meets the specifications,
and it does take into account whole home performance, which means that the ENERGY STAR program is
really based on constructing the house as a system, so it takes into account many features
that comprise the energy efficiency of the home like the windows, the insulation and
HVAC system and makes sure that not only are these things efficient in themselves but theyíre
all working together to make the home perform as required. And finally ENERGY STAR adds
a lot of new features to a home which leads to many different benefits that you can offer
your customers. Itís voluntary and itís proof of your leadership, not only in the
construction industry, but in environmental stewardship as well.
ENERGY STAR is a really great place to start in green building if youíre not going to
jump right into resource efficiency or efficient landscaping. Homebuyers across the country
are increasingly interested in green buildings and so when looking to buy or build a green
home, energy efficiency is a really great place to start because it is most cost effective
return on your money. 30 to 50% of green building point systems are related to energy efficiency
because of this return, and once you target energy efficiency with ENERGY STAR, then builders
can consider indoor environments and resource efficiency like these other labels on the
steps above the ENERGY STAR.
So, here are six typical features of ENERGY STAR qualified homes and weíll talk about
these in a bit of detail each. First thereís insulation thatís installed correctly without
gaps, voids or compressions. Second is advanced windows that reduce solar heat radiation.
Third is tight construction and duct work that reduces holes and cracks in the building
envelope and the rest of the home. Fourth is HVAC equipment or heating and cooling equipment
that is sized properly and efficient in itself. Fifth is the various energy efficient lights
and appliances and weíll talk about how you have a little bit of flexibility in this area.
And lastly is the testing and inspection by a certified home energy rater.
So, first letís talk about effective insulation. Effective means that itís properly installed,
its high quality in and of itself, and it is inspected before drywall is installed.
So this effective insulation thatís high quality that reduces the heat transfer which
improves comfort overall for the homeowner and it protects homes from moisture damage
which improves durability overall. And then, after you install this insulation as a builder
a home energy rater comes to visit your home pre-drywall stage to ensure the insulation
is installed without gaps, voids or compressions, and inspects the home using the Thermal Bypass
Checklist which is shown right here, which was created by EPA to make prescriptive requirements
for this specific installation.
The next feature included in ENERGY STAR Qualified Homes is high-performance windows. Now this
can mean ENERGY STAR qualified windows, but it doesnít necessarily have to. But, high-performance
means a couple things. First, it might mean improved framing materials like vinyl and
wood composites, which reduce heat transfer and help insulate better. Multiple panes of
glass are often used to insulate better than a single pane and in between those glasses
are inert gas fills to create a larger buffer between that indoor conditioned air and outdoor
unconditioned air. Low-E glass or Low-Emissivity glass has a protective coating that reflects
infrared light allowing heat to stay in your home in the winter and minimizing it getting
into your home in the summer. And it also reflects ultraviolet light which it can damage
hardwood floors or furnishings, drapes, pictures on the wall, so this is often used on these
high-performance windows. Warm edge spacers is another feature thatís often included
here which keeps the panes the correct distance apart and reduces heat flow and condensation.
Overall, high-performance windows just means improved comfort for the homeowner and clear
energy savings as well.
Tight construction and duct work is another area where builders will work to seal and
plug all those cracks and holes in the duct work and the building envelope to make sure
that you have a really good seal on the home. The picture on the left here shows some mastic
sealing being applied to the ductwork which is a great material to seal up all those cracks
and holes as it bends. In an average home, ducts leak often between 20 to 30% of the
air thatís pushed through them and that compromises the comfort and distribution of air throughout
the home. So, to minimize leaking, builders seal and insulate all those ducts, and this
will also minimize the humidity, the dust, pollen, pests in the home and home energy
raters test these ducts to ensure that they donít exceed any leakage minimums. The picture
on the right here shows some expanding foam used to seal up some wire penetrations between
the insulation, the conditioned inside air, and unconditioned outside air, and this does
the same thing, it seals up that home to improve the comfort for the homeowner and maximize
the circulation of air where itís supposed to go. It keeps everything under control and
it minimizes those dust, pollen and pests and anything you donít want getting into
your home.
Efficient equipment is another area that is included in ENERGY STAR qualified homes. As
much as half the energy used in homes goes to heating and cooling so this kind of equipment
plays a critical role in the efficiency of a home. So this equipment has to be not only
efficient in itself, but also properly sized for the home so that itís not too large and
overrunning or creating humidity issues and not too small that itís not cooling and dehumidifying
properly. And these things will make the equipment use less energy and reduce indoor humidity
and theyíll be quieter overall just having the more efficient equipment in and of itself.
Lighting and appliances, as I mentioned earlier has a little bit of flexibility when youíre
installing these items in qualified homes. ENERGY STAR qualified homes require at least
one ENERGY STAR qualified product category, so this could be the HVAC system, it could
be the windows, or it could be five or more lights and appliances. These would be the
larger appliances like refrigerators, dishwashers and washing machines.
And finally thereís that third party verification. Home energy raters are certified and usually
inspect ENERGY STAR qualified homes twice during the construction of the home. First,
they come to look at the air sealing and installation at pre-drywall stage using the Thermal Bypass
Checklist that we took a look at before. Second, they come towards the completion of the home
to measure the leakiness of the building envelope and ductwork. On the left here, youíll see
a picture of a home energy rater performing the blower door test. A blower door is an
instrument used to measure the air leakage in the building envelope using powerful sand
to depressurize the home and measure the leakiness of that envelope. And on the right here, youíll
see a home energy rater using a duct blaster test which is a similar mechanism used to
test the leakiness of the duct work.
And once the home is built, builders can obtain an ENERGY STAR label from their rater once
the inspections have been completed and this label can go directly on the electrical circuit
breaker box. And itís important for builders to ensure this label is placed on the home
because it not only allows the initial homeowner to have proof that the home is ENERGY STAR
qualified but it also enables that homeowner to show that their home is qualified when
they go to re-sell their home several years down the road.
So, here on the left is a typical story of the information thatís relayed to prospective
buyers. Itís what buyers are looking for, itís what a lot of builders are talking about.
But, when you bring in these ENERGY STAR performance features that we just talked about, the insulation,
the advanced windows, the tight construction and ductwork, sales personnel can develop
a whole new list of conversation pieces, including new features to talk about and a plethora
of benefits that relate to these features. And you can target each of your buyers depending
on what theyíre looking for with these benefits. The home will be quieter, it will be more
comfortable, have fewer drafts, fewer bugs and pests, better indoor air quality, and
the list goes on. You can use all these things to target your buyers depending on what their
experience has been.
So, you can use your ENERGY STAR qualified homes to prove that your homes are high performing,
they save the consumer money, they help the environment and they are third-party verified.
And all these features break down into four key ENERGY STAR messages that you can tailor
to your prospects and thatís quality, affordability, responsibility and trustworthiness. And weíll
talk about how to target these messages individually. You can use these also to compete on features
that other builders, builders arenít even talking about. So, weíll talk a little bit
about that in detail here.
First, letís discuss selling quality. Properly installed energy efficiency features better
protect against cold, heat, drafts, moisture, pollution and noise so this makes a home more
comfortable and more durable for the homeowner. Not only is the home higher quality in and
of itself, but it is government backed, so you can trust it delivers real performance
and is cost effective. You can tell consumers that might be interested in a quality constructed
home that you build to your highest standard and then get expert testing and inspections
to make sure that everything is done exactly right. And in some cases you can tell your
customers that youíre selling the best quality product in the market. This is peace of mind
for them and as they search for the best value for their dollar, and it can also reduce buyers
remorse, which in return reduces liability issues and call backs.
You can see here that about 17% of the homes built in the U.S. earn the ENERGY STAR and
that was in the last year. So your buyers are going to be among the select few homeowners
who live in an ENERGY STAR qualified home, so it really is quite a privilege to live
in a home that is this high quality in construction.
Affordability is something that consumers are always interested in, especially in a
down market. You can tell these consumers that the house is designed as a system and
tested to perform so itís going to deliver real energy savings. In fact, 400 dollars
per year is the national average in savings on utility bills and over the average 7 to
8 years that a homeowner might live in a specific home, that adds up to thousands of dollars
saved on utility bills. And not only are you savings on those utility bills, but thereís
additional savings on maintenance from right sizing the equipment and preventing any kind
of humidity or moisture damage issues.
Responsibility is something that other consumers might be interested in. We discussed only
17% of the homes in the U.S. earning the ENERGY STAR, so you can talk about voluntarily building
and testing to very high standards as an environmental leader here and talk about why you do it.
Itís proof of your environmental leadership and shared concern for the environment and
hereís where you can discuss your ENERGY STAR story and mission statement and how ENERGY
STAR ties into your environmental stewardship.
Here are a few charts to share with your going green customers they may not realize. On the
left youíll see that in the U.S. buildings account for 48% of energy consumption in the
U.S., which is more than any other sector. The residential sector alone accounts for
21% of all energy consumption, which is quite a big chunk of the total U.S. energy consumption.
And on the right youíll see greenhouse gas emissions by sector. We all know that the
majority of energy use in the U.S. comes from the burning of fossil fuel, this translates
to smog, acid rain, different kinds of pollution and greenhouse gas emissions as well. And
your homeowners might not know that their home can be a greater source of pollution
than their car. 17% of the U.S. greenhouse gas emissions are generated from the energy
use in houses nationwide, so by buying an ENERGY STAR qualified home and using less
energy you can reduce this environmental impact as well.
Hereís a couple of saving equivalencies. Buying an ENERGY STAR qualified home can really
relate to eliminating the emissions from about half of a vehicle, saving about 3,000 pounds
of coal emissions, planting about 0.8 acres of trees, or saving the environment through
the reduction of 5,800 pounds of carbon per year. So, quite a bit of savings there that
you can use these different analogies to show just the really great impacts that one home
can make.
And finally, selling trustworthiness is an option as well for someone who might be a
nervous buyer or someone whoís just looking for their last home that they really donít
have to worry about at all. Here you can talk about that third-party home energy rater that
comes in as a certified professional and tests and inspects your home to make sure that you
have built to the highest standards and every exact specification has been met. So, you
can talk about that third-party home energy rater and the government backed label here
so that not only do you give your word and the home energy rater gives their word, but
this national label is put on the breaker box of the home, so they really can trust
that it is going to perform as promised.
So, just as a recap for this section: ENERY STAR homes include a lot of new features,
which allow you to compete on many new benefits for the homebuyer and you can see the relation
here. It is a voluntary program and so you can compete on new key ENERGY STAR messages
of quality, affordability, responsibility, and trustworthiness depending on what each
of your buyers is looking for.
So, in this section weíre going to talk about a five-step sales process and how to actually
sell those ENERGY STAR qualified homes.
So, Iím going to walk you through the sales process here. Increasing your sales can be
achieved by addressing ENERGY STAR in all areas of marketing and sales. So, to be most
successful you really need to incorporate ENERGY STAR into your marketing and advertising
which is both pre-visit and at the point of sale and to the sales process which weíll
discuss today and into any kind of events that you may hold. And weíll talk about this
today a little bit as well. And just remember that outreach and education is really key
in a program like this.
I do want to point out that there is a separate webinar and recording on how to market ENERGY
STAR qualified homes, so Iíd encourage you to take a look at that. The first step in
the sales process is certainly to co-brand your company with ENERGY STAR, which will
help get people in the door and then you can get your community and sales center into an
ENERGY STAR experience. Take advantage of the ENERGY STAR logo and advertising. This
can notify prospective buyers early on that youíre committed to building energy-efficient
homes and also brings in buyers that recognize that logo and know that it is a quality brand.
And also take advantage of all of the resources on the website and all these things are included
in that webinar.
As well as some guidance on how to co-brand, recall that I mentioned about 76% of households
in the U.S. recognize the ENERGY STAR logo. So it is something you want to use quite a
bit and also explain its value to the homebuyers. And have messaging throughout your materials
and sales center to really relay the fact that youíre selling a better product for
a lower cost.
So, itís critical for the salesperson to educate prospects about ENERGY STAR and connect
ENERGY STAR benefits to each buyer specifically. You want to, after you do this marketing and
advertising step, really delve into that sales process and start talking about ENERGY STAR
from the first sentence you speak to that homebuyer. In constructing ENERGY STAR qualified
homes, thereís many new features that youíre putting into your home that add value and
some of them may cost more money than what youíre putting into your code-bill homes.
But, if ENERGY STAR isnít discussed throughout the sales process, thereís just no benefit
to putting those things in the home. It has to be something that the homeowner understands
is there and also understands that it adds value to the home that theyíre going to buy.
That's how youíre going to get the best value out of everything you put into those homes.
Before moving on, I just want to mention a few tips on talking and writing about ENERGY
STAR. First, ENERGY STAR is trademarked so itís always written in capital letters and
has that little R symbol in superscript the first time itís mentioned in a document.
Homes are considered ìqualified,î theyíre not ìcertified.î ìCertifiedî refers to
that third-party home energy rater that tests and inspects your home. Program specifications
are ìguidelinesî, but they are not industry ìstandards.î And any builder that commits
on our online agreement to building a home per year is considered a ìpartnerî with
the ENERGY STAR program, but theyíre not endorsed by EPA or the government.
So just a few things to keep in mind there. So you want to integrate ENERGY STAR throughout
your entire sales process. Hereís a quick look at those five steps that weíre going
to discuss. First is introducing your company. Second is evaluating and understanding each
prospect. Third is fulfilling their needs depending on what theyíre looking for. Fourth
is demonstrating a home. And then fifth is conducting a financial analysis. And weíll
talk about each of these in a bit of detail.
So, first, introducing your company: ENERGY STAR really should be part of the introduction
when the salesperson speaks with the prospective buyer for the first time. So you want to discuss
with prospective buyers why you build ENERGY STAR homes: this is your opportunity to talk
about your companyís mission statement and overall strategy in building and selling homes.
How this explains who you are, what your companyís ideals and values are, and your companyís
commitment to sustainability, whether thatís environmental sustainability or sustainability
of the specific home that this buyer might purchase from you, either will be relevant.
Second, you want to evaluate and understand each prospect. There are lots of questions
you can ask, but just a few ideas that could result in increasing a buyerís interest in
your home. So you want to ask the questions here to figure out what those are. First,
you can ask ìWhat do you know about ENERGY STAR qualified homes?î so you learn what
theyíve already come across and can give them some new information. You might ask,
ìIs there anything in your current home that youíd like to change?î Maybe they came from
a home where the temperatures in the different rooms varied greatly throughout the year,
or maybe thereís drafts or moisture issues coming in. ìWhy are you thinking about moving?î
Is this a relocation issue or is this making something a little bit bigger or are they
actually looking to go green for their next home. And you can just ask these questions
very specifically, ìAre you looking for a home thatís more comfortable? Built with
the latest technology? Affordable? Green?î These will all give you some clear indications
of what this buyer is looking for and what you can do to make them happy.
And, once the salesperson has evaluated the prospect and understand what they are looking
for, you can begin to fulfill those needs by discussing features and benefits that are
most important to that prospect. So realize that a lot of homebuyers are confused when
they hear a list of technical features, so when you say, ìWeíve got a 90 AFUE furnace
or a 14 SEER air conditioner,î a lot of people just hear numbers and acronyms there and it
doesnít really make sense to a lot of homebuyers that arenít familiar with these technical
terminologies. So, rather than listing these features, you really need to translate them
into the benefits that the homebuyer will be interested in.
And hereís a list of some examples of what those benefits might be. So, we talked about
these different ENERGY STAR features on the left hand side here, the insulation, the high-performance
windows, tight construction and ductwork and each of these relates to a very specific benefit
that the homebuyer can feel, they can understand more easily. Effective insulation will make
the home more comfortable for the homeowner and make consistent temperatures throughout
the home. Advanced windows will reduce fading in the home furnishings and pictures hanging
on the wall and make the home cooler in the summer and insulate better in the winter and
the list goes on like this and these are just a couple of examples, you can probably come
up with ten more for each individual feature that goes into the home. And the key here
is deciding which of these is most important to your buyer and really just talking about
a few of them that will really push their hot buttons.
And when demonstrating a home, this is something you want to do to make it an experience for
your buyer. Itís a great opportunity to point out the features and reiterate benefits so
youíve already talked about whatís going to be important to them in this home, so this
is just an opportunity for people to actually see and touch everything thatís going in
there. You can have signage or technology displayed throughout the home and point to
them and get your customers engaged. Hereís an example of a technology display in a model
home. On the left is a regular window and on the right an ENERGY STAR qualified window
and thereís a heat lamp behind each of them and the idea here is to get the customer really
involved and to have some tactile testing, put their hands on each window and really
feel the difference in the insulation between the regular window and ENERGY STAR qualified
window. And there are lots of different ideas like this on the ENERGY STAR website for different
technology displays or even different types of signage that you can put throughout your
home. Remember that people usually remember 90% of their experiences, but only 10% of
what they hear, so including things like this is a great way for those features to really
sink in to your customer.
And finally, once youíve shown your homeowner that this is such a great quality built home
with great energy-efficient features you can then use the financial analysis to show them
that not only is it a great home, but that itís also very affordable. So hereís just
an example to use: based on 2,000 dollars in additional financing, an additional mortgage
payment is about $14 per month, but then you use substantially less heating, cooling, and
water-heating delivery energy for these things which delivers about 35 dollars per month
in savings. So you can see from this comparison of 14 to 35 dollars that you have the potential
for a positive cash flow the day the homebuyer moves into that home. And not only this, but
the home is more comfortable, itís quieter, itís third party tested to perform and if
energy prices rise, their savings will only increase.
So, letís talk about the events planning section now that weíve discussed that five
step sales process. But, you donít want to just send your customer away and never see
them again once they walk out the door with their signed papers. You really want to keep
them as customers for life.
So, one idea for this is to host a ìMuddy Bootsî tour and this is to invite along anyone
from a prospective buyer to someone whoís purchased two homes from you. You can invite
top prospects to tour an ENERGY STAR qualified home under construction. You might explain
here how your homes compare to builders in the area by pointing out the energy-efficient
features at pre-drywall and encourage your home energy rater and top subcontractors to
attend. This allows the prospective buyers to see the entire team of people that works
on your home and to ask questions as well. And another idea is to invite those happy
homeowners along. As I said theyíre great people to keep in touch with after youíve
sent them on their way because they can come back and provide testimonials to your prospective
buyers. Theyíre your best sales people as long as you keep good relations with them.
Another event idea is to host an education session for real estate agents in your area.
So you might invite top agents to learn about ENERGY STAR qualified homes. You can explain
how ENERGY STAR can help their business and how their clients can benefit from the program
as well. And a nice idea is just to give an agent a related gift such as an ENERGY STAR
qualified CFL.
So just as a recap on this section: Hereís your ENERGY STAR sales process, starts with
the marketing and advertising, you go into that five step sales process which has these
steps of telling your ENERGY STAR story in your introduction, evaluating and understanding
each prospect, fulfilling their needs based on what theyíre looking for, demonstrating
a model home, conducting a financial analysis and then wrapping that up and then finally
the events planning which we just discussed as well.
And here Iím just going to talk about a few of the resources on the ENERGY STAR website
to help you sell your qualified home.
This is a look at the homepage which is a subset of the website.
And in the bottom right corner here youíll notice a section for new homes and thatís
all the information youíll need on the ENERGY STAR for New Homes Program. Thereís a lot
of great resources in here, down on the bottom link youíll see a link for residential professionals
and thatís for builders, home energy raters, architects, sponsors, anyone who is partnering
with ENERGY STAR, even real estate agents thereís some materials here for them as well.
Or you can just go to
And it will take you to that same page which youíll see here. This is
and on the bottom right youíll see resources for partners. And hereís where you have your
technical resources, your marketing resources, your educational resources and thatís where
all the sales stuff is as well. And thereís anything you might need in this section.
One of the resources thatís on the website is a ìBehind the Wallsî virtual tour of
an ENERGY STAR home. This click-through online tour allows consumers to understand the basics
of qualified homes. Itís a great link to send to relocation buyers who arenít going
to travel across the country just to check out your model home and this is also something
to consider displaying in your sales office, on tours, especially if you donít have a
model home under construction thatís ENERGY STAR qualified, itís something that you can
use to actually take consumers through the process.
There are a bunch of fact sheets that relate to each ENERGY STAR feature in the home, so
this is great to keep in your sales center or use as cheat sheets for your sales representatives
when theyíre talking about each home.
Brochures and other kinds of handouts are available as well both on the
website and through the online hotline. There is a number that I will provide at the end
of this presentation where you can call and order these materials in bulk. So, on the
left here youíll see a consumer brochure that you can have in your sales center and
on the right is a childrenís activity booklet, which is a great idea to have in your office
for when youíre having parents sign some paperwork or taking them through a model home,
you can keep the kids busy with this as well.
Hereís a new resource on our website, the Sales Best Practices e-packet. This has a
bunch of different pages for you to look through, thereís the five step sales process that
we discussed, other best practices for your business, a sales quick reference guide for
sales representatives, and different marketing resources as well, so Iíd encourage you to
take a look at this, itís under the ENERGY STAR Marketing Resources under the Partner
Resources on your website.
And there are free webinars that you can listen to live aside from these recordings, you can
visit and click on this link for free webinars here. And there is
ENERGY STAR related webinars, but there are also programs, like NAHB Green Building and
LEED for homes, will come in as well to discuss their programs.
And here are some resources in case you have questions on the ENERGY STAR program. As I
mentioned, here is the hotline information, either by e-mail at
or by phone 1-888-STAR-YES and you can ask them questions about the publications that
are available or on your account, if youíre a partner already. And go to,
thatís where all our online resources are and you can submit questions through there
as well.
Thank you very much for listening in.