WASHINGTON — The U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) has announced a new partnership between its Challenge Home program and Passive House Institute US (PHIUS) on a voluntary certification process for net zero-energy ready homes. These are homes that are so energy efficient that they can offset most or all of their utility bills with a renewable energy system. DOE said home builders participating in these programs gain a competitive advantage in the marketplace by providing their customers with homes featuring superior energy savings, quality, comfort, and health.

According to the DOE, this partnership will provide a path for builders to achieve maximum energy efficiency by providing Challenge Home certification as a first step to the Passive House program’s certification.

DOE’s Challenge Home program certifies homes that are 40 to 50 percent more energy efficient than typical homes, while also helping to minimize the risk of indoor air quality problems and ensuring compatibility with renewable energy systems. Through the Challenge Home program and its original Builders Challenge specifications, DOE said it has certified more than 13,500 homes that are saving consumers more than $10 million each year. Among these certified homes, more than 1,350 are considered net zero-energy ready homes based on Home Energy Rating System (HERS) scores of 55 or lower.

PHIUS certifies building designs that are 65 to 75 percent more energy efficient than a typical new home, even before installing a renewable energy system. The organization has also trained nearly 400 construction professionals to build these homes.

As part of the partnership:

• DOE Challenge Home certification will be a prerequisite for projects achieving PHIUS+ certification.

• DOE and PHIUS will jointly promote each other’s programs.

• DOE and PHIUS will share program participation results and guidance.

For more information on the DOE Challenge Home program, visit

Publication date: 9/17/2012