Beazer Homes USA has again expanded the number of "green" features it includes standard in its homes, adding improvements that boost its homes' energy efficiency, water conservation, and indoor air quality.

The Atlanta-based company began boosting its homes into the "high performance" category four years ago after it became an investor in Imagine Homes, an award-winning Texas builder with a strong focus on green features that consumers want.

Starting this month, every new home built by Beazer will include additional air sealing and framing techniques that allow for more insulation in the homes, denser insulation within walls and attic spaces, and energy-efficient low-e windows in every house at no additional cost to consumers.

Buyers also get a home energy monitor, a programmable thermostat, compact fluorescent lightbulbs, and an Energy Star dishwasher. To conserve water, plants that have low-water requirements are used in landscaping, and water-saving fixtures are used for bath faucets and showerheads. To improve air quality, paints and carpets that emit lower amounts of volatile organic compounds (VOCs) are used, and every home has a high-efficiency MERV 8 air filters and carbon monoxide detectors.

Beazer had its most popular models of souped up homes tested by the NAHB Research Center, which found that its eSMART homes offer between 13% and 19% cost savings over similar homes built to current codes and a 27% to 46% energy cost savings over comparable houses built 10 to 15 years ago. Homeowners who properly use their energy monitor can cut energy costs another 5% to 15%.

The move should appeal to more buyers, said Beazer CEO Ian McCarthy, citing a National Association of Home Builders survey last year that said energy efficiency was the No. 2 priority for home buyers behind quality of living space.

Buyers so inclined can get an even more energy-efficient house now. Beazer has rolled out two new additional option packages that further turbo-charge its eSMART homes' performance.

The eSMART Plus option package available in all the company's markets includes an upgraded radiant barrier that reduces heat gain in summer and loss in the winter, a higher-efficiency HVAC system, dual-flush toilets, and supplementary ventilation that provides extra comfort.

In some other markets, buyers can opt for eSMART Green, which includes spray foam insulation in the attic and walls, further reducing air leakage.

"Beazer's eSMART high-performance homes provide the most advanced eco-friendly features of any production home builder," McCarthy said in announcing the program.

Reception of the program in Houston, where the eSMART Green program was launched last fall, has been strong, said Beazer spokeswoman Mandy Holton Brooks. Between 20% and 40% of the buyers are choosing the highest level of options.

And it's already paying off. A new homeowner in the community recently came to the sales office to show off his December utility bill. It was $46.