A new program makes it easy for builders to prove that their green homes will save energy and money. The idea is simple: If a house doesn’t perform as expected, the homeowner will receive money back.

Developed by Bonded Builders Warranty Group (BBWG), the program guarantees all energy used in a home whether electric or natural-gas, as well as all other energy costs from lighting and major appliances.

“There are no other home-energy program like this,” says BBWG spokesperson Kenneth Podlin. “It’s a win, win, win proposition for the environment, the consumer, and home builders, who, for the first time, can assure consumers that purchasing such homes can cut their energy costs.”

The guarantee is tied in to the home’s HERS Index, which takes many factors into consideration, including air leaks in the building envelope, leakage from HVAC ducts, insulation inside walls and ceilings, water heating systems, thermostats, and lighting. Based on an inspection and analysis of a new home, a HERS index score is issued. This “miles-per-gallon” sticker for houses gives prospective buyers and homeowners an insight into how the home ranks in terms of energy efficiency at the end of each year. If the homeowner’s actual energy usage exceeds the projected usage listed on the home’s HERS certificate by more than 15%, the program will reimburse the homeowner for the cost of the overage. Guarantees are available for two-, three-, or five-year terms.

“Bonded Builders has taken our rating system to another level by using our standards to provide home buyers with a new layer of confidence by guaranteeing that their home will live up to the promise of energy efficiency,” says Steve Baden, executive director of RESNET, which administers the HERS program.

Currently, there are 54 home building companies in 13 states participating in the residential energy guarantee, says Podlin. The cost to the builder starts at $250 per home. Many use it as an effective marketing tool to woo energy- and budget-conscious buyers, he adds.

“The program allows home builders to show consumers that they build energy-efficient homes and that they are willing to stand behind their promise,” he says. “And research shows that’s important, as more than 80% of home buyers say that such a guarantee would be influential in their decision to buy one new home over another.”