On the heels of Monday's announcement by Beazer Homes USA (NYSE:BZH) that it was greening up its entire line of homes with improvements in energy efficiency, water conservation and indoor air quality, Meritage Homes (NYSE:MTH) has gone Beazer one better.

Effective for homes started after January 1, 2010, Meritage Homes will build every house to meet or exceed Energy Star standards set by the U.S.Department of Energy and subject them to third-party certification. Homes built under these standards are at least 15% and typically 20% to 30% more energy efficient than homes built to the current International Residential Code (2006).

The Meritage homes will include:

* More effective insulation

* High performance, low-E windows

* Tight construction

* Sealed ducts

* Higher SEER (Seasonal Energy Efficiency Ratio) energy efficient cooling and heating systems (minimum 14 rating)

* Energy Star qualified appliances, lighting, and water heaters

* Energy Star programmable thermostats

* Low-flow faucets and showerheads

* Low VOC carpets, paints and finishes

"Meritage home buyers will have advanced technologies that use 10 to 50 percent less energy without sacrificing features, style or comfort," said Steven J. Hilton, chairman and CEO of Meritage. "While other builders may offer these elements as options or upgrades at an additional cost, Meritage is the first to include all of these as standard features in every home we build at no additional cost to the buyer," he added. "This is becoming important to more buyers, so others are sure to follow our lead."