Unraveling the layers of energy conservation programs initiated by the Department of Energy and its Net Zero Energy Homes program can sometimes consume a good deal of energy. Among the major residential initiatives under way today:

Energy Star Homes—In partnership with the EPA, the DOE certifies individual homes with this label when they provide at least 30 percent increased efficiency above standards set forth in the 1993 Energy Code. FOCUS: 1993's code only looks at efficiency of heating, cooling, and water heating systems, which account for about half the total energy load of a home. GOAL: At 30 percent increased efficiency of 50 percent of load, an Energy Star home actually reduces the whole house load by 15 percent. BIG BUILDER PARTICIPANTS: Pardee Homes declares every home it builds will meet or exceed Energy Star standards. HOMES IN DEVELOPMENT: 165,000 (estimated for 2004) Building America Homes—Primarily a whole house system R&D program in existence for six years. FOCUS: Whole house envelope as well as HVAC and appliances. GOAL: Improving energy efficiency by 40 percent. BIG BUILDER PARTICIPANTS: Pulte Homes in Nevada and Ryland Homes in Texas use a program initiative called “Guaranteed Bill Program” where participating builders pay homeowners the difference if average monthly utility costs exceed established maximums. HOMES IN DEVELOPMENT: NA Zero Energy Homes—Building on the elements of the Building America program and new technologies, ZEH seeks a house that creates as much electricity as it uses. FOCUS: Combines whole house energy efficiency with energy producing technology. GOAL: Cut effective energy use by 60 percent to 70 percent. BIG BUILDER PARTICIPANTS/TEAMS: 1. Davis Energy Group, of Davis, Calif.—works with partners Centex; 2. ConSol, of Stockton, Calif.—works with partners Pardee, Shea, Clarum, Morrison, and Premier; 3. NAHB Research Center, of Washington, D.C.—works with partner John Wesley Miller; 4. Steven Winters & Associates, of Norwalk, Conn.—works with partner Mercedes Homes; in talks with Beazer. HOMES IN DEVELOPMENT: 500 (estimated)