Over the last 20 years, the Energy Star certified homes program has helped builders construct more than 1.6 million better, more efficient, homes. Tried-and-true strategies like air sealing and increased insulation are at the core of our program. However, it can’t be denied that emerging technologies can provide critical savings as well as a little excitement to the world of residential efficiency. While some new high-performance products are just a flash in the pan, other once-exotic technologies like low-E window coatings are now standard practice. 

That’s why we’re always on the lookout for emerging technologies that will help us raise the bar on efficiency. And thanks to our nearly 3,000 partners, we often get to see close up which of these are poised to transform the new construction industry. Here are five to watch: 

1.          LED lighting. Not your father’s efficient lighting, LED lighting is poised to deliver breakthrough efficiency and innovative functionality right out of the box. LED bulbs reduce energy consumption by 70 to 90 percent--and they have impressive staying power--with a lifetime of 20 years. 

2.          Smart thermostats. Next-generation smart thermostats will offer more automated management (and higher potential savings) with less complex setup. Just like DVRs rendered VCR players nearly obsolete, I expect we’ll eventually say goodbye to today’s clunky tedious controls. 

3.          Variable-speed HVAC systems. Already prevalent in many parts of the world, these systems have the ability to automatically run hotter or colder, ramp the airflow up and down, and manage the temperature independently in different parts of the house, much like your car’s HVAC system. This is in contrast to most systems used in homes today, which are simply on or off. These added features, plus the potential of greater efficiency, will make this a promising technology as costs continue to come down. 

4.          Electric heat-pump and condensing gas water heaters. These emerging technologies are making waves by producing hot water using dramatically less energy and offering features like controlling the temperature from your phone. Though they have a higher upfront cost, they can save more than $1,000 over the lifetime of the product. 

5.           Advanced fresh air systems. Not long ago, the only time you got fresh outdoor air into your home was when you opened a window. Now advanced fresh air systems are emerging that automatically pump outdoor air into your home while maintaining comfort, using the least possible energy.  

In upcoming blog posts I will take a deeper dive into each of these exciting technologies.