Recently, at a new construction open house, I was showing the model to a visitor, who had a Buyer's Agent. I pointed out that the model was an Energy Star home. I asked the buyer if they were familiar with the Energy Star designation. They acknowledged that their agent had told them that it meant there was a little more insulation and some of those "funny" looking light bulbs in the house.
Actually New York Energy Star Homes receive the designation by completing a certification test, conducted by an independent rater, that establishes the energy efficiency of that particular home. New York State Energy Star homes are required to save a minimum of 30-40% over a similar home built to the current NYS building code requirements. The certification process includes a number of tests and inspections of the homes energy components. A blower test measuring the amount of air infiltration is done, carbon monoxide test are done, all natural gas lines are tested for leaks, insulation, HVAC equipment, windows and appliances are inspected for Energy Star compliance. The cost of testing/certification costs averages between $500-$1,000 depending on the size of the home. Some homes don't pass. For more information on New York Energy Star Homes visit my website http://cnyhousingwatch.com/ny-energy-star-homes.aspalong with some additional information there is a link to the NYS Energy Star website.
Realtor's, especially buyers agents, should educate themselves about the product before offering incomplete or inaccurate advice to buyers. A 30% energy savings can signficantly impact a household budget. In our climate it is not unusual that the January utilility bill for a 2,400sf home, heated with natural gas, can come in at $500. Certainly 30% energy savings is significant when you consider the number of years of ownership and the almost certain increase in energy costs. The most recent home completed by the builder I represent, Miller Homes, achieved was rated to save 53% of annual energy useage. The Energy Star designation will also help when the time comes to resell.
The easiest way to become familiar with the Energy Star program in your area would be to contact a fellow Realtor that represents an Energy Star Builder, there are many, and ask your peer to walk you through the program features and benefits.