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Residential New Construction Frequently Asked Questions

Why build a Residential New Construction (RNC) Home?

RNC homes are well constructed, cost less to operate and offer improved comfort and indoor air quality. Additionally, by buying an energy-efficient home, you are helping to reduce air pollution. Listed below are some of the benefits of purchasing a home under the Residential New Construction Program:

  • Lower Energy Use
  • Quality Construction
  • Improved Comfort
  • Improved Indoor Air Quality
  • Strong Position for Higher Resale Value

How does a RNC home help the environment?

According to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), the energy used in our homes accounts for 20 percent of total U.S. carbon dioxide emissions so the less energy we use at home, the less air pollution we generate. The average New Jersey home releases 22,000 pounds of carbon dioxide annually; however, homes built to high energy efficiency standards keep 4,500 pounds of greenhouse gases out of our air each year.

How does a RNC home help reduce energy costs?

A RNC home can use between 15-50% less energy than a conventionally built new home, delivering $200 to $400 in annual savings. Over the average seven to eight years you may live in your home, this adds up to thousands of dollars saved on utility bills. Additional savings on maintenance can also be substantial.

What types of homes are eligible under the RNC Program?

  • Single-family homes; Townhomes, Duplexes
  • Units in multifamily buildings that are three stories or less;
  • Units in multifamily buildings that are four or five stories and have their own heating, cooling, and hot water systems, separate from other units

I may be using less energy to heat and cool my home, but will I be comfortable?

Yes. Because your home will have higher insulation levels in the walls and attic, and improved window technology, you will feel warmer in the winter and cooler in the summer. Improved duct systems also contribute to increased comfort as they provide balanced airflow to all rooms of the home.

Does an energy-efficient home cost more?

No. A home under the Residential New Construction Program may actually cost less because you will spend less on your new home's utility bill each month. These energy savings can more than offset any increase in mortgage payments needed for the improved energy features.

What is a New Jersey Zero Energy Ready Home?

As of November 1, 2014, the underlying base standards of the third tier of the Residential New Construction Program, previously Climate Choice Homes, changed. Tier 3 standards have been replaced to align with the Department of Energy's Zero Energy Ready Homes.


What is an open rater/rating company?

Homes meet certification under the Residential New Construction Program only when an independent third-party verifies that they meet the proper energy efficiency guidelines. Home Energy Raters are trained to evaluate construction techniques, take key measurements, and perform inspections.

What is a HERS rating?

An energy rating will generate a HERS Index score for your home, based upon its energy performance. The Home Energy Rating System or HERS was developed by the Residential Energy Services Network (RESNET) and is the nationally recognized system for calculating how energy efficient a home is. The lower the HERS Index score, the more energy efficient the home.

A Home Energy Rater uses specially-designed software to analyze the expected energy use of the home based on the home’s construction plans. This analysis yields a projected, pre-construction rating score for this home (using the HERS Index). When the rating is being conducted for the purposes of qualifying the home to be energy efficient, the rater then works with the builder to identify the energy efficiency improvements needed to ensure the house will meet high energy efficiency performance guidelines. The rater then conducts onsite inspections, typically including a blower door test (to test the leakiness of the house) and a duct test (to test the leakiness of the ducts). Results of these tests, along with data from the software analysis, are used to generate a final HERS Index score for the home.

The lower a home’s HERS Index, the more energy efficient it is. A home built to code scores a HERS Index of 100, while a net zero energy home scores a HERS Index of 0. Each 1-point decrease in the HERS Index corresponds to a 1% reduction in energy consumption compared to the HERS Reference Home. Thus a home with a HERS Index of 85 is 15% more energy efficient than the reference home and a home with a HERS Index of 80 is 20% more energy efficient.

Can homes of all sizes be considered under the program?

The RNC Program does not set restrictions on the size of homes that can be placed under the program. It is important for customers to recognize that a larger home that is built under the RNC Program uses significantly less energy than a larger home that is built to traditional building code levels.

Do energy-efficient homes look different?

No, builders and developers constructing these homes do not have to alter their architectural designs. A home can be built in whatever style you prefer.

How can I learn more about RNC homes or find a participating builder?

Call 866-NJ-SMART or find a participating builder.

What if I am not building a new home or doing full gut rehab on my home?

Please visit Home Performance with ENERGY STAR for more information on how to make your existing home more energy efficient.

How do I decide if my project is a multifamily project?

Refer to this chart to determine what program is best for you.

Does a RNC project qualify for other NJ Clean Energy rebate programs?

If a customer goes through the RNC program they will not be eligible for any NJ Clean Energy rebates through other programs.

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