Los Alamos boasts first Energy Star certified home

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By Carol A. Clark

The green-built home at 520 Camino Cereza in North Mesa is a whopping 40 percent more energy efficient than a conventional home of equal-size built today and it costs just 5 percent more.

The $375,000 home, built by local developer Stan Primak of Primak Builders Inc., was completed last month and is the first certified “Energy Star” rated home in Los Alamos County.

“To earn the ‘Energy Star’ certification, a home must meet strict guidelines for energy efficiency set by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and the Department of Energy,” Primak said during an interview at the home Friday.

Certified homes are a minimum of 15 percent more energy efficient than homes built to the 2006 International Residential Code, he said, and include energy-saving features that typically make them 20-30 percent more efficient.

Third-party evaluator, Isaac Brazil of Go Green NM, LLC, said while the average Energy Star home ranks 85 on the Home Energy Rating System (HERS), the Primak-built home ranks an impressive 58.

The HERS index is a 0-100 rating scale relative to the model home defined by the current international energy conservation code with ‘0’ being the best,” he said. “Each one point decrease in scale equals 1 percent increased efficiency, so a 58 ranking is significant.”

There is a particular value to having an independent party evaluate the project from conception to completion, Primak said, because at the end of the project, a document is generated, which verifies all of the results. There is no guesswork, he said.

“Isaac began the evaluation process at the planning stage,” Primak said. “Through his expertise, he lead us to see that there are also state and federal incentives for Green Building. If criteria are met and verified by Energy Star evaluation, tax credits and rebates can essentially more than pay for the services of Go Green NM.”

Brazil and his brother Matthew Brazil co-own the company and both graduated from New Mexico State University with degrees in mechanical engineering.

He handles their northern New Mexico operations and his brother handles central New Mexico.

“The Camino Cereza home is an efficient 2,100-square-foot design, oriented for winter solar gain, low E glass, has no windows on north side of house and only one sliding glass door,” Brazil said. “Primak Builders utilized Value Engineered Framing, stacking wood on top of each another, using 20 percent less material than a typical home of equal size. They used superior insulation including polyurethane foam with an effective rate of R54 in the ceiling and R24 in the walls, an insulated concrete slab and foundation with a radon gas barrier. They also used a 92 percent efficient boiler with a built-in, tankless on-demand hot water heater as well as efficient, in-floor heat.”

The home has an unventilated attic to keep the structure cool in summer and a computer controlled air/heat exchanger to modulate indoor air quality, he said.

“Green Building is a term used loosely in today’s energy-plagued world,” Primak said. “We as a company began asking ourselves what the term actually meant sometime back. The resulting outcome has been the growth and development of incorporating Green Building practices into our homebuilding business. We believe the concepts are important and that it is a responsibility we hold as professionals to educate not only ourselves, but our citizenry in tackling the energy issues we all face.”

Energy Star certified homes include a variety of proven energy-efficient features that contribute to improved home quality and homeowner comfort, and to lower energy demand and reduced air pollution:

• Effective insulation;

• high-performance windows;

• tight construction and ducts;

• efficient heating and cooling equipment;

• energy efficient products; and

• third-party verification.

Brazil conducted infiltration evaluation tests during and after construction. The tests create negative air pressure that sucks air from the house. He then uses a smoke detector to verify the home's air tightness.

Primak equipped the home with Energy Star rated windows, appliances and light fixtures along with water-saving plumbing fixtures including one and 1.6 gallon dual flush toilets.

Go Green, NM, www.gogreennmllc.com, provides solutions to new challenges in energy efficient and green building including:

• Certified Energy Ratings that comply with the RESNET Home Energy R

• Accredited third party verification for energy star, build green nm and leed-h,

• eligibility for federal and state tax credits,

• applied building science diagnostics,

• energy efficient mortgage inspections,

• identification of cost-effective improvements,

• builder/buyer quality assurance,

• energy audits,

• cost benefit analysis,

• marketing,

• blower door and duct testing and

• green verification.

“Stan is very knowledgeable about these advanced techniques and very open-minded to new ideas,” Brazil said. “It was easy and a real pleasure to work with him.”

Primak began building homes in 1982. He retired from teaching building trades at Los Alamos High School in 1999 and has been building custom homes ever since.

“As professionals, committed to moving forward in the energy concerns we face as a community, nation and world, we want to offer our services to anyone interested in planning a Green Built home or greening an existing home,” Primak said.

For information, e-mail jprimak@comcast.net or call 662-7708.