The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) recently released data indicating that nearly 17% of all new single-family homes built in the United States in 2008 were Energy Star-certified, up from 12% in 2007. To date, nearly 940,000 Energy Star-qualified homes have been built since the program began in 1995. More than 100,000 were built in 2008 alone, generating an energy savings of 1.5 billion kWh of electricity and 155 million therms of natural gas, and saving homeowners more than $250 million in energy costs, according to the EPA.

By meeting strict efficiency standards and incorporating features such as high-performance windows, effective insulation, a tightly sealed building envelope, and efficient HVAC systems, lighting, and appliances, Energy Star Homes require 20 percent to 30 percent less energy to operate than a conventionally built home.

"Every year more Americans decide to cut their energy bills and help keep the air clean in their communities by buying a new home that has earned EPA's Energy Star," EPA Administrator Lisa P. Jackson said in a statement announcing the data. "Even in a difficult market, interest in Energy Star-qualified homes keeps rising."

Several states around the country recorded an Energy Star-qualified homes market share of 20 percent or greater: Arizona, Colorado, Connecticut, Hawaii, Iowa, Kentucky, Nevada, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New York, Ohio, Oklahoma, Texas, Utah, and Vermont.

EPA is currently revising the voluntary Energy Star Qualified Homes guidelines and will be accepting comments on the proposed "Energy Star 2011" guidelines through July 10, 2009. To review the proposed guidelines and submit a comment, visit the Energy Star 2011 Web site.

Stephani L. Miller is Associate Web Editor for Custom Home.